Tips to help your students become binge readers.

GUEST COLUMN | by Rita Platt

credit-renaissance-accelerated-readerBinge watching has become an American phenomenon. With online choices including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, and more, viewers can watch their favorite television shows in quick succession, even enjoying an entire season in a weekend. This is, at least in part, due to two facts: 1) shows are quickly and easily available and, 2) the viewer knows what to watch next.

If you’ve ever used Amazon or Netflix, you know that the programs are very sneaky.
They observe what you watch and offer recommendations based on your viewing history.

As a long-time teacher and librarian, it occurred to me that there are tools that would allow readers to harness the power of on-demand watching in the service of “binge reading.” In other words, to use both high and low technology resources to engage students in continuous reading—for fun!

Below are the top five ideas and resources to engage your students in non-stop reading by helping them know what to read next:

  1. If you’ve ever used Amazon or Netflix, you know that the programs are very sneaky. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-22-31-amThey observe what you watch and offer recommendations based on your viewing history. This means that as soon as the viewer finishes one show, they can start on another that will likely match their interests. There are online and offline tools that do the same for readers. Scholastic Book Wizard has a “Similar Book” feature where readers and their teachers can find titles that are similar to those students have already enjoyed. As a tech-free alternative, making displays of books with the heading, “If you liked _____________, then try _____________!” In either case, it can be powerful to readers to have good ideas on what to read next within their grasp.
  1. Engaging students in social media for readers can be as fun as it is effective. Goodreads has been described as the Facebook for book-lovers. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-22-43-amReaders set up accounts and add books they have read or want to read. Then, they follow other readers for ideas and recommendations. While Goodreads is best for young adults and adults, Biblionasium is a great option for younger readers. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of both programs, as related to binge reading, is that users create to-read lists so they are never without an idea of what to read next.
  1. Surveys and interest inventories can also be helpful to teachers and librarians as they guide readers to books they will love. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-22-58-amHeinemann Publishing offers several paper and pencil surveys ready for download. The online reading platform EPIC! also offers a survey. EPIC! is free for educators and includes an online interest inventory, thousands of high-quality fiction and nonfiction books, and a built in incentive system. Really, EPIC! is a one-stop-shop for binge readers. Parents can subscribe for $4.99 per month and it is well worth it.
  1. If your school is one of the 60,000 that use Renaissance Accelerated Reader®, you can use it to facilitate binge reading. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-23-11-amThere is a built-in feature that monitors books students have taken tests on and offers a visual list of “Top Book Ideas for You” as a running scroll each time a student logs on. This platform also allows students to set reading goals and monitor their own progress, which is highly motivating for binge reading.
  1. One last idea is to create challenges for students that will help them read, read, and read some more. There are many great series and sets of books that students love and cannot seem to put down. Introduce first graders to Elephant and Piggy by Mo Willems, second graders to anything by Dav Pikley (of Captain Underpants fame), third graders to My Weird School, by Dan Gutman and I almost guarantee binge reading! Upper elementary-aged students love Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Gregg Kinney and the I Survived… series by Lauren Tarshis. Also try Jonathan Rand’s Michigan and American Chillers series, they are seriously addictive! Engage students in Ten Book Challenges where they try to read ten books by the same author, on the same subject, or in a series. Alternatively, try Book BINGO to get students to read a variety of books in a given time period. Either way, students are primed to binge read, in part, because they know what to read next.

Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls School District in Wisconsin and teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and consults with local school districts. Find Rita at 3C’s Educational Consulting.