Tuesday, September 6 is National Read-a-Book Day, a holiday where book lovers, readers, writers, and illustrators can come together to celebrate prose. This holiday is wonderful because everyone can celebrate. Kids who are too young to read can curl up with parents during story time. Teens can share their favorite YA tales. Adults can turn to their favorite chapters in romance novels or spooky Stephen King horrors.
You can also bring National Read-a-Book Day to your classroom. Choose from small activities that you do throughout the day or turn this holiday into a whole event. Here are eight celebratory ideas to engage young readers.
1. Let Students Dress Up As Their Favorite Characters
Younger students tend to fall in love with characters and latch on to them. (Though, to be fair, even adults dream of finding their own Mr. Darcy.) You can bring National Read-a-Book Day to life by letting students dress up as their favorite characters. They can wear their costumes all day or change into them during the language arts period of class.
Allow the characters to mingle with each other in character and see how different heroes, villains, time travelers, and even animals interact.
2. Tour the Library and Interview the Librarian
Most teachers take their students to the library or media center during the first few days of school. They learn where different sections are and how to check out books. However, students get a lot of information when school first starts and it's easy to forget some of what they hear.
There’s no better place to spend National Read-a-Book Day than the library. Ask the librarian to give a tour of the space or to discuss the Dewey Decimal System. They can talk about hidden features of the library (like checking out audiobooks) or what it’s like being a librarian. You can even build crafts around this visit by asking students to write letters to the librarian or draft pictures of their favorite book covers.
3. Invite a Local Author to a Read Aloud
Get to know the local literary scene in your area and see if there are any local authors that write children's books or YA novels. Invite an author into your classroom to read their work and answer questions from students.
Younger students can learn that they have stories inside of them that can be told through writing. Older students can ask the author about the creative process, overcoming writing blocks, and working with an editor and publisher.
While some authors might be busy, others will be flattered by the request and eager to visit your classroom. You can also set up a video call with an author if you can’t find anyone nearby.
4. Write a Book as a Class or in Small Groups
After students learn what it’s like for authors to write a book that kids read, let them write their own books and eventually share them with the class. This can be done as a whole group or within individual pods.
For a whole class experience, go from student to student and ask them to contribute different characters and plot points. Ask one student to name a character and another to describe the character’s appearance. Keep going until you work out the setting, conflict, and resolution.
You can tell the story out loud with this information or write it overnight (or ask your students to write it) to show kids how ideas can become stories and eventually books.
5. Create a Book Scavenger Hunt
This activity can be completed in the school library or in your classroom library if you have one. Create a list of characters, conflicts, plot points, or scenes for students to find and challenge them to look through books to identify them. This is a fun interactive activity for helping students to learn the different parts of a story. A few examples for your scavenger hunt include:
- Find a character whose name begins with the letter “R”
- Search for a book that takes place in a different era of history.
- Name a book where nature causes a source of conflict.
- Find a book with a talking animal.
Students can form pairs and complete this scavenger hunt together. This is a great way for kids to discover new books and highlight their favorite stories.
6. Play Emoji Pictionary
Have you read 🟩🍳🍳🥓? How about 🐷🐷🐷🐺? One is a beloved Dr. Seuss story and another is a fairy tale classic. Start your language arts lesson by sharing books in emoji form on your screen. Let students guess the books using the picture clues provided. You can also challenge students to create their own book titles with emojis and let their peers guess what books they are thinking about.
This is a fun warm-up activity for National Read-a-Book Day. it only needs to take about five minutes of class time if your week is already packed with lesson plans.
7. Hold a Book Election
You can celebrate National Read-a-Book Day in almost any class, including social studies. Hold an election and let students choose a Class Book based on the votes from students. This can be a quick warm-up activity or a full-class project. A few ways to build on this lesson include:
- Hold “Book Primaries” where smaller groups choose one book out of five to bring to the general election.
- Let students create campaign speeches trying to convince their peers why one book is better than the other.
- Practice different systems of government along with the election. For example, nominate a monarch to designate a Class Book without consulting the rest of the students.
You can base this activity around your current social studies lessons and adapt it to different grades and ages. The goal is to simulate an election and to show the pros and cons of different government systems.
8. Have a Video Call Read Aloud from Another Country
Foreign language classes can also celebrate National Read-a-Book Day. Consider developing a “sister school” relationship with another group of students in a different country. For example, if you teach French, you can form pen pals and hold video calls with students learning English in Nice or Paris.
Work with the other teacher to identify a book that students in both classes might have read. This could be The Very Hungry Caterpillar (La Chenille Qui Avait Très Faim) or a chapter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter à l'École des Sorciers). Host a video call read aloud where you read one line in English and another in the other language. Students can identify similar words and boost their vocabulary and conversational storytelling.
Use National Read-a-Book Day to Make Reading Fun
Some students are voracious readers who jump from one book to the next. Other students are less eager to spend their time reading. Use National Read-a-Book Day to celebrate reading and show how fun it can be. Even the most reluctant of readers can get excited over book emojis or scavenger hunts through the library.