A WALL OF READING by David Etkin

“A dense, layered, reverberant sound.”

That is how Wikipedia described Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” music production technique made famous (or infamous) in some Beatles* and Beach Boys recordings.

I like the way that rolls off the tongue—A dense, layered, reverberant sound. Better yet is the meaning behind it as I make that into a bookish idea. In my classroom, like you, I work to create:

A dense, layered, reverberant atmosphere of READING and BOOKS.

I know you have experienced the thrill of a student running up to you in the hallway and updating some bookish news:

“I finally finished Mockingjay!”

“I read for three hours last night!”

“I went to the library to get my own copy of The One and Only Ivan. I’m tired of waiting for it.”

“Did the second I.Q. book come back yet?”

“One more book to go in Cirque du Freak.”

You know the saying: Every time a kid goes out of his way to talk about a book, an angel gets its wings.

I tell people that I am jealous for my students’ energy to go towards reading. That is my job as the language arts teacher on team. If not me, then who? I work hard to build the culture of reading and bookcitement in my room. Here are a few of my favorite bookish things.

Since I saw Donalyn Miller’s tweet of her “Summer Reading Door” heading into the 2011 school year, I have been posting printed covers of the books I’ve read, am reading, and am planning to read on my door. (My colleague Brent Peterson started calling the latter the  “book on deck.” That’s his illustration to the right.)  This is the first thing students see when they get to my doorway. Kids notice. Since I always meet my students at the door before we all enter the class together to get started, this is a great chance for them to see book covers and get ideas for their next read. It’s also a nice opportunity for me to chat with students about the books they’re bringing to class and the progress they’re making. I was thrilled to see Mr. B, the science and social studies teacher across the hall, start up his own reading wall outside his door.


Of course, the books that I’ve finished, am reading, and have On Deck are not surprising to my students. They see them on my blog. I use the blog {Eat the Book} as a platform for my students and I to share our reading with each other; I see it as an integral part of their Bookucation. On Mondays we gather in the Living Room (my front rug area) and I share my It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? post. Students get to ring the bell and share the belltitle for each book they’ve completed in the past week. I keep a tally and post the total for each class. I also have the students circle up and I use the SpinCam app to record what books they are reading. This has become quite valuable to me as it helps me keep track of what books are trending and what book may have stayed in a student’s hands too long. You can’t hear it, but I’m engaging students in conversation as I record. I also like that students can all see what their peers are reading.

The blog is publicized through my school Facebook page (which parents are encouraged to follow) and school Twitter feed. I also invite parents to share their reading in the comment section. I want my students to see that reading is not a school thing—it’s a lifelong pursuit.


Friday’s blog is just as important. “What day is it kids?”

“It’s BookFlix Friday!


Every Friday I load up my blog with cool trailers, and students grab their notebooks, come up to the Living Room, and open to their TBR list because the know they’re going to see some sweet book trailers. (BTW: Feel free to grab the BookFlix pic & join the meme!) Really—why doesn’t every upcoming book have a trailer? Trailers are powerful. I had 41 (41!!!) students sign up to read Ivan after watching the amazing trailer (and many more students found their own copy from a library). And the Wonder trailer? They were hooked. Then I came up with an idea (the result of a #TitleTalk?): Since we have video announcements in our school, why not make a weekly BookFlix Friday video to show the whole school? My aforementioned colleague, Brent, and I do just that. Here is an example of one:


If possible, we coordinate the book with the school library and have a stack of the advertised book waiting on the front desk.

[I’ve made a playlist of BookFLix announcements and the trailers that my three classes (A, B, C) have made. I mean, since we like them so much, it only made sense for students to try to make their own, right?]

Inspired by Colby Sharp’s summer book party of 2011, Brent and I were inspired to have a book party this past summer for incoming and outgoing 6th graders. Tom Angleberger was kind enough to write The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee for summer release, so we had a Fortune Wookiee party. We partnered with our awesome Indie book store, Monkey See, Monkey Do… who provided discount books for the students, free silk screening, giveaways, and much more. It was a great time, and Mr. A joined us via Skype. But don’t take my word for it—Han Foldo and the Wookiee wrote a blog post about it.

The success of that event got us thinking about other bookish opportunities. We wanted to go multi-generational. Again, with the help of Monkey See, Monkey Do… , we organized a parent-student book club around Laurel Snyder’s Bigger Than a Bread Box. Any 6th grade student and parent interested could participate and purchase a discounted copy of the book. We also held a before-school book club discussion open for parents and students. We had some deep conversation around cookies and cider. Then a week later the club culminated with the Skype session with Mrs. Snyder. She was great, and she made lifelong fans of many parents and students who attended.

We are currently planning our next parent-student book club & Skype. Stay tuned.

It’s simple, but I’m going to take advantage of any chance I have to inspire others’ reading by making mine public. (I wish I read more and faster.)

My most recent, simple bookvertisement is using my Goodreads link in my email signature line. It looks like this:

I’m no one special. I know so many of are amazing book promoters in your rooms and schools. But we can get better by sharing—brainstorming—gleaning. Feel free to take any of these ideas for your own. Please, continue the conversation in the comments below and share some of your best ideas for building this WALL OF READING.

* Interested in the Wall of Sound? Here’s a with and without of the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road”.

David Etkin teaches 6th grade language arts in Amherst, NY, who blogs regularly at {Eat the Book}. While he’s waiting for the Buffalo Bills to return to glory, he tries to read a ton (though he often gets distracted by technology and social media). He is encouraged that he is raising his daughters to be readers when they say things like, “I wish I could live in the library,” and, “I can sleep in tomorrow, but wake me up at the regular time so I can read a little bit before going to school.” And when a student comes up to him and says, “I pre-ordered Prodigy on my Kindle so I can get it right when it comes out,” he is convinced that the State of the Nerdy Book Club is strong.