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Ten Secrets of a Successful Reading Program

by Jim Snack


For many years I've the pleasure of working with hundreds of elementary schools adding excitement to reading programs with my Reading Is Magic assembly program.  Whether participating in Parents As Reading Partners (PARP), Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), book fairs, or other such programs, the best part of the experience has been seeing the creative ways teachers and parents have added fun and excitement to their reading programs. 

This article summarizes a longer manual I wrote to help schools plan their reading program. The most effective programs I've participated in have included the following ten elements.  Keep these Ten Secrets of a Successful Reading Program in mind as you plan your program, and you can be assured of success.

1.  Clearly Defined Goals - Set daily, weekly, monthly or yearly reading goals for your students.  Measure the number of minutes read, pages read, or books read.  Be creative.  Snapper Creek Elementary School in Florida, for example, sets a yearly goal that really catches the students' attention - one million minutes!  The combined reading times outside of school of all students must top one million minutes by a certain date in April.

2.  Chart Student Progress Toward Goals - Let your students know how well they are doing by prominently displaying a large chart showing their progress.  For example, create a large thermometer for display in on the lawn front of the school.  One school using Reading is Magic as their theme created a lobby display featuring a large picture of a rabbit coming out of a hat.  Every student who turned in their weekly reading time slip got to glue a cotton ball onto the rabbit.  Their goal was to cover the entire rabbit before the program ended.

3.  Reward Student Progress - Provide small incentive rewards for students meeting their goals.  Certificates, bookmarks, buttons, or stickers can be made inexpensively.  Ask local merchants to donate prizes, particularly books, for a random drawing at the closing awards ceremony.

4.  Choose a Theme and Create a Logo and Slogan - Symbols make abstract ideas concrete, and they evoke positive responses in the mind immediately.  Choose a theme for your reading program and attach a symbol to it.   In the complete manual, I describe fifteen different themes schools have used to promote their reading program.  For example, many schools choose to use a teddy bear as the symbol or mascot for their reading program.  The teddy bear is an excellent choice because it immediately evokes positive emotional responses.  Be sure to display your symbol on posters, handouts, t-shirts, stickers, etc. 

5.  Involve Your Principal - Ask your principal to preside over the kick-off and closing awards assemblies, to visit classrooms and read to the students, and to demonstrate that he or she considers the reading program important enough o take time out for.

6.  Involve Parents - Studies show that parents who read with their children raise children who like to read.  Ask parents to read with their children every day of your program, to come to kick-off and closing awards assemblies, to attend special events.  Be sure to send special invitations home with children.

7.  Involve the Community - It takes a whole village to raise a child.  Ask local businesses for support, to donate money or incentive prizes.  Involve the public library by coordinating special events and programs.  Ask local sports teams to participate in special events.  Host a "Read-a-thon" to raise money for a local charity (complete details are in the manual).

8.  Get Media Coverage - Nothing gets students more excited than appearing on the local television news or getting their picture in the local newspaper. Invite local newspapers, radio and television to cover special events.  Ask your local newspaper to write a feature story about the program and to publish essays, poems, etc., written by students.

9.  Use "Word of Mouth" Advertising - Get people talking about your program by hosting exciting special events, a kick-off magic show, for example.  Create a literary trivia contest.  Each day read another trivia question about books during the morning announcements, offering prizes for the most correct answers.  Encourage students and teachers to share what they are reading with each other.

10.  Make it Appealing to Children - Include as many things as possible that appeal to children - music, costumes, special events, contests, to name a few.  Create an original song which students can learn and sing at special events.  If you have a mascot, arrange for someone in costume to make an appearance.  Wizard of Oz characters are always popular for a Reading is Magic theme, as well as characters from the Harry Potter books.

These ten elements will help make your next reading program sizzle with excitement and the result will be increased student participation. 

For more information about the longer manual I wrote on this topic click here.



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