A Simple Way to Give Independent Reading a Boost

Try this simple idea to inject some new life in your students' independent reading and classroom library interactions. Free editable "Favorites" sign included!It's difficult to keep students' "reading life" energized through the entire year.

The beginning of the school year is the easiest, with bright eyes gazing into your newly introduced classroom library with excitement, hands barely able to hold back from grabbing books here and there. But after a few months, it's easy for students to slide into indifference toward their independent reading, especially if the contents of the classroom library and the routines surrounding it never change.

In my (epic!) series of blog posts on how to make the most of your classroom library, I share gobs of practical ideas to keep your classroom library thriving, which in turn pumps life into students' independent reading.

One of these ideas is to use a "Current Favorites" shelf. A "Current Favorites" shelf is a spot in your classroom where you keep your own personal favorite children's books.

An important part of the idea is that the books change. You periodically add or swap out a book or two so that the handful of books you have on the shelf are your favorites at that moment.

The concept directly contributes to a healthy, growing reading atmosphere. It shows that (1) you read, (2) you have read enough books to distinguish some of them as your favorites, (3) you continue to read more and more, and (4) you enjoy reading because you continue to gain new favorites. And when YOU model fun, positive reading behaviors, students' own interactions with books follow.

There's lots of ways to create a your favorites shelf. Below is what I used in my third grade classroom. It's a rain gutter screwed into the wall with a sign hanging nearby.

A rain gutter might seem a little extreme, but a small section of your whiteboard tray with a sign above would do the trick, or the top of a bookcase or bit of counter space. Take the metal parts out of a large binder clip and it doubles as a nice sign stand, like below.

Students love getting to know you on a more personal level, and what better vehicle to draw back the curtain a bit than with books? Think about adding books to your "Current Favorites" shelf that jive with an approaching holiday, that might surprise your students, that hint at an upcoming unit of study, or that beg conversation or questions from the class. But also feel free to leave an all-time-favorite or two on the shelf for the whole year!

Don't be surprised when students begin asking to borrow one of the books on your shelf. I like to ask them to just be sure to return the book by the end of the day, and they can always borrow it again tomorrow, or look for it in the school library.

After a few weeks, experiment with some variations... maybe try choosing a student to curate the shelf with their own current favorites. Change students each week, and the class has a unique way to get to know each other better as readers, and pick up some new book ideas for themselves.

You can grab a free editable PowerPoint template of my Favorite Books sign to make your own. Just click HERE or the picture below:


And for a bonus idea, you can give your independent reading another shot of caffeine with the Tower of Books Challenge. It's a reading challenge that encourages students to read a wide variety of genres and uses a fresh and motivating way to keep track of their reading. You can find it in my TpT store HERE.


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