March is National Reading Month, and there are so many ways to encourage the love of reading and so many amazing authors to celebrate. NEA’s Read Across America has broadened its scope to embrace the theme “Celebrate a Nation of Diverse Readers” to affirm to all children that they belong in the world and the world belongs to them. Here are some of our favorite Read Across America activities to share with your class.
1. Invite students to read in a variety of ways
Make reading fun by allowing your students to do it in many different ways. Make time for students to read alone, read with a friend, read with someone they’ve never read with before, listen to teacher read-alouds, read with a younger or older buddy, even read with a favorite stuffie. Hold special events like Flashlight Friday or one of these fun suggestions from PTO Today:
- Transform your school cafeteria, gym, or library into a “campground” and ask families to bring sleeping bags.
- Read mystery books and solve a special mystery by decoding secret messages at a series of stations using invisible ink, words cut out of newspapers, and backward messages that require mirrors.
- For an event with a treasure hunt theme, focus the read-aloud on a favorite book and then have students hunt for hidden clues that lead them to book-related treasure.
2. Challenge younger students to a picture book scavenger hunt
Motivate your students to read many, many books with Read Across America scavenger hunt activities. As they are reading, they will look for the items on the list. Create your own list, or ask students to help you brainstorm ideas.
3. Plan a few tantalizing book talks
Book talks are a great tool to give students a sneak peek at books that might not be on their radar. Start each morning with a brief talk, each one about a book with a different theme or from a different genre.
Learn more: What Is a Book Talk? Your Guide to Making Them Work in the Classroom
4. Get moving with a round of “Would You Rather?”
Get your kids up and moving while you learn more about their love of learning. For each round, two “Would you Rather” questions will flash on the screen. Depending on students’ answers, they will be directed to perform a short physical activity. Fun questions like “Would you rather read all day in an igloo or in a tree house?” and “Would you rather own a bookstore or be a librarian?” will hook your students and get them all the more excited about Read Across America.
5. Track your reading progress
Get kids amped up about reading with a little friendly competition. Have each class keep track of either how many minutes or how many pages they read each day. Make a large thermometer out of a large sheet of bulletin board paper and post it in the hall. At the end of each day, check in with students to see how much progress they have made. Color in the thermometer as you work toward your ultimate goal. When they meet their goal, celebrate with a special event.
Buy it: Goal Tracker Pocket Chart at Amazon
6. Do a creative book report
You know that feeling when you finish a really great book and you just can’t wait to share it with a friend so you have someone to talk to about it? Well, kids feel the same way! Why not give them a few creative ways to share a book that has knocked their socks off? Try one of these fun book report ideas: a book report cake, a clothes hanger mobile, or even a book report charm bracelet.
7. Read your way across the map
This is one of our favorite Read Across America activities. Students get to choose reading activities and color in the map of the USA as they complete each activity. There is a link in the video to access the free printable with the list of activities and a blank map. Students have free rein to choose the activities that spark their curiosity, which, of course, fuels their love of reading.
8. Invite guest readers to join in the fun
Everybody loves an engaging read-aloud, no matter their age. Set up a roster of guest readers (parents, grandparents, school staff, even local authors) to visit your classroom and read to your students. If you’re extra ambitious, why not set up a “Masked Reader” event (like the TV show “Masked Singer”)? Your kids will be extra engaged as they try to identify who is sitting in the reader’s chair.
9. Have a reading-inspired dress-up day
Dress up like your favorite book character or favorite author, and encourage your students to do the same! Check out these book character costumes, including Olivia the pig, Ms. Frizzle, and Camilla Cream from A Bad Case of Stripes.
10. Set up a performance stage
Many young authors love to share the stories they’ve written. Give your students the opportunity to sign up to take center stage, kind of like an open mic night, and perform a read-aloud of their own original material.
11. Encourage readers to explore diverse themes
Reading broadens children’s horizons. There are so many wonderful people, places, and ideas to discover in the pages of a book. Encourage your students to not only read for pleasure, but read to learn about the big, wide world.
