It’s no secret that we love books here at Kids Read Now. We love watching kids pick their own books. We love sending those books straight to their homes. We love seeing kids get excited to get new and exciting books in the mail. Most of all, we love how this process helps kids beat back learning loss and reinforces a future-changing lifelong habit.
But while we’re helping kids across the country form a love for reading, adults are reading fewer books on average according to a new Gallup poll. The new data on book reading reinforce that the popularity of reading is waning, with Americans reading an average of three fewer books last year than they did five years ago and had typically read for the past three decades. The poll speculates that adults’ reading numbers are down due to Covid-related restrictions and the difficulty of visiting libraries or bookstores, despite the ability to download and read eBooks.
Kids need to see adults reading. Kids who are around readers are more likely to read as well. The benefits for kids who read are pretty incredible, but did you know that adults need to read too? Just like kids, adults can improve their cognitive thinking skills, expand their vocabularies, deepen their levels of concentration, develop social intelligence and empathy, and help them reduce stress and take a break from the real world.
Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Their mission is to help people find and share books they love.
Sign up for a library card
Visit your local library or sign up for an e-card. Now you can request books from the library online, peruse the shelves in person, or download books to listen to or read without leaving home!
Set a reading goal for the year
Goodreads lets every user set a book goal for the year and tracks your progress through each book. You can do this easily on your own by creating a sheet at home to track the books you read.
Dedicate time to read every single day
Doctors agree that screen time before bed is a big no-no, but reading before bed can help your mind and body relax. Knowing that you have time every day to read can give you comfort in the constant.
Read with family and friends
Read a book aloud with your kids and make all the funny voices. Read the same books as your friends and discuss it. Read your favorite passages to your spouse or friends. Normalize reading and discussing books!
There’s this widgetsmith on the opening screen of my iPhone that reads, “As long as we’re creating it’s not too late to change our story.”
People’s stories motivate and inspire but they also connect us, help us grow. Throughout my years of being an educator, tucking in beside my fellow professionals, really hearing their journey, it has been transforming. Listening, truly listening, opens my mind and eyes to perspectives, broadening a reality that I was otherwise unaware. Stories also shape and expand our teaching blueprint.
Growing up a small town girl in the northern United States gave me loads of opportunity to get lost in stories. From listening to my grandparents share stories to being mesmerized by great readings at the local library, life opened up for me.
Given my best friend’s father was the town’s librarian, many evenings and weekends were spent lounged across soft rugs with giant pillows traveling to far away places through the pages of a book. As I breezed through the letters on the page that made words into sentences and sentences into adventures that fed my imagination, I was quite aware that the very experiences I found solace within offered great pain and sometimes discomfort for my friend. Needless to say, I did a lot of reading aloud.
My friend loved to hear stories and it was an incredible treat when getting to view stories playing out live on a stage. You see, the process of reading caused her great angst. She is dyslexic. Take it to the classroom and the print on the page represented very different things for the two of us.
What I noticed as a young child was that just because our brains worked differently, a common experience such as reading text had contrasting outcomes for each of us. Someone very dear to me once shared, “Teachers can change the way they teach but dyslexics cannot change the way they learn.” What this evolves into for an instructional design perspective on the diverse needs of learners: the secret strength I found in teaching through a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) lens. In the case of how I learned reading and how my friend learned reading: presentation of materials, or provisions of multiple means of representation as well as action and expression, were key but equally important was engagement.
Let’s take my friend for example. Given learning derived from her mainly through auditory (hearing) or tactile (touching), she learned by hearing or touching and then that information would process through her auditory or tactile memories. When you compare that to my approach to learning being mainly visual (through my eyes), I could comprehend problems, solve them and commit the solution to my visual memory. For me, everything I would ‘read’, both real and symbolic, would link to my perception center. Recognizing a word and processing the word to meaning didn’t require actually hearing the word. For my friend, visual symbols were compromised causing her to compensate by relying on what she heard in her head to associate meaning.
Ready to leverage my childhood story to expand your teacher blueprint to be more inclusive? The following visual provides some examples of building provisions within your teaching and learning to offer students with dyslexia agency in learning. Oh, and don’t overlook this included audio file reading the visual, it’s called inclusive design.
