Reading Promotion: Transforming the Reading Culture of a K-8 Building by Allison Stout and Jill Ramig
In the fall of 2016, we were inspired by Jillian Heise and the #classroombookaday program (see Jillian’s July 3, 2017 Nerdy Book Club post “#classroombookaday & the Power of Shared [Picture Book] Stories”). We knew we wanted to bring the idea to Remington Traditional School. We recruited two other non-classroom teachers to adopt a room to read a picture book with everyday. It was a wonderful experience for about 90 students and eight staff. At the end of the year, we looked back and thought, “That was great, but we can do better.” Together with reading teacher, Mandy Harper, we began a reading promotion steering committee to design activities and events to appeal to more students and staff. Our new goal: to cultivate a schoolwide community based on a love of reading.
The first step for our reading steering committee was to spread #classroombookaday schoolwide. Our vision was that everyone, K-8, read the same picture books during a week. We surveyed staff to find interested classroom teachers and staff willing to adopt a room. Teachers had several options: they could switch rooms with another teacher, have an adopted reader come in, or read to their own class. All three options were utilized, and all but one class participated. Adopted readers included our secretary, clerk, paraprofessionals, librarian, reading specialists, gifted teacher, and our instructional specialist. Even special area teachers, like art and music, occasionally filled in when a reader needed a substitute. News about #classroombookaday made it home. For example, the mother of a 2nd grade and a 4th grade student told us, “Classroom Book a Day is always a part of our dinner conversation!”
Secondly, we encouraged voting for favorite books throughout the year. We voted for the Missouri Show Me Nominees, hosted mock Caldecotts, and chose a class to name their favorite book every week. Remington’s most exciting voting event was the #bookcademyawards at the end of the year. Individual classrooms were responsible for nominating five books in a specific category from the #classroombookaday books. Categories included Best Non-Human Character, Best Informational Book, Best Female Lead Character, and more. Students and staff voted for their favorite in each of the 10 categories. On the day of the awards ceremony, staff and students dressed as their favorite book characters. We had a red carpet and a photo backdrop. During our whole school assembly, an emcee announced the participants and the characters walked the red carpet as fans cheered. Two eighth grade students developed a slideshow to review the nominees and announce the winners. The crowd roared when we revealed each winner. It was a spectacular day! Parents and community members attended the event, shared it on social media, and immediately asked for our book list.
Author Visits and Skypes
In addition, we wanted to make sure that students connected to authors and illustrators as real people, not just names on a title page. This year, our students met seven authors in person and had nine Skype visits. Visiting authors and illustrators exposed us to many genres including informational books, graphic novels, picture books, and chapter books. We are extremely fortunate to have an incredible partnership with The Novel Neighbor, a local independent bookstore, that brought authors to our school. We felt it was important to promote the authors coming to our building. We read their books for #classroombookady, researched the authors, prepared questions, and decorated according to their latest books. We sent home book order forms. We did not limit the audience to certain grade levels. Even our middle school students enjoyed learning from the picture book authors. Students loved meeting individually with authors as they got their books signed. These connections to authors as real people inspired students in reading, writing, illustrating, and life.
Finally, throughout the year our reading committee looked for additional ways to promote a love of books. In October, we asked families to make Literacy Lanterns. Students decorated pumpkins as book characters. The lanterns were on display in the library and at our book fair family event.
In February, we hosted a reading marathon to correspond with the 2018 Winter Olympics. We had a comfy rocking chair set up in the front office, decorated for the Olympics. As long as school was in session, there were students sitting in the chair reading. Each grade level took a day and the teachers scheduled time blocks. Students passed a torch to the next reader when their time was up and received a medal from their teacher. Students even willingly came in from recess for their time in the chair.
On April 26th, we celebrated Poem In Your Pocket Day. Students K-5 had a decorated library pocket on a yarn necklace. Middle school students used pockets in their clothing. Everyone either chose a poem or wrote a poem to keep in their pockets and share. We made sure visitors to the building and every staff member, including custodians, cafeteria workers, and the principal, had a poem ready to share. Students shared poems at recess, lunch, in the class and in the halls. All through the day you heard people ask to hear each other’s poems. It was heartwarming.
We challenged ourselves to promote reading in a variety ways to reach our varied students. We had book walls where we posted the covers of books we read throughout the year which sparked conversations about books. We entered classrooms with carts of books and did quick book talks that left students scrambling to check out the books before long school breaks. We coached three book battle teams that competed against other schools concerning a select set of books.
This year was one of the most exciting of our careers. You could feel the enthusiasm for books and reading all over the school. Remington plans to continue many of the programs we started and begin a few more. Our philosophy for the year can be summed up by P.T. Barnum, who said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens…nothing!” It is our mission to foster our strong reading community through reading promotion.
Allison Stout and Jill Ramig work at Remington Traditional School, in St. Louis County, Missouri. Allison is a Library and Technology Specialist. Jill is a Reading Specialist. As friends and colleagues, they find as many ways as possible to collaborate. Both are avid readers of children’s literature and love sharing their passion for reading with anyone who will listen. You can follow them on Twitter @rtslitech and @RTSReadingT.