School celebrations and traditions may be in flux but the importance of keeping readers motivated stays the same. Books and stories are tools children need now more than ever to discover themselves and understand that the world is far richer and diverse than just their experiences alone.
Here are some ideas to foster fun and bring exciting virtual and appropriately physically distanced experiences around books to your classroom, school, and community.
Having guest readers share books with students is a great activity any time of year. The calendar is rich in opportunities for hosting special guests who can read aloud and talk with students about the role reading plays in their lives. Add new faces to your classroom via video by offering opportunities to parents and community members to sign up to read aloud with your students. Consider partnering with a local senior citizen organization for potential readers or see if local public officials or others can read.
Guests can virtually read to kids “live” or create a video for them to watch. Help guest readers take advantage of what your technology offers. For example, with Zoom, guests can screen share an ebook so students can see the pictures and words, and still see your guest reading in a thumbnail video. Recorded or live, guest read alouds can be lively with fun backdrops, props, or costumes—even pets!
Traditionally, Mystery Readers are special guests who come to your classroom—after a mysterious build up—to read aloud to students. Mystery Readers can be parents, grandparents, older siblings, school staff or other members of the community. Schedule virtual Mystery Readers! These guests can read aloud to students during synchronous time together or record a video to share. Build up suspense by asking Mystery Readers for clues about themselves and share these with students throughout the week so they can unravel who will be reading with them next. Try using polling or forms to share clues and get students engaged in the guesswork.
Host an Author
Deepen student enthusiasm for both reading and writing with a virtual author visit! Many authors and illustrators are offering opportunities for virtual visits with students. These might be short 15-30-minute interactive sessions or up to an hour for longer discussions or activities. Author visits go best when students have read their books in advance and, if appropriate, have prepared questions.
Most authors have an online presence and can be easily contacted via their websites, social media, or through their publishers—try reaching out to school and library marketing departments. Here are a few places to start:
- Random House Children’s Books Hosting an Author Visit
- Penguin Classroom Request an Author Visit
- Lee & Low Authors and Illustrators Who Do Virtual Visits
Launch a Book Club
Spark excitement and help students learn more about themselves and the important role that reading plays in their own lives when you start a Read Across America Book Club! A Read Across America book club should focus on reading fun and diverse book choices and offer a social experience for readers. It’s a great way to motivate kids to read and get them talking about books. Launch your Book Club or hold a book club activity to celebrate Read Across America.
A book talk is just a short presentation about an awesome book to get readers excited and interested in it. You can record yourself or give a live book talk or ask your school or public librarian to offer virtual book talks. You can also have students give book talks. That way students get to learn what their fellow students enjoy reading. Book talks work best when they can be conversational, with questions asked and answered. Slides can also be developed and used to add visual interest and help provide structure.
Check out the Book Talks by Read Across America Ambassador Marley Dias did as an example and help readers find out about some great books!
A Slide Party happens when students prepare a slide presentation (Google Slides; PowerPoint) on a topic of their choice and share it with others on a videochat platform. Slides can be about a lot of things—students can create slides to introduce themselves, share interests, make a comic, teach others about something they are passionate about, or talk about a favorite book, series, or character in detail. Host a Read Across America Slide Party focused on sharing favorite books or sharing Mirror, Window, or Sliding Glass Door titles, based on Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s metaphor that literature can offer a reflection of one’s self (mirror), provides a view of someone or something else (window), and/or a means for a reader to imaginatively walk into another world (sliding glass door).
Slides are also great for personalizing the virtual experience and many educators have been using them to create Bitmoji classrooms and libraries. Encourage students to get in on the creative fun too and have them design their own virtual personal libraries using images, illustrations, and text.
Invite families to a physically distanced evening out of reading fun! As members of your community read aloud a variety of diverse books, live stream their read alouds on a large screen set up in the school or community center parking lot for families to enjoy from their vehicles. Have readers use props, costumes, music, or interesting virtual backdrops to make the stories come alive for your audience.
StoryWalk is a fun, physically-distanced activity that places a children’s story—a deconstructed book, page by page—along a walking route in your community. Developed by Anne Ferguson in Montpelier, Vermont, a StoryWalk combines reading a children’s book aloud while taking a walk.
To make a StoryWalk, you’ll need two copies of a book. Mount each page spread on cardstock and laminate with a heavy weight lamination. You should also create a “Welcome” page that explains how the StoryWalk works and includes the front cover of the book. Depending on where you set up your Read Across America StoryWalk (library or school grounds, park, trails, or storefront windows along main street), you’ll also need wooden stakes for each laminated page spread and heavy duty adhesive-backed Velcro to attach them. Window installations can be secured using suction cups with clips or removable wall-safe tape.
Your StoryWalk could also feature student writing, photography, and artwork rather than published works. Find more StoryWalk ideas and how-tos at Let’s Move in Libraries.
Reading Obstacle Course
Book fun, physical activity, and physical distancing all in one! Take advantage of empty parking lots or sidewalks and chalk up (or paint, duct tape) a path that gets kids hopping, jumping, spinning, balancing, marching, dancing, and zigzagging. Your chalk walk could include a variety of steps and directions based on literary references from fairy tales or folk tales, like Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters; be focused around books that really move, such as Barnyard Dance or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt; or be an inspired interpretation of a title like Firebird or Jabari Jumps.