It seems now like every day has a “theme.” I don’t know about you, but it’s been such a busy, difficult year at my school that I can’t keep track of “National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day” (FYI – it’s August 4, 2022) or “National Lima Bean Respect Day” (yes, it’s real and on April 20, 2022).
HOWEVER…there is one day coming up soon that I hope more teachers will pay attention to: World Book Day on April 23rd. World Book Day was started back in 1995 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to encourage young people to read and celebrate writers all around the world. April 23rd was chosen as the date because several famous authors died on or were born on that day (Shakespeare, Cervantes, etc.)
Why should we care about this day? In a year when teachers across the country are struggling to close learning gaps created by the pandemic, I think we should be encouraging all students to read regularly and for pleasure. This is because literally hundreds of studies conducted all over the world in the last 20 years support the fact that regularly reading books at their reading level that they choose for themselves helps children increase their vocabulary knowledge, critical thinking ability, writing ability, and even develop empathy for others. Reading for pleasure is a simple activity with so many academic and emotional benefits. Why wouldn’t we want to promote that this year?
I’ve curated a list of fun activities that teachers at multiple grade levels can use to encourage reading and celebrate famous writers and the inspiring characters they have created. These activities would be a nice way to honor National Book Day but could also be used year round. Happy reading!
- Character Dress up Day
This tried and true activity takes some coordination with families but promotes fun and creativity. You can also combine it with #2 below, as the UK school pictured above did, and create a day students won’t soon forget! One word of caution, teachers should be prepared with a few extra costumes for students whose families either can’t afford one or simply forget.
- Book an Author Visit
There are several ways to book author visits, including through publishers like Scholastic or through local reference librarians or bookstore owners. And since the pandemic has made many of us more Zoom savvy, a virtual visit may be much easier to organize than a live visit. This is something that would likely need to be booked months in advance and budgeted for, since visits can cost quite a bit depending on the author. Edutopia offers some great tips for preparing for an author’s visit.
- Hold a Contest
A little friendly competition can go a long way to motivating students. Two easy contest ideas are a door decorating contest and a “book in a jar” contest (pictured above). For door decorating, a class can choose a favorite book or series and decorate their door to represent it. Administration or library staff can judge doors based on creativity and execution. A “book in a jar” is exactly what it sounds like. They are easy to create because they are so small. Students could each create their own book in a jar based on their favorite books and share with classmates, or it could be turned into a contest as the library above did.
- Practice DEAR (Drop Everything & Read)
There is actually an official day for this; it is celebrated on April 12th, which is Beverly Cleary’s birthday. It’s a great practice, especially for younger readers who don’t have the attention spans to read for extended periods of time. Reading can be broken into smaller increments of as short as 5 minutes and these increments can be repeated over the course of the day to meet a class goal (maybe 20 or 30 minutes total).
- Mystery Guest
This one is for students who love to hunt for clues and piece them together! Teachers can leave objects that represent a specific book character around the room. Students need to use the clues to guess which “guest” is secretly visiting the room. If they are really motivated, teachers can even set a table with objects that represent a book and character and have students “guess who is coming to lunch?”
- Book Scavenger Hunts
Bookshelf scavenger hunts are an easy way to get students up and moving, and more importantly, more familiar with the books in a classroom or school library. Simple lists like the one above from Scholastic would work for any library and could be easily modified.
- Taking Reading Selfies
Do a quick search on Instagram for #shelfie and you will find literally millions of photos of people’s bookshelves from around the world. Working with families, teachers can challenge students to take a “shelfie” to share their home’s books with the class. Another cool idea is to challenge students to take an “extreme reading” picture. What is the craziest place they can show themselves reading? It would be a lot of fun to find out!