New Teacher Advocate — Spring 2014
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5 Steps To Build A Community Of Readers
Holly Gray And Barbara Day


Fostering a love of reading within every student is one of the most important things you can do for your students. Use these five steps to create a solid foundation for building a community of readers who will be on their way to a lifelong love of reading. Just as important, you will add to your knowledge and experience while creating YOUR reading classroom!

Step 1: Be a model! Read to your students.

The first, and maybe the most important, step in building a community of readers is to show students you value reading by reading to them and with them! The read aloud, a high-leverage practice (Grossman, Hammerness, & McDonald, 2009), is a research-based instructional strategy that has the ability to improve student achievement. Read aloud time will quickly become your students’ favorite time of the day when you become an explicit reading model and share your excitement of reading.

Step 2: Give your students time to read.

Give your students time to read self-selected books each day. This may start as five minutes daily at the beginning of the school year and grow to 20 minutes as students build mental stamina throughout the year. Both teacher and students should read during this time since students are more likely to stay on task when the teacher reads along with them.

Many teachers struggle to find the time during a busy school day to allow students to read independently. Reading after recess is a wonderful way to get students settled down and back on track. As the year progresses, many students opt to read a book when they finish work early or while they wait for the bus. Some students will even begin to ask if they can take a book to recess!

Step 3: Let your students make choices.

Your goal is to build a community of readers, so students should read self-selected books. Students will put forth more time and effort when they are allowed to read books based on their interests (Schiefele, 1991). Consider how much time and effort you would devote to reading if you were only permitted to read what others had chosen for you.

Like adults, students have a wide variety of interests. Independent reading gives students pleasure and builds a lifelong love of reading. While it is important that students self-select their books, it is also important that you give them guidance in making good choices. Rotate books often in the classroom library. Borrow books from the school library and introduce some of these books to students during your read aloud. Broaden students’ exposure to the different genres available in anticipation of each student finding his or her own niche.

Step 4: Equip your students with good thinking strategies.

As you read aloud to students, use “think through” and “think aloud” strategies that show them how you respond when you encounter difficulty with comprehension. For instance, in your own reading, do you sometimes re-read a sentence for a better understanding? Do you guess the meaning of unknown words by using context clues or background knowledge?

Independent reading will become more valuable for your students as you model and they begin using these strategies while reading independently. Throughout the text, cue students to ask questions, mentally summarize, make predictions and connections, and form mental images to facilitate better understanding. Independent reading gives students the opportunity to practice the thinking processes that you model during read alouds and to practice the skills taught during their regular reading instruction time.

Step 5: Give students talk time.

Students should share what they are reading with one another. Interacting with a community of readers deepens their appreciation of reading (Lee-Daniels & Murray, 2000; Turner, 1995). Do you like to share what you are reading with your friends? Children like to do the same. Sharing is an opportunity for students to increase their knowledge of other genres. You will find students often visit the library looking for the same books or books similar to those that they have heard about in the classroom.

These five steps show students you value reading and, as a result, will build an appreciation of reading within your classroom. Students will know they have partners in learning. They will be motivated to become lifelong readers. Thus, as you incorporate these strategies in your classroom, you build a reading community and a love of reading within your students.


Grossman, P., Hammerness, K., & McDonald, M. (2009). Redefining teaching: Re-imagining teacher education. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 15(2), 273-290.

Lee-Daniels, S. L. & Murray, B. A. (2000). DEAR me: What does it take to get children reading? The Reading Teacher, 54(2), 154–155.

Schiefele, U. (1991). Interest, learning, and motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26(3-4), 299-323.

Turner, J. C. (1995). The influence of classroom contexts on young children’s motivation for literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 30(3), 410-441.

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Dr. Gray is an Assistant Professor of Education and Interim Coordinator of Teacher Preparation at Curry College in Milton, MA. She is a former elementary teacher and curriculum specialist.

Dr. Day, a Laureate Chapter member and past president of Kappa Delta Pi (as well as ASCD and Delta Kappa Gamma Society International), is a Professor and Chair Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a former teacher, principal, and administrator.