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Teaching Strategies to Connect Literacy, Classroom, Community

Jordan Catapano

In the spirit of promoting the joy of reading amongst our students, I’ve compiled a short list of random teaching strategies related to creative promotions of literacy.

1. Library card sign-up at school. While most schools have their own library or media center, many don’t have relationships that extend to the town’s local library. Consider inviting local librarians into your school for a “Library card sign-up drive.” Students who don’t already have a library card to their local library will be able to get their card and be encouraged to visit the local library any time they like! *Bonus – Host a library card sign-up drive during your school’s Open House and encourage families to get one for their students and themselves.

2. Students make a “Someday list.” When are students perusing titles, what might they be interested in reading “Someday?” Perhaps they are examining shelves in your media center, looking through recommendations, mentally pocketing books from your classroom library, or making a wishlist on Amazon. Collect students’ someday lists and mail them home to families around Christmas time and before the end of the year, suggesting that they get their student one of the books as a gift if possible!

3. Suggest books in different languages. Literacy comes in more than just English. Be ready to recommend books written in languages your students are familiar with, such as Spanish, Polish, or Japanese.

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4. Recommended reading lists. Work with your local library to develop or utilize existing recommended reading lists for various age groups at your school. Distribute these recommended lists in your classrooms and throughout your building to get students talking about what they’re going to read next. Some states sponsor reading incentive programs featuring various lists of books – look at your state’s incentive program and help students get the titles they like.

5. Student-led book club. We’ve hosted book clubs before, but what if students were the ones to take the reins? Have students identify the text they’d like to read, then organize a timeline and format for discussions. Also have students take charge of marketing, inviting other students, teachers, and even members of the community to join in the chat.

6. Invite parents to share in reading times. Do you have a designated reading time for your class during the week? If so, make this time open to parents. Have them bring their own book, silently grab a seat, and participate in the reading time alongside your class. This simple invitation will model to students the importance of reading as they get to see their own parents taking part in the fun.

7. Book swapping. If students have some favorite titles at home they’re willing to part with, have them bring the books to school. This will give them an opportunity to talk about the books with one another and arrange recommendations and swaps.

8. Teacher shower. You’ve heard of baby showers, right? Well, why can’t we have a teacher shower, too? Teachers are on the hook for paying for so many classroom materials, but maybe they can talk their non-teacher friends into throwing a “Teacher shower” for them by helping provide materials (I’m thinking books for a classroom library) to help them start off their year.

9. Literacy league. I’ve heard this called many things, but a literacy league is a cool name for empowering students to guide themselves through the literature in your classroom. Students choose the book (from among recommended selections), assign themselves the timeline and workload, arrange their discussions, and determine what their desired outcomes ought to be from reading it. Adult guidance is provided from teachers, librarians, and so on.

10. Have food. When stomachs are happy, hearts are happy. Pair your reading times, whether a club meeting or an informal class read, with food. Where does the food come from? Ask for donations from local businesses – you’ll be surprised with the responses you get! Bonus points if your food corresponds to the reading material.

11. Daily time to read. This is pretty straightforward but deserves to be on the list. I’ve never regretted the times I’ve said, “All we did was read today.” While we might say reading is important, it truly becomes important when we show students we want to allocate daily time to the habit.

12. Invite parents to read the book too. When you’re reading a book for class, students can benefit from having a dialogue about the text with more adults than just you. Encourage parents to read the text as well, and encourage them to have dialogues about it with their students at home.

13. Traveling library cart. Maybe not every student makes it a habit or has an opportunity to visit your library. That’s OK! Load some popular titles onto a cart and push the cart to your school’s cafeteria, study halls, and hangouts. Go to where the students are and offer them a book at an unexpected time!

14. Currently reading” in your email signature. Do you write a lot of emails? Sure, you’re probably not composing the majority of your emails to students, but your email signature is a prime location where you can share your value of literacy. Simply write somewhere under your name “Currently reading ...” and list the title you’ve got your nose into right now.

15. Field trip to library. Field trips offer students the opportunity to enjoy an organized excursion to a place they may not ordinarily visit. While some of your students may be very familiar with your local library, others likely are not. Coordinate with your local librarians and drive your bus across town where students can be introduced to the resources and joy of the local library. Consider visiting a local bookstore if you have one in your community, too.

16. Little Free Library. A Little Free Library is exactly that – it’s literally a small cabinet posted in a public place that houses free books. People passing by are encouraged to take any book they please from the modest collection and to leave a book of their own in return. Work with your class to set these up, possibly in a school hallway or within the community.

Of course, there are many more random, fruitful ideas you might come across that help you promote literacy amongst your students. Reading is a joyful, empowering activity that too often is given a bad name when students are forced to do it. The more we make reading part of the culture students are indulged in on a daily basis, the more likely they are to see the value of it and develop the habit of becoming lifelong readers themselves!

What other teaching strategies would you add to this list to promote literacy, library awareness, and reading skills? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Jordan Catapano taught English for twelve years in a Chicago suburban high school, where he is now an Assistant Principal. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website

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