There is a lot to learn from stories. But just like my childhood story, there are often missed opportunities of great significance in the unheard. Stories change our perspective, open our minds and eyes, broaden our reality and shape and expand our teaching blueprint. Learning to truly listen in on the narratives of our profession has proven to be my greatest teacher and perhaps it can do the same for you, too.
Rejoice! We have made it to a new year. Many of us educators were itching for 2020 to come to a rapid close only to find ourselves wishing 2021 away just as quickly. Despite the recent challenges we have encountered, many of us still had the pleasure of ending the year with some sort of a holiday tradition in which gifts were exchanged. No matter how you feel about the past year(s), I hope that you were able to find joy in both the time spent with loved ones this past holiday season and in the exercise of exchanging gifts. Of all the presents I give and receive each year, my most favorite and treasured ones are always books.
The gift of a book provides more than just an enjoyable reading experience, it adds value and companionship to the recipient’s life. This year instead of falling into the same familiar routine of setting a short-lived resolution around the common goals of finance and fitness, I thought I would instead resolve to pay forward the gift of reading a great book. Here is a list of twelve ways in 2022 that you can join me in the pursuit of sharing with the world the joy of receiving and reading a book.
Email the Author. I am often deeply intrigued by an author after reading his/her work. I wonder what he/she is like as a person, what other books he/she has written, who their significant other is, and if they have children. Many times I conduct an internet search and follow him/her on social media. Despite all of this junior level web investigating, I rarely take the time to thank the actual author him/herself for the work he/she created and how it influenced me. This year I plan to send an email to the authors whose books I read to thank them for their work, effort, and time spent in crafting something of value for the world.
Dinner Table Talk. Family dinners are wonderful times to reconnect and engage in thoughtful conversation. Too often though, they unintentionally become complaint sessions highlighting the day’s hardships. Consider reframing dinner time chats by sharing with your family the latest book read. Tell your tribe what you learned from the book or how you are applying it to your life. This is also a great way, if you are a parent of young children, to get your offspring to open up about the books they are reading as well as model for them how dialogue about text can strengthen comprehension.
Journal Entry. Talking about a book is a wonderful way to gift its message to others, but writing about it allows for an even deeper level of intimate gratitude for the work. If you are anything like me, journaling is a habit I’m not consistent with, but one that I strive to practice more consistently. Set a goal to write a journal entry after each book you finish this year. This intention will help you stay accountable for opening up your journal more often and engaging in reflective practice of content consumed through reading. If you are stuck on what to write, consider the following questions: What did I learn? How was I feeling while reading? How can I lift one or two ideas from the book to become a better version of myself this year?
Amazon Review. Ever notice that reviews seem to be laced with negativity and despair? Change the tone and gift your positive thoughts of a recently read book out on the Web. You’ll feel good about the uplifting content you’ve put out in the world plus the author will undoubtedly benefit from your time spent in alerting others to his/her work.
Staff Meeting Share. For many of us, monthly staff meetings tend to be filled with boring updates, frustrating questions, and unwelcomed mandates. Why not liven up your next staff meeting with a sharing out of a recent book you’ve read this year? Showing your team that you do more in life than just tell them what to do all the time, will not only help you appear more personable, it will also build your intellectual credibility.
Schedule Send. Draft an email to yourself and schedule it to be sent to your inbox one month from today. In the email ask yourself how you’ve been applying a recently read book to your life and what themes or new ideas learned from that text have yet to be applied.
Showcase to Students. Whether you are a classroom teacher, a curriculum coach, an adjunct professor, or a building principal showcasing a recently read book with students in your organization will spread the gift of having a role model who values reading. The act of conducting a book share to students can be done in-person or virtually. Giving students a glimpse of what adults are reading, how they talk about text, and how books can impact a life is a priceless gift.
Book Breathe. Life is busy and even hectic and stressful at times. Most mobile devices and smart watches today have a breathing or meditation app. Tap the app and mentally revisit the book you are currently reading or one you have recently finished. The act of closing your eyes, slowing your breath, and focusing on only one thing will give your body a chance to settle its heart rate, increase your happiness level, and set you up for a smoother transition to your next appointment. During your book breath moment you can focus on a single character, a new concept learned, visualize yourself in the setting, or simply exhale thanks to the author for crafting something that brings you happiness.
