How to Connect with Your Readers

One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is to connect with my students over a good book or poem or article.


My MOST FAVORITE is when you get that one reader who “hates to read”, and you find that one book that lights their fire for reading. Oh man. Nothing better.

Here are my top 5 ways that I use to connect to ALL (yes. ALL. Even the “haters of all things words”) of my students as readers in my classroom:

1. Show them your book stash. Your students need to know that you, in fact, are a real reader. Show them your favorite novels; your favorite picture books; your favorite books when you were in their grade level.


I love to show them how I really annotate in books that I love. I really use Post-It notes in nonfiction books and I really make notes and highlight and underline.

In fiction books, I love to show a few of my favorites from my childhood – both picture books and novels. I also show them current fiction novels I have recently read.

My favorite book from my childhood. It is clearly well loved.
This is also a great book to read when teaching theme.

2. Get to know them as real readers. I love giving my students a Reading Interest Inventory the very first week of school. I tell them to be completely honest with me. And they typically are.

Reading inventory

I love knowing those that want to read a book on a tablet over a paperback book. I love knowing if they like reading with music in the background or in complete silence. I love understanding their likes and interests and dislikes. This is a launch pad for so many one-on-one conversations you can have with your students. It’s all about the relationships and books are a great bonding element. 

3. Read when they are reading. Look. I know the eleventy-billion things we have to do each and every day. I get it. But if your students see that you are reading when they are reading, it makes it real for them.

Recently, this meme has been floating around the internet. I’ll just leave it right here. I don’t think anything else needs to be said about this particular point.

Related image

4. Read a variety of genres to and with your students. I’m talking about in read-alouds, novel studies, close reading passages, in small groups, in whole group, and even RTI.

I understand the focus on nonfiction complex texts. But I also understand that student engagement with the text needs to be more important sometimes. You never know the conversation that will develop if you read about Legos, or a hot dog eating contest, or Pokemon Go!, or Shakespeare. Your students are your audience – don’t you want them to love being a part of the audience? 


Last year, my students did not want to read A Long Walk to Water, but I pumped it up, built background knowledge, added to their schema, watched videos about the Sudanese Lost Boys, and read to them. They loved this book, y’all. So much so that one of my 6th graders tagged me in this post on Instagram.

Because I introduced them to a new genre and topic, they were hooked. They even collected $120 to donate to Water for South SudanI mean. Come on. 

5. Teach them it’s okay to abandon a book. I can not even tell you how many books I’ve abandoned in my life. Not every book is perfect for every reader. Tell them it’s okay to not finish a book. Include the students in your read aloud choices. If the whole class is not into it, take a poll. Ditch it if it’s not working.

What are some other things you do with your students to connect with them as readers? 





2 thoughts on “How to Connect with Your Readers”

  1. I love this article! I try to to take a symbol, picture, person, scene and teach them how to draw it.

  2. I often meet with a student to help them get into a book. I will quietly read the first chapter to them. I stop often and make sure the comprehension piece is there, but my kids love this. It is very common for my kids to ask if I will help “get them into the book.” And, often times, I will have 2 or 3 that gather with me in the corner when they hear me reading a new book to a child. Then I have several who are interested in the book and kids will write on their list in their reading journal of books they want to read next.
    It takes a little time, but it is so worth it!

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