In many parts of Canada and the United States, February means “I Love to Read Month,” an entire month dedicated to promoting a love of reading and being read to. This idea, started many years ago, has been gaining popularity among schools and libraries throughout North America. Parents, too, have adopted the idea of a month to promote reading as a shared family activity.
In Canada, February is an ideal time. Christmas and holiday celebrations are well in the past, interest in presents may be waning, the delight in outside activities could be wearing thin, and spring is still a long way off. It’s the perfect time to renew an interest in books and storytelling.
Many Manitoba elementary schools schedule a variety of activities to promote books and reading. Children are encouraged to keep track of the number of books or pages they read. A special time can be set aside each day for silent reading, or to have an older student read to younger ones. A book swap might be initiated, with children encouraged to bring a gently used book to trade.
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Classes can vote on their favourite book, or nominate books for other students to read or listen to. One school put on a reading concert, with students and teachers encouraged to read aloud to an audience. Another school promoted the reading of poetry by having a “mystery reader” read a poem over the loud speaker each day and students were invited to guess who the reader was.
An activity used in our local school is inviting adults — seniors, parents or other relatives —to visit the school and read to students, either in a class or a small-group setting. Some classes switched teachers to read to students, or invited the custodian, secretary or principal to read.
An author or other celebrity visit to whom the children could relate could be scheduled. Last year, children at 14 schools in Winnipeg were visited by members of the Winnipeg Jets. The players took copies of The Home Team —─ the Jets’ official children’s storybook. They were also available to sign autographs.
Other subjects can be incorporated into the reading, too. Social studies and science books are emphasized and used in class projects. Students keep track on a map of places they read about at school or home. Art class can be used to create bookmarks, or pupils try drawing a different cover for a book they enjoyed. Or how about a poster contest about books?
Other ideas might include: setting up a tent in the classroom and reading inside it with a flashlight; having a pyjama party for younger students, or a “beach party” for older ones with lawn/beach chairs in a quiet corner; arranging a trivial pursuit contest for older students on book titles, locations, titles, authors; or decorating a door like a book cover.
If your town has a library, take your class there for a visit. The librarian could read to a class or talk about the available books and magazines at the library. For older students, there could be a discussion about the availability of eBooks. Our own town library has its annual February book sale at this time so students can check that out, too.
For older students, teachers could emphasize books on a particular category such as Manitoba authors, First Nations writers, books where humour is the main theme or ones that have a historical basis. A visit to the school or town library could have each student looking for a book to fit the chosen category. Titles could be written down, and some books checked out.
Google “I Love to Read Month” for more ideas. Whether you’re a teacher, a librarian, or a parent, plan to make this year’s “I Love to Read Month” a month of reading memories.
Donna Gamache writes from MacGregor, Manitoba