Conference Proposal. What better way to give out the gift you’ve received from a recently read book than by presenting on the topic at a conference to colleagues in your field? Consider submitting a conference proposal that highlights a recent accomplishment aligned with the themes or principles from a book you’ve recently read. Share with the world your story of finding inspiration in a book to help channel the energy to achieve something great in your personal or professional life. Look at the theme of an upcoming conference you want to attend and ask yourself how the books you’ve read so far this year align to that topic.
Tweet. Snap a picture of the book cover and hop on Twitter. Tweet your image with your recommendation or comment. Don’t forget to tag the author and include a hashtag if applicable. Not only will the author feel the gift of your social media gratitude, but your followers will receive the gift of a great recommendation of what to read next.
Buy an Extra Copy. What better way to give back to others the gift you’ve received from a new book than by buying a second copy for a friend, family member, or colleague. In this instance both the author and the recipient benefit from your generosity. Keep the joy of gifting alive all year long.
Unexpected Treasure. Letting go of something you love isn’t easy, but it is an ultimate sacrifice that has the potential to yield immeasurable happiness. Write a message on the inside cover of the book you just finished and leave it someplace in your town or community for someone to stumble upon unexpectedly. Perhaps you decide to leave it in a waiting room, on a park bench, or in a hotel room. No doubt the universe will select its next intended recipient with care. Who knows…maybe he or she will keep the gift giving going and pass that same book along to someone else after they’ve finished reading.
At first glance nonfiction books can seem intimidating – facts, numbers, research, real-world stuff, EEK! – but nonfiction doesn’t have to intimidating or overwhelming. In fact, it can be quite fun with several benefits that kids may not even realize they’re gaining! Embracing nonfiction is one of the best things any kid can do.
Here are some of the top reasons every kid should embrace nonfiction.
Develop Critical Thinking Skills
Reading nonfiction materials help children develop important critical thinking skills. Nonfiction texts allow kids to ask a specific question that they are interested in, such as “What do horses eat?”, and then go on the hunt for the answer. Fostering this investigative drive will undoubtedly develop some serious critical thinking skills. It will also allow kids to think about where they can find the information.
Gain Knowledge of the World
Nonfiction texts can help kids learn more about other towns or cities, parts of the world, cultures, planets, species, or even more about their own history. Nonfiction gives kids opportunities to see how the world works and lets them safely explore from their favorite reading spot. Developing this knowledge of the world, with its similarities and differences to what they experience every day, reinforces critical thinking skills, and will give them a boost as school textbooks become more content focused.
Learn Complex Tasks
Nonfiction texts present the opportunity for children to read about different skills and real-life activities. Reading and following detailed instructions are the first parts of completing complex tasks. These activities can be super fun for kids as they build Lego sets or make cookies from scratch! Plus, learning how to complete complex tasks at an earlier age with help them tremendously as they get older.
Nonfiction materials can help expand kids’ vocabularies. Many nonfiction texts introduce kids to more difficult words, so it’s important to keep your dictionary handy! New and more difficult words can also be accompanied by an image, and some nonfiction books have a glossary to help kids understand new definitions.
The Kids Read Now Wishlist always includes a wide variety of nonfiction books for kids to enjoy, such as National Geographic Kids and the Who Was/What Was series. Nonfiction books can help reluctant readers build a passion for learning about dinosaurs, the first airplane, the galaxy, or even about how to make homemade slime!
I recently caught up with a dear colleague. When I asked her what she saw as she worked closely with our teachers and teacher leaders, her immediate answer was “politics”.
The concept that everything is political started with Aristotle and is consistently restated today. Although I avoid them, I cannot deny that what I eat, what I wear, what I read (or don’t read) is a political act. Looking at the news or even local school board elections remind us how polarizing today’s environment is and how the inertia of our society calls for us to pick one side or the other. My desire for universality led me to wonder about concepts that are less political and valued by all. Literacy for everyone came to mind. The ability to read, write, think, listen, and speak are foundational skills people need to successfully live and participate in our lives and communities. The assertion that all children (and adults) have strong literacy skills is something we can all agree on. We call that a core belief.
