This is a guest post by blogger Amanda Ross. If you like what you see here, you can check out her blog, First Grade Garden, for more of her writing.
Hi there! This is Amanda from First Grade Garden here again to talk with you about home reading. If you teach in the elementary grades, you probably run some sort of home reading program in your classroom. We all know the benefits that come with children reading at least 20 minutes every day, but sometimes it can be a struggle to get our students to do that. Some teachers find running these programs to be a hassle and some parents just don’t have time for it. I’m here to offer a few tips to make your home reading program successful!
- Choose “just right” books. If students are taking home books that are too difficult for them to read independently, home reading can become a struggle. Parents have a hard time getting the students to read and both the students and parents start to dread reading time, instead of it being an enjoyable experience. I always have my students take home books that are one reading level below the level we are working on in our guided reading group. I find that the books in the Joy Cowley Early Bird Collection are perfect for first-grade home reading! This collection has an amazing assortment of books from levels C–G with familiar characters, such as Mrs. Wishy-Washy, that students just love!
- Give choice. Let students choose the books they take home to read. They are more likely to read it if it is something that looks interesting to them! I organize my home reading books by level, so I just tell students which levelled tub they can choose from.
- Make it simple. Don’t over complicate things with tons of paperwork and homework activities to complete for every book. The goal of the program is to get students to read every day with their families. I send home a log that has them record the date, the title of the book, and if the book was too easy/just right/too hard. (This helps me decide if students should start taking books from a different levelled tub!)
- Set goals. I have done this three different ways--set individual goals, classroom goals, and school-wide goals. Individual goals are set in our data folders. Students can decide how many books they want to read in a month or even just make a goal to read more books than the previous month. Our classroom or school-wide goals are usually just a number we pick and we keep track of how many books we’ve read all together, using tally marks or ten frames. (Great math connection too!)
- Offer incentives. In the past I have had a treasure box that students got to pick from after every ten books they’ve read. You could also do sticker charts or even classroom tickets. Use your existing classroom management system to help with this.
- Make it routine. Changing our home reading books is a daily part of our morning routine. Every morning students know what is expected of them and it just becomes a habit to come in, hand in their agenda, and change their home reading book.
- Be organized. When you are organized yourself, it makes your program run a lot smoother. Have all of your home reading books organized by level and have all of your handouts/reading logs prepped and organized.
- Praise, praise, praise! A kind word can go a long way. Praise students for meeting their goal. Praise students for remembering to bring their home reading back. Praise students for reading ten books in a month. Other students might overhear your praise and it can motivate them to work harder too!
- In-school options. Do you have students who just can’t get their reading done at home? It doesn’t matter the reason; everybody’s home life is different. But we still want all students to have the opportunity to read every day. My school has a morning reading program where students can go and read with an Educational Assistant. If your school doesn’t have a program like this, you can recruit some parent volunteers or even some older students who are looking for some volunteer time to read with students who cannot complete their reading at home!
- Celebrate! Have a big kick off to your program! The first year I taught grade one, my teammates and I put on a big “Home Reading Kick Off” evening for students and families. It wasn’t anything elaborate, but we made a big deal out of it! We gave a little spiel about the importance of home reading and how our program worked. Then we officially gave students their home reading bag with their first book in it. They also got a little treat too! It definitely got them excited about reading at home and they couldn’t wait to tell me about their book the next day!
I hope some of these tips help you. See you next time!
Amanda Ross is a first grade teacher in Canada. She has been teaching for seven years. The last three years have been in first grade, and that’s where she plans to stay! She is currently on maternity leave with her daughter Zoe, but she will be heading back to first grade in September. You can find her over at her teaching blog, First Grade Garden.
To learn more about Joy Cowley Early Birds, click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights image to the left below to download information sheets with key features. To download the freebie, click the image to the right.