Top Ten Ways to Encourage Children to Read Over Winter Break by Katherine Sokolowski

It is no big secret, I’m a reader. I wear that label proudly and, as a result, my students’ parents often email me looking for advice regarding their children and reading. Today I thought I would share with our Nerdy Book Club friends the advice I’m giving my parents this year on encouraging their children to become readers – especially over that long two week break we have coming up. (Although plenty of it could be applied to the whole year long.) You will see that the majority of this list can apply to teachers in the classroom or parents at home. Enjoy!


Top Ten Ways to Encourage Children to Read Over Winter Break


10. Set expectations. I expect my students to continue to read daily over break. I expect the same of my own children at home. I tell them up front that I will be checking in after break and want to know what they read. As a parent, I ask my boys what they are reading each day and talk to them about the book when they’re done. There is not a question of if they will read on a given day, but when and how much.


9. Make plans. As my friend Donalyn Miller says, readers make plans. In my classroom we will plan out what we think we will read before we leave for break. In my home we will plan out the best time for us to read, daily. My students know I plan to read a book a day over break. I need to plan ahead so that I have enough reading material to make it over the long break. I ask them to think about the books they are reading – do they need to take more home? My own children ensure they have reading material to read each day. If they don’t, we jump down to number 8. (Or, we jump to number 8 if it is Saturday, rainy, or we’re just in the mood.)


8. Visit a library or a bookstore. Just going to either one of these places is great – you are immediately surrounded by a community of readers! Both of my boys have library cards and a trip to the library is guaranteed during winter break. I immediately head to the new picture books and plop on the floor and read as many as possible. They usually head to the non-fiction books and look for something new on their current obsession. The bookstore is just as wonderful and we could all spend hours there.


7. Connect them to an author. I’ve seen it in my classroom and I’ve seen it at home – when children connect to the authors of the books they are reading, magic happens. Luckily, in this era, this is easier than ever. Kids can tweet out their love of their books to the author who wrote them. Many authors will tweet back. At home and at school we also check out the author’s website. Sometimes you can email them, but even more than that the resources are often incredible. Watch book trailers; find out the story of why they wrote the book, and more.


6. Talk. In my classroom I make time to sit down with each child over the course of two weeks and talk about what they’re reading. This is just as important at home, if not more so. I want to know what my boys are reading and what they are connecting to. I want to be there when they read the sad/hard/scary/funny part and get to discuss the reaction they had. I want to discuss why they feel this is the best series of all time and debate it. We connect through books and the discussion around them strengthens that bond.


5. Make it fun. We hold read-a-thons in my giant bed on a regular basis on the weekends. It’s a great feeling to look up from my cozy spot and see both of my boys curled up near me reading their books. If it is cold outside, we hold our read-a-thons downstairs by the fire with hot chocolate. There are challenges to see who can read the most, book talks to try and convince family members to read the book next, and more.


4. Make it important. When we value something, we devote time to it. By doing so, we show its importance. That’s why when I heard this idea from author Linda Urban; I knew I was going to steal it. In Linda’s family they bring their books to the dinner table on Tuesday nights. Whatever you’re currently reading is welcome. Finger food is on the table for dinner and for the entire meal everyone reads. Let me say that again, everyone reads. Think of the message that sends children!


3. Give books. We give books to everyone on our list. I include my boys on the title discussions for each recipient so they can see the thought that goes into matching the perfect title with the recipient. We talk about how wonderful the gift of a book is because it gives the person we’re giving it to an experience. (For more on giving books, and Chronicle’s #givebooks campaign, check out this link:


2. Get books. Books are part of the gift of Christmas in our home. I can think of no better way to send the message that I want you to be a reader than to give books. My boys can tell me titles that they are looking forward to reading and I will purchase them, but I also buy some because I think they will be a good stretch. I also give them gift cards so they can go to the bookstore and pick out their own books. If you are looking for great titles this year, look no further than the Nerdy Book Club nominees for 2013:


1. Be a role model. In the classroom I share my reading life with my students. Returning from Thanksgiving break I will tell them what I read over break and share titles. I want them to know I am a reader. I do the same with my children at home. If I don’t model it, they won’t do it. Be a reader. Magazines, novels, comics, newspapers, etc. – let them see you read. Let them see you react to books. Inspire.

Katherine Sokolowski has taught for fifteen years and currently teaches fifth grade in Monticello, Illinois. She is passionate about reading both in her classroom and also with her two sons. You can find her online at and on Twitter as @katsok.