Core beliefs can only be realized when our practices align with and support the initial conviction. Donalyn Miller shares that time, access, and choice are bricks with which to build a solid foundation. I am an excellent cook. I am masterful because I have an interest in food and I have cooked every day for over 30 years. In contrast, I am unlikely to become a great tennis player if I only watch it on TV. Children must have time to read things they enjoy or are interested in each day. If you are telling yourself, “Of course! That’s a given!” I challenge you to ask any child age 4-19 to track how much they read each day and how much they enjoy what they read. The data may surprise you.
To read each day, you have to have access to text. Access means that you can easily get your hands on something to read. In the positive column, we have a ton of portable digital content via phones and iPads or laptops. A quick survey of your friends and family about where and how they read, demonstrate we all have preferences. I like to read digitally but if it is non-fiction, I will want a paper book I can mark up. Recent research tells us that children need access to both digital and print. As they age, children should drive which they use for their specific purposes. Time and access are bricks that build mastery, choice excites and accelerates literacy.
Imagine you walk into a bookstore where they scan your brain and then directed you to graduate-level books because that is the level you read at. No magazines, cookbooks, or mysteries! Choice is the third brick in that solid wall of practice we should all agree on. I was so fortunate as a child because I not only had access to books, I had parents who encouraged us to read about the things we were interested in which amplified the time I was allowed to read. Visiting areas in which literacy levels are at their lowest inside and outside of schools, you see that there is little access to books, there is no choice about what to read, and time is spent on drills and isolated practice of skills-effectively killing a love of reading. Time, access, and choice in the construction of literacy is a political act we can all support.
The Kids Read Now 2021 summer reading program was our best reading program to date! We mailed over 690,000 books to over 77,000 students all over the country. That’s pretty awesome, right? Here are the top 10 books requested this year.
#10 – Stone Fox
By: John Reynolds Gardiner
Illustrated by Marcia Sewell
Little Willie and his grandfather live on a farm. Grandfather owes back taxes, and becomes ill. Willie is determined to save the farm. Can Willie and his dog, Searchlight, do it?
#9 – Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (A Narwhal and Jelly Book #2)
By: Ben Clanton
Illustrated by Ben Clanton
Narwhal and Jelly want to become superheroes. Find out what their super powers are.
#8 – Flying High
By: Nick Eliopulos
Illustrated by DC
Something strange is happening. The birds are going crazy! Who can help?
#7 – Big Shark, Little Shark
By: Anna Membrino
Illustrated by Tim Budgen
Are you afraid of sharks? No need to be afraid of these two! They will have you laughing! And smiling. And splashing about!
#6 – DK Readers: Amazing Dogs
By: Laura Buller
Meet the many types of dogs that use their super senses, strength, and friendship to help people!
#5 – The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto
By: Natalie Standiford
Illustrated by Donald Cook
The children of Nome, Alaska are very sick. They need medicine. Balto, and the sled dog team, are their only hope. But will they get there in time?
#4 – National Geographic Kids: Storms
By: Miriam Busch Goin
Thunder and lightning! Monsoons! Hurricanes! Tornadoes! The facts and photos in this book will blow you away!
#3 – National Geographic Kids: Dive Dolphin
By: Shira Evans
Dolphins live in oceans and rivers around the world. Learn more about these fantastic animals.
#2 – National Geographic Kids: Hop, Bunny!
By: Susan B. Neuman
What do bunnies do all day? Where do they go? What do they see? This book will tell you.
#1 – National Geographic Kids: Go, Cub!
By: Susan B. Neuman
Baby cubs like to cuddle and sleep. What do they learn to do? Read this and find out!
A literacy environment should be cultivated by its curriculum. Learning how to read and develop literacy skills is a process that will benefit a child their entire life. It is the foundation for other subjects, and a manner in which students learn to communicate and learn about their world, near and far.