Here are a few of our favorite book lists to scan for ideas:
12. Host a book tasting
Another one of our favorite Read Across America activities. Expand your readers’ palettes with a book tasting. Much like a food tasting, students circulate around the room, spending a few minutes checking out the front and back cover, reading the inside flaps, and browsing the book for a first impression. Then they record their observations on a note catcher for future reference.
Learn more: Expand Your Readers’ Palates With a Book Tasting
13. Branch out and read something new
Many times kids find a genre they love and stick with it to the exclusion of the many, many other wonderful genres available. Read Across America Week is a perfect opportunity to encourage them to branch out!
Learn more: 50+ Literary Genres and Subgenres Every Student Should Know
14. Set up a classroom book swap
Help get books into your students’ hands by organizing classroom book swaps! These simple Read Across America activities encourage kids to bring a book or two from home that they feel ready to part with (with their parents’ permission, of course). Then, on the day of the swap, lay out the books and give the kids time to browse. Make sure every child gets one book before anyone gets more. Ask around the building to see if other teachers or the librarian have books they can contribute.
15. Tap into March Madness with a twist
We’ve all heard of March Madness. Why not tap into the energy and create a Book Madness bracket for your classroom?
Learn more: Book Madness March at Brown Bag Teacher
16. Take pledges to donate to a charity
Before Read Across America week, send home a pledge sheet with each student. Have them ask family and friends to pledge a dime (or any spare change) per book read to donate to the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes is a nonprofit that supports research, programs, education, and advocacy needed by parents throughout their pregnancies. Have a celebration at the end of the week and tally up the donations.
17. Tune into the Reading Rainbow archives
For 40 years, Reading Rainbow has encouraged a love of reading in our children. Check out their website for links to full-length episodes of their beloved show. Look for titles like “How Much Is a Million?,” “Fly Away Home,” and many more.
18. Do an author study or two
Dive into the talent behind some of your students’ favorite stories with an author study or two. Make sure to have books by your focus author on hand for students to check out. Check out Best Children’s Book Illustrators Everyone Should Know, Brilliant Black Children’s Book Authors We Love and Famous Children’s Books Every Kid Should Read.
19. Load up those e-books
While physical books will always have a place in our hearts (and our classrooms!), you can’t beat e-books for their convenience and ability to serve kids with many different types of learning differences. That’s why we’ve put together this list of sites where kids (and their parents) can easily download free e-books so they can keep reading no matter where they are!
Learn more: Ways Kids Can Read Free E-Books
20. Make bookmarks
Celebrate the love of reading by making DIY bookmarks. From simple designs to more complicated projects, your students will love these adorable DIY bookmark activities to celebrate Read Across America.
Learn more: DIY Bookmarks
21. Explore poetry
While you’re exploring genres, why not give poetry a try? Read poems together from this list of Essential Poetry Books for Kids. Or try some of these Inspiring Poetry Games and Activities for Kids.
22. Make reading fun with Reading Bingo
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned game of bingo? Try this version with a twist. Send this free printable bingo card with your little learners and have them return them completed for a small prize.
Learn more: Reading Bingo Printable Cards at Primary Playground
23. Shine a light on flashlight reading
Looking for a fun way to get your students excited about reading? Well, get your students all settled and comfy, turn off the lights, and strap on the finger flashlights! Your kids will feel like they’re on a sleep-away camping trip with their favorite book.
Learn more: Flashlight Friday Ideas
24. Organize buddy readers
Invite older students in your school to come read with your primary students. Not only will they have fun reading together, they’ll build community and school spirit.
25. Make your own books
Motivate your students to read and write by teaching them how to make their very own books. Eight easy projects for even the youngest learners.
26. Create your own book jackets
Learn the parts of a book jacket and the purpose for each part. Then, create your own! Not only will this tap into your students’ creativity, it requires thinking deeply about the book in order to know what to include.