Give Me Five #7 – Reader Recognition All Year Long

Give Me Five #7

By Tommy and Linda Johns

This is another article in a series of articles that has a simple premise.  The articles will take you less than five minutes to read (that’s when you give ME five!) and each will contain an introduction to a problem or concept pertaining to our work encouraging kids to read.  Each article will also include a list of five ideas, reasons, tools, steps or other helpful items (that’s when I give YOU five!) related to the topic of the article.  While none of these articles will claim to be the last word on any topic, I promise to make each one fun, well researched and way beyond the obvious. (If you have missed the first articles, you can view them at or e-mail me at and I’ll send you an MS Word file of the articles or an audio CD of the articles along with a bonus article we handed out at COMO.)  Here is Give Me Five…

#7 – “Reader Recognition: Part Two”

Keep ‘Em Reading All Year Long


Off to a good start.

Off like a rocket.

Strong out of the gate.

All’s well that ends well.

A Grand Finale.

Curtain Call/encore!

Good beginnings.  Happy endings.


We all know how to kick off a reading program.  And most of us (especially those who read my last blog) know how to wrap up a reading emphasis at the end of the year.  While these two EVENTS take a lot of planning and work, the real work comes week to week, day to day—what  takes place between the kickoff and the wrap up.


In August, every child in your school has a chance to reach his or her reading goal.  We go to great lengths to make sure that we evaluate every child’s reading skills, and with tools like publisher’s reviews, Lexiles, and AR levels we can be sure that we have readily available reading resources for every reader.  Still, with all this student potential, careful placement and a ton of age appropriate reading material, we see the entire student body in the auditorium at the kick-off pep rally, but we only need one cake in the Media Center to reward the ones who reach their goals.  How can we sustain the excitement from the first of the year to the end?  How can we get more kids to get on track and stay on track to reaching the goal of 25 books or one million words?  What if there were some things we could do that would double or triple the attendance at the reward event? 


Here are five easy, tried and true ways to infect your students with the reading bug and spread an epidemic at your school.


1.      Offer constant rewards.  Someone said that all children have attention deficit disorder!  You have to keep their goal in front of them constantly, and reward progress along the way, if you expect a year-long emphasis to be effective.  Our sons’ elementary school had a program called Math Superstars, and every time a student reached a milestone, his or her name was written on a construction paper star (by a parent volunteer) and the STUDENT got to place it in the hallway on the big wall of fame.  Or if you have no budget for construction paper, scroll the names of the star readers on the closed circuit TVs in the building.  Rewards do not have to cost money.  Recognition for a job well done is often all it takes to keep a reader fired up–and it will often encourage others to become “famous!”  While we are on this idea, consider recognizing teachers who have students who achieve reading milestones.  A little friendly competition and recognition goes a long way for adults, too!


2.      Enlist support!  Get the parents and the rest of faculty on your team!  This really is a group effort, and you need the help and support of the reading coach, the teachers, and the principal at school and the parents at home to turn your end of the year celebration into a 3 cake event.  The best way to get and retain team members is to COMMUNICATE!  If people know what we need them to do, they are much more likely to buy in to the reading program.  Encourage teachers of younger children to set up a reading area in the classroom and to refresh their supply of age appropriate material.  Make sure parents are informed about the reading emphasis by e-mail or the school news.  Ask parents to donate new or gently used books to the classroom libraries, and get a stamp or sticker that notes that the book was donated, and by whom.  If the teachers and parents see value in what you are doing, they will influence your school’s readers to read!  Another way to enlist the support of parents is to designate certain nights each month as Reading Nights.  Why not combine your regular restaurant/pizza night fundraiser with a “No TV – Everybody Reads!” promotion to raise money AND test scores!


3.       Conduct regular checkups.  See where the weak spots are and find ways to help.  If you discover that only two students from Ms. Johnson’s class have gotten any AR points, see if you can approach her with some suggestions or assistance.  Encourage teachers to bring students to the library.  Plug the reading emphasis every time you see every class.  Do a mid-year pep rally.  Get a parent volunteer to chart progress every week or two in a visible (bulletin board, CCTV, etc.) way that encourages readers, classes, or grade levels to work harder.


4.       Keep the reading program VISIBLE.  So much of what are suggesting can be distilled into this one idea.  If the reading emphasis starts big and disappears, then the only readers who succeed are the self-motivated children who are probably going to read any way!  Bulletin boards, TV announcements, book talks by students, teachers, parent volunteers, and celebrities are all ways to keep your reading goal out there where it can be seen!  (And it also gives YOU and the MEDIA CENTER some much needed publicity as well.)


5.      Keep hope alive!  Consider smaller, more attainable goals that can be reached in a shorter amount of time.  Instead of a year-long emphasis, recognize achievement of shorter term goals by recognizing/rewarding readers at the end of each grading period and start fresh the next day.  Some of your students may decide to get serious about the reading goal late in the year, but see it as hopeless.  Give them hope!  Set up the program so they can get started any time, while encouraging and affirming those who got in early.


In order to keep your pep rally enthusiasm throughout the year, try these ideas.  And you don’t have to do it alone.  Trust us – there are lots of parents who value reading and would love to help the Media Center help kids to read more.  And many of these parents are NOT going to volunteer to organize the wrapping paper fund raiser or choose to be on a committee.  But they love reading and will help you if you ask.  It’s important to start off strong.  Use these ideas, and you’ll finish big as well!


Tommy Johns has been getting and keeping the attention of children and adults for almost three decades as a school show presenter and educational entertainment specialist.  He and his wife Linda, a library media specialist in training, co-wrote this article on a long car trip through South Georgia and North Florida. Find out more at  He welcomes your comments on this column and ideas for future “Give Me Five!” articles.  You can contact him at




Posted on June 16, 2008, in Activities, Ideas, Reading and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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