The process to teach the required skills necessary is complex, and varies depending on the needs of each learner. In my experience, literacy teaching and learning should be a “dream”. A dream in the sense of literacy learning being a priceless gift—and a dream in the sense of having curriculum and teaching practices which address Diversity, Relevance, Engagement, Access, Motivation (D.R.E.A.M.).
D.R.E.A.M. Literacy focuses on practices being implemented into instruction by educators, as well as encourages at-home support and partnerships in using diverse texts, popular culture and technology, and multimodal resources. D.R.E.A.M. represents several pieces necessary to address and provide quality and equitable literacy instruction for all. When planning literacy lessons, assignments, and making curriculum decisions educators and parents should consider the following elements:
Diversity brings about a wide spectrum of issues that educators can be faced with. Willingness to learn, accept, and apply the culture (VERY IMPORTANT: Culture does not just mean ethnicity or race) of students to instructional practices is key. Here are some ways to address diversity in literacy:
Inclusion and representation of various backgrounds (An array of genres, using texts and curriculum by authors of color)
Diversity of resources (types of texts, authentic sources)
Use of books and resources that have a balance of representation in protagonists
Students need to know how to apply the knowledge being taught, and how it applies to them. Students want to feel like they are included and are represented in a learning environment. Students want to know why it’s important, and how it is useful. Students need to know why they are developing literacy skills and where they will encounter them in their future. Making content relevant includes:
Connecting books to the interests of students
Fostering a culture of literacy being all around/environmental print (various types of text on signs, products, television, digital literacies)
Letting students explore non-fiction texts (real-world relevant texts, local and regional texts, etc.)
Exploring cross-curricular connections (Math, Science, History, Fine Arts)
Engagement starts with learning the interests of the students, merged with the academic knowledge needed. Engagement also involves educators utilizing multimodal approaches in their lessons and work with students. Some great multimodal literacy strategies include:
Interviewing or conferencing with students about what they read or write
Acting out texts
Creating visuals or artwork to accompany work
Ease of access to resources and empowering parents/guardians to help build literacy skills at home is necessary for growth. Not all students have the opportunity to have access to books in their home. If books and reading are left out of the home environment, is it really that important for a child and their family? Insight on how to continue a child’s learning outside of the classroom doors is crucial. The following ideas are recommended:
Collect donated books (bookstores, sales, retiring teachers, etc.) and hold regular “book swap” events with students and parents/guardians
Provide regularly updated virtual lists of digital literacy resources (games, apps, videos, activities, etc.)
As far as motivation, our role is to grow our students’ skills and learn what makes them excited to learn—this is very important with students who have so many unique needs that are changing as society changes daily. The main ingredient for motivation in a literacy classroom is choice.
In closing, a literacy environment should thrive on partnership between the internal and external learning communities. Parents and educators are the essential component that provides students the opportunity to see literacy as a tool of advancement and an escape— teamwork makes the “dream” work.
Most students either really love to read and find joy in growing and sharpening their literacy skills, or they feel the opposite. Their experience depends on two things- the instructional decisions made and the environment in which they learn. Educators are often told to create a “literacy rich” or “print rich” classroom setting, but what does that really mean? R.I.C.H. should address four different aspects: Relevancy, Inclusiveness, Creativity, and Hands-On approaches.
Students, younger and older are often disconnected from the literacy skills and expectations that are required in standards-based instruction and assessment. This is because they don’t see the “bigger picture” of learning the skills and strategies that are often taught in isolation. The foundational stages of literacy involve building word sense, concepts of print, and lots of repetition and practice—but educators shouldn’t stop there. The students who often struggle lack the connectedness and relevancy of the materials shared. To gain sense of relevancy and what resonates with students, conversations, bookstack cultivation, and surveys should take place.
Relevancy and inclusiveness go hand in hand. Whether planning the instruction or the “look” of a space, students need to see themselves in the materials presented. Not only do students need to see themselves, but they need to see others who are not like them as well.
When thinking about inclusivity and literacy, one might think of diversity, and the representation of various racial and ethnic backgrounds and perspectives. This is crucial, but just a starting point. Representation can be present in literacy settings, and students still not understand the importance or value of a concept or idea. Therefore, it is important to know that in addition to representation, students need to be exposed to an environment that allows them to feel safe (with learning new skills and contributing), and take risks (with new strategies, with new resources), and be inclusive of families (inside and outside of the classroom).
