Tips for Principals: Growing School Reading Culture

school principal reading with children
Masthead Waves

Reading is the gateway to learning. Principals play an essential role in creating a reading-friendly environment that encourages students to engage with books and develop a lifelong love of reading. They can empower students to build independent reading habits, which leads to academic success, improved well-being, and stronger community connections. Below, we offer practical strategies principals can use to cultivate a passion for reading among students and build a thriving school reading culture

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Create a Reading-Friendly Environment

A wide range of reading materials is critical to a strong reading culture. This includes books, magazines, newspapers, and digital resources as well as a variety of formats like large print, graphic novels, and audio options of popular books. Students need access to diverse reading materials tailored to their interests, needs, and reading levels. By partnering with your school librarian, you can learn where your collection may have holes and which well-loved titles need replacing. Need some inspiration for new titles to add? Talk to your students! Doing so can pique their interest and create buy-in.


Incorporating reading into your school’s daily routines and schedules is a powerful way to create a reading-friendly environment. For example, consider implementing a designated silent reading time across all grade levels. Allow students to self-select books they enjoy and immerse themselves in the love of reading. Teachers can also model good reading habits by reading alongside their students. This demonstrates the importance of reading and creates a shared experience that builds community among students and teachers.


Although it might be a small change, encourage teachers to set up cozy reading corners or designated reading spaces in their classrooms and common areas. These spaces provide a welcoming and inviting atmosphere with comfortable seating, good lighting, and various age-appropriate books. What student wouldn’t want to hang out in a reading nook? 


Finally, consider facilitating a reading committee of teachers, students, and parents. This is a great way to bring your community together to help establish a reading culture. The committee can collaborate to organize various reading-related activities and events throughout the school year. In addition, principals can help facilitate book fairs or book swaps to promote the exchange and sharing of books among students. These events provide opportunities for reading and collaboration, both essential to a strong reading culture.

Promote Reading Through School-Wide Initiatives

To elevate your reading culture, implement school-wide initiatives that promote reading as a valued activity. One effective strategy is starting a reading challenge where students are encouraged to read books for minutes within a specified time frame. In collaboration with library teams and staff, principals can set goals and provide incentives, such as rewards or recognition, to motivate students to participate. 


Principals can also encourage students to join book clubs or reading buddy programs. These initiatives promote peer interaction and discussion around books, allowing students to share their thoughts, insights, and recommendations with classmates. By facilitating these collaborative reading experiences, principals can create a supportive and engaging environment that allows students to explore all facets of reading.


Another initiative could be incorporating reading activities into the curriculum across different subjects, such as book discussions and literature-based projects. By emphasizing how reading is in all areas of learning, principals can help students understand that reading is not only a  skill but a tool for learning, growth, and expanding their horizons.


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Collaborate With Teachers to Enhance Reading Instruction

Principals already work closely with teachers and staff to build a strong reading culture. Reading instruction needs to align with the school’s more significant goals and initiatives, and scheduling professional development opportunities for teachers where they can learn about the latest research-based teaching strategies is a great place to start. 


Principals can also provide teachers with access to instructional materials, professional books, and technology that enhance reading in the classroom. By equipping teachers with tools and knowledge, principals empower them to create engaging and meaningful reading experiences for students. 


Encourage teachers to collaborate and share best practices or what seems to work in their classroom. Regular meetings, professional learning communities, or online platforms allow teachers to exchange ideas, recommend books, and discuss effective instructional strategies


Engage Students in Reading Through Innovative Programs

Technology can enhance reading experiences and make reading fun. E-readers, tablets, or other digital devices may give students access to tap into their digital literacy skills. Integrating gamification into reading programs can boost student engagement and foster a love for reading. Innovative platforms, like Beanstack, incorporate game elements such as badges, reading streaks, and rewards to create an interactive and immersive student experience. Students earn rewards by reading, writing reviews, completing activities, and actively participating in their reading journey.


Incorporating community-wide reading goals into your school can positively impact reading time and strengthen the reading culture in and throughout your school district. Our research found that schools that set a community goal as part of a reading challenge experienced 46% more active participation. Community reading goals also influence sustained reading habits; three out of every four students had seven days or more of reading consecutively. 


In a recent School Library Journal webinar, leaders at Charleston County School District (CCSD) discussed how friendly competition fuels their annual district-wide reading challenge. Their 2023–24 school year challenge set a district goal to read for 20 million minutes and created individual building goals for each of the 74 schools. District librarian Christy James noted, “Each kid has their own goal contributing to that school community goal. This allowed us to have consistent goals as well as consistent messaging. It was important for us to keep coming back to the fact that we are readers in CCSD and that this goal is what we’re working towards, to show that we are readers and everyone loves a bit of friendly competition.”


Celebrate and Recognize Reading Achievements

Recognizing and celebrating reading achievements is vital to encourage kids to read and build a reading culture. Reading competitions are a powerful way to motivate students, plus they avoid quizzes and book reports. Students can compete against their grade level, a specific classroom, and other schools in the district. The possibilities are endless!


Here are a few examples of how to celebrate reading achievement:

  • Recognize students who demonstrate exceptional reading habits or progress in their reading abilities on morning announcements.
  • Host a school-wide assembly that publicly recognizes and acknowledges students’ reading achievements (which motivates other students to strive for excellence!).
  • Organize author visits or virtual author interactions to allow students to connect with authors and gain insights into the writing process.

Smaller reading rewards and prizes can be an excellent incentive for maintaining reading momentum. Stickers, buttons, bookmarks, and free books are just a few examples of cost-effective prizes that make students feel special and build a buzz around readingmaking it a memorable, exciting, and enjoyable experience.


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Ignite a Love for Lifelong Literacy

As you can see, principals play an essential role in cultivating a love of reading among students and creating a thriving school reading culture. By establishing a reading-friendly environment, implementing school-wide initiatives, collaborating with teachers, engaging students through innovative programs, and celebrating reading achievements, principals can ensure that their schools become a hub of literary exploration and inspiration. Contact our team today to see how Beanstack can help you achieve your reading program goals!


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