Holiday Ideas that Encourage Reading

promote readingPeople are busy during the holiday season. Teachers, parents and even students can feel harried during the sometimes frenzied mix of Christmas parties, music programs and gift giving obligations. Why not make your classroom’s holiday efforts center around reading this year? Promoting literacy is always in season. Plus, reminding kids to read during the extra busy time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can actually help them relax while improving their reading skills.

Many elementary age students look forward to at least on electronic gift during the holidays and that’s okay. However, in order to stay on top of appropriate reading goals, it’s important that kids remember to read every day, either independently or with someone else.

So, what are some ways that you can use holiday activities to encourage reading both in and out of your classroom?

  1. Publish a gift list of recommended books. This is for the parents. Write up a list of books that you know the kids in your class enjoy and either email it to parents or post it on your school’s website. Make sure to remind the parents about the list; they will likely be grateful for gift ideas. Plus, your students’ parents can forward the book list to grandparents and other family members.
  2. Organize a classroom book swap. Ask kids to bring in books from home (with parents’ permission and labeled with the owner’s name) and let the kids wrap the books in festive paper. Place the books in a “Santa’s bag” and pass out one book to each child. Spend the next few days reading the books during classroom reading time and then return the books to the original owners. This is fun because of the Christmas gift angle, plus kids can learn about new and different books from each other.
  3. Use tablets to research holiday traditions. Reading in class can also mean reading with electronic tablets like iPads. Using safe browsing apps like Britannica Kids or others, set aside a few hours each week to allow kids to research and read about any type of holiday tradition they want. It’s likely they’ll stumble upon holiday activities that they’re not familiar with and this can be a wonderful springboard to group discussions and opportunities to learn about other cultures.

Try also to include reading into the more physical holiday activities like classroom parties and/or gingerbread house building. For example, before the activity starts, have each student stand and read a paragraph from one of their favorite books. It can be a holiday book or any other type of story they want. Reading one paragraph may seem like a small thing, but sneaking in any amount of reading time is beneficial to the student.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported a few years ago that 65% of fourth graders read at or below the basic level. Reading at a basic grade level is certainly better than falling below. However, it’s well known that a student’s reading ability is directly related to their academic success. So, in order to help ensure that students can succeed as they advance through elementary school and the higher grades, it’s essential that reading is practiced and encouraged.

Consider using the upcoming holidays to promote reading to your students because improving their literacy is one of the best gifts you can give.