Literacy learning is often repetitive and can be boring for some. The more creativity that is sparked within lessons—the better. Creative ideas for literacy learning involve using traditional skills and practical, everyday materials and happenings to get students to understand.
Example: Connecting technological and popular culture terms with academic literacy terms
We want students to read, but don’t give them enough opportunity to write (or see the correlation between the two). We ask students about other writers and authors’ ideas, but don’t challenge them to see themselves as authors. Writing centers, blogging opportunities, and spaces where students can critique and explore all facets of literacy (listening, speaking, reading, writing) is a climate that would provide hands-on learning in a “R.I.C.H.” classroom.
The literacy environment has evolved, just as education has changed. Teachers often create themes at the beginning of a school year, and it is to get students excited about being in their class. The literacy environment needs a R.I.C.H. environment that is tailored to the needs of the students who are being served, and the learning community as a whole.
It’s all about the hook. Find what is inspiring to the youth and you find the hook into reading. Take baby steps even if needed. Not interested in reading a book? Start with a graphic novel. Even the old school Baby Sitters Club books are coming back with a vengeance in graphic novel form! Boys! Who doesn’t love adventures about a dog!? Try Dog Man! The goal isn’t to read MacBeth in first grade. The goal is to simply love reading.
Why? Well, let’s start with imagination. We tend to quickly lose the essence of imagination as we grow older. Those dreams you used to have as a kid, gone. Now you dream you are at work, even when you aren’t at work!
Second, you gather information. Yes, you in fact can learn from reading. Try the Who was/Who is/Where is collection. Going out of town? Find out if an inventor came from the area you are traveling. Going to the Grand Canyon? Yes, there is a great Where is the Grand Canyon book full of facts geared towards kids, but in fact, adults can learn a great deal too!
Third, reading is an escape from the real world. I don’t know about you, but TV shows just aren’t the same these days. However, Wild Kratts is pretty phenomenal. Books can take us on some pretty outstanding adventures.
What’s next for you? Maybe take your book to the park, sit on a swinging bench and enjoy nature at its finest. Have a hammock? What better way to spend the afternoon far off in your imagination swaying away in your backyard.
Try it sometime. Your kids might even want to join in on the fun when they notice your joy!
Something that I’ve learned in my time as an educator is the power in providing students with choice. Choice to explore their learning, choice to figure things out on their own, choice to learn new things in a variety of ways. Literacy skills are the foundation of learning, and something that educators should get excited about, because there are so many ways to create and mold literacy instruction in the classroom.
The formative years for a child, let’s say ages 2-6, are critical for literacy development. Reading, rhyming, talking and singing are all ways in which children interact with both written and spoken language. When they are provided with experiences in literacy during those formative years, they are developing the foundation for their relationship with reading and writing that will continue throughout their lives. Healthy development of the brain requires children to have these experiences.
So, how do we give children in the classroom these rich, meaningful experiences that will shape their relationship with literacy?
Research and studies have shown time and time again that children learn best through exploration and problem solving, opportunities to work things out in a way that makes sense to them. So, what does this look like and how can educators incorporate choice into their literacy programs? One way to do this is designing structured, engaging centers that provide students with multimodal learning opportunities. While students may have specific “work with teacher” time, other time can be spent exploring other centers. One center could focus on consonants, having students use a stamp, sticker or other tool to indicate which consonant letter a picture starts with. Another center might have students create a pretend grocery list and find items that start with certain letters. A third center might be a letter-sounds listening game, where students listen to a word, and decide which sound they hear at the beginning of the word. Another center might be working with syllable cards, where the students look at a picture (ex. dog, banana, etc.) and match it to the number of dots – or syllables – on a card (ex. 1 dot for dog, 3 dots for banana). A final center could be a simple picture rhyming match.
That’s 5 interactive, differentiated center ideas! The point? Choice. Allow students to choose which center interests them. Create structured, timed rounds for students to explore each center, before going to a new center. Giving students the power of choice and the opportunity to explore a variety of ways to learn a concept is key to building a child’s relationship with literacy and promoting lifelong learning.