Two Easy Ways to Help Students Pick out Books for Independent Reading

independent reading

I’ve been using reader’s workshop over the past few weeks and had good success with it. However, the biggest challenge comes from getting good books in the hands of students, especially those who have little experience reading independently. I don’t have a classroom library, but we have a wonderful media center in our school that is well stocked with high interest books that kids will enjoy. Our media specialist is a terrific researcher of new books and works hard to make it an inviting place that encourages reading. There are multiple displays of books in the stacks and in the windows facing the hallway. I know that many argue that a classroom library is necessary for kids to interact with books, but with a well-stocked media center just a quick walk away I don’t feel the need to have a library in my classroom. Furthermore, I would like my students to grow up to be patrons of their local library, and I feel this is an important step: teaching them that the library is where you go to get books. IMG_3879 However, regardless of whether or not you have a classroom library or take your kids to the school library, many of your students are likely to have trouble picking out books they’d like to read, especially reluctant readers who have limited experience selecting books. Too often my students will pick a book just because it’s short without realizing that a good book will seem short, or that they’ll actually read a long book faster than a short book they aren’t interested in. The other problem is that too often I help kids pick books around a narrow set of criteria. Are you a boy that plays sports? Here are the Chris Crutcher books! Are you a girl? Here are the books on relationships! While these can sometimes be helpful guidelines to follow, it ignores the wisdom that kids will read a book about anything as long as it’s good. The recent success of The Hunger Games is proof of that: even with a female protagonist, boys and girls read it in equal measures. So here are a couple of activities for kids that will help them pick books for independent reading, regardless of whether or not you are doing an in-depth reader’s workshop or just doing SSR.

I Like Books That…

IMG_3887 Our media specialist and I developed this checklist that students fill out before they go to the media center. You can use this one of two ways. I have the students fill them out a couple of days before we go to the media center and give them to our media specialist, who then picks books based on the students’ preferences that are waiting for us when we arrive. However, you could do this with your own classroom library as well. Instead of just organizing books by genre, you could also cross reference them by a list of interests that you create. Here is a copy of the survey for you to use, or to get ideas for how to create your own: WhenIread…

Book Scavenger Hunts

IMG_3835 A book scavenger hunt is like the ice breakers that you do at the beginning of the school year where you have students find people that have lived in another state, or have a pet fish, etc. However, the students are looking for books that have certain qualities: a female protagonist, a setting more than fifty years ago, and so forth. I have used a book scavenger hunt in one of two ways. One way is to have students take it to the media center and fill out the scavenger hunt with the books on the shelves. That way, students are pulling the books of the shelves, even opening the covers in some cases, all with the goal of getting kids looking at a large number of books they might want to read. Just be sure that you have a system in place where the books don’t get put back in the wrong spot! But another way that you can use it is when your students already have their books. Take five minutes at the start of class and run it like a traditional icebreaker. Students go around the classroom and find books from the titles in the class. The goal here is the same – have kids find other books that they might like to read simply by increasing their exposure to what others are reading. If you’d like a copy of my Book Scavenger Hunt, click here. 

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