By Brenda Steffens

The new school year has started and now it is time to make sure your students are reading. It doesn’t matter what grade or subject you teach, reading for pleasure is important for all students. Reading will help all students achieve in all subject areas. This can be done by providing a reading culture in your classroom.

How do you encourage students to read when they aren’t readers? Students will become readers when they find that one special book and it is up to each of us to help them find that special book. How do we go about finding that one special book? That is the million-dollar question. Below are some tips that might help you.

1. Have a classroom library that contains current books the students want to read. Work with your school librarian as to the most popular titles. Ask the students what they are interested in and what titles that they know they are interested in reading. Once you have started your library, arrange it for the students to find books easily. Showcase books throughout the week.

2. Read as many books as you can so that you can booktalk the books and be able to talk to the students about the books. By reading the books, you will be able to make recommendations to the students.

3. Start First Chapter Fridays. This concept has been going around on Twitter. A teacher reads only the first chapter of the book on Friday. By reading only the first chapter, you are hoping that chapter will capture the attention of students and they will want to finish the book. If Fridays do not work in your schedule, then do it another day.

4. Invite an author to your school. By inviting an author to visit your school, your students can become excited about the author and hence start reading his or her books. If your school can’t afford an author visit, work with your school librarian and apply for the LSTA Author Visit Grant available from the Missouri State Library. Information can be found at here. This grant will award $500 to $5,000 for an author to visit your school.

5. Let the students choose what they want to read. When students get to choose what they want to read, they will find books that interest them. Students need to know that when you say that reading for pleasure is important, you mean it. Reading for pleasure means they can read whatever they want, and they don’t have to prove that they read the book. It doesn’t matter if they read graphic novels, books below their level, any type of genre, it’s their choice.

6. Provide time for the students to read in class. When the students are reading, be the example and read also. By providing 10-15 minutes a day or three days a week, you are showing your students that reading is an important part of their day. After the reading time, provide time for the students to share their books with other students. Students are great at recommending books to other students.

7. As we have said, students are great at recommending books to others, so provide a display of the books that the students have read. This is an easy way for students to see what others have enjoyed. Don’t forget to add the books that you have read to the display.

8. Get involved in the Unbound Book Festival in Columbia in April. At this festival, authors for all age groups will be in attendance and this will give you an ability to listen to award winning authors’ talk about their books. After the festival, go back and share this experience with your students.

9. Participate in MSTA’s Reading Circle program. This easy to use program is available for student s in grades PK-12. Information on the program is available here

Providing a reading culture in your classroom will help provide your students the ability to become the best students that they can become. The only way to help all students to become readers is by providing books for the students to read and being able to talk books. I hope you will be a book talker this year. Happy reading!


For additional information, please check out Reading Circle at or contact a RC member: Brenda Steffens,, reviews preschool and primary books; Debbie Anderson,, reviews primary level books; Jenn Baldwin,, reviews grades 5-8; Lysha Thompson, reviews 9-12. Sarah Kohnle,, serves as the staff liaison.