I love a good book! In the summer, by the pool or the beach, or in the winter by the fire, I love to lose myself in a fiction story that takes me to another time and place. We want our students to feel the same way about reading. Reading for pleasure is the biggest indicator of students’ future success. That’s pretty powerful! It’s not how good they are at reading or what they read, but that they take pleasure in it. But how do we get our students, ones that aren’t already inclined to love reading, to love it? That’s the question that drove UNESCO to establish and encourage the celebration of World Book Day annually on April 23.
What is World Book Day?
World Book Day, originally established by UNESCO in 1995, is a way of promoting and encouraging not only reading but reading for pleasure. On Worldbookday.com, it states, “World Book Day changes lives through a love of books and shared reading. Our mission is to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own”.
The students that love to read and spend their spare time reading have far more success than students who view reading as a chore. In fact, pleasure in reading is a bigger indicator of success than family circumstances, parents’ education level, or socioeconomic status.
So the point of this special day is to bring attention to the love of reading. It is also a time to perhaps give students a new book of their own, one that is reading-level and interest-level appropriate, of course, and to highlight the excitement that goes along with getting a new book and discovering what is inside.
What Do Literature and Reading Teach Students?
As educators, particularly in younger grades, we spend most of our time and energy teaching students how to read and how to interpret/comprehend what they read. But after we’ve accomplished that, what do students gain from being good readers and enjoying reading? When students love to read and spend a lot of time reading, they develop many important skills and characteristics, including:
If children love reading, they spend a lot of time on it. If they spend a lot of time on it, they are constantly improving their knowledge of grammar, writing, and vocabulary. They are also likely learning some specific content knowledge, as well as developing some creativity. All of these factors are outlined below and contribute to the most important benefit: self-esteem. Students that love reading know more, which makes them feel more confident and have greater self-esteem.
When children enjoy reading, their vocabulary improves greatly. Students are not only exposed to new words, but they also learn to analyze the meaning of those words using context clues. Students are also exposed to good grammar and various writing techniques. Whether students realize it or not, this information is stored in their brain and makes them better, more effective communicators.
As children read and are exposed to different genres and writing styles, they naturally become more creative. Their limits are constantly being challenged as they learn to think outside the box. Boosted creativity can help students in many areas, such as fine or performing arts or problem solving and inventing.
Improved Thinking Skills
By spending more time on reading, students are developing greater concentration and focus. Students are required to make connections in complex texts and use context clues to construct meaning. Also, when students read books like Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, they are using deductive reasoning and developing their thinking skills to solve mysteries.
Better Writing Skills
As students read, they are consistently exposed to exemplar writing. By observing these varying writing styles and techniques, not to mention good grammar, students themselves learn by example how to be excellent writers.
By keeping up with the characters and events in a story, and by practicing those comprehension skills learned in elementary school, students are able to improve retention and strengthen their memories.
Activities to Celebrate World Book Day
Here are just a few ideas for celebrating World Book Day in your classroom.
Book Character Day
Allow students to dress up as their favorite book character. You can also allow them to share information about their favorite book character and the story it comes from. This is an activity that virtual learning students can participate in as well.
In order to spotlight some nonfiction books on World Book Day, students can focus on biographies for this day and dress as the person they have read about and share facts about that person’s life. Again, this is something that virtual students can participate in easily. This is great for many age groups as well.
Get the Boys into It
As an elementary school teacher, my biggest challenge when it comes to reading is getting boys to enjoy it. I find it easy to find books and topics that girls enjoy, but much more difficult for boys. Most of us direct boys to nonfiction books, which is great. The only problem with this is that when students are first learning to read independently, nonfiction books can be more challenging and, therefore, more frustrating.
I have found with younger students, boys really enjoy anything funny or gross. I know as teachers we may not like those gross kids books, but boys tend to love them! And if I can win a student over to reading with a gross book like Parts by Tedd Arnold or something really silly like Captain Underpants, then I will do it!
Art Inspired by Books
Lead students in a directed drawing of a character from a book or have them paint a mural about a book or genre study they have completed. By the way, online students can easily participate in directed drawing activities.
On World Book Day, spend the day reading excerpts from a wide variety of genres to expose students to styles they may not have realized they liked.
Read, Read, Read
Spend the day reading. Whether it’s in the classroom or on a blanket outside, devote the day to it and help students learn to love it!