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What is the best way to spend a cozy winter break? We may be biased here at Read Naturally, but we believe it's time spent with loved ones and good books. Many students will be motivated to curl up on their own with a favorite book, while many others have not yet reached this point. Regardless of where students are on their reading journey, there are countless ways to incorporate reading into the break.

When I first started teaching, I knew that independent reading was important. I knew I wanted to give my students the opportunity to read something on their own that they loved, but I didn’t realize the need to be specific and intentional in this practice. Because of this, I would provide time for “free reading” or “DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Time” on a regular basis. However, it didn’t always go as planned. From time to time, I would have students flipping through pages of the book (not reading). Some students played in their desks during this time. I even had a student or two fall asleep. As a new teacher, I knew I needed to provide opportunity for more focused reading, but I didn’t know how to make that happen. I was frustrated with myself and my students.

March is National Reading Awareness Month, and ReadAloud.org is asking families everywhere to commit to reading aloud with their children for at least 15 minutes each day for 21 ​straight days. The goal of this 21-Day Challenge is to make reading aloud a universal habit. Direct parents/guardians to sign up for the challenge anytime this month. Free downloads, including bookmarks, trackers, calendars, posters, certificates and more help make the challenge exciting for students and parents alike.

Read Naturally founder Candyce Ihnot likes to tell the story of a little boy who went from struggling to fluent using the Read Naturally program. When Candyce asked the boy how he got to be such a good reader, he said with a smirk, “It was nothing you did.” Rather than be offended by his brutal honesty, Candyce was delighted. The boy was taking due credit for his own accomplishment. He had come to understand that he’d possessed the tools for success all along. Having found the confidence and fortitude to master a huge challenge, he could now draw on those qualities again and again—without his teacher’s help.

Nothing motivates a struggling reader more than experiencing his or her own success. That’s why Read Naturally programs incorporate goals and progress monitoring graphs to show students continuous proof of their improvement. Students are even more motivated when teachers and parents help celebrate this success. If you’re looking for ways to show your Read Naturally students how awesome they are, here are some ideas:

Welcome to the home stretch! For most schools across the nation, winter break is just a couple days away. We hope your students’ time at home will allow them to get lost in the pages of a book beneath a cozy blanket. Last week’s blog post offers several ideas to help your students boost their literacy skills at home. Before you send them on their way, we want to reiterate the importance of just one: Reading aloud.

My first grader came to the last section of his “Halloween word problems” math worksheet yesterday and let out a giant groan. The instruction was, “Now write a Halloween word problem of your own.” It was challenging enough for him to read and then solve the problems. Now he had to write one, too? “But writing takes forever!” he complained.

With roughly a month of school under your belt, you’re likely aware now of which students qualify for a reading intervention. You may soon find yourself with a group of students who are brand new to Read Naturally. This is an important moment. Communicating your expectations clearly will set the stage for success.

Read Naturally programs are inherently motivating. Students know how well they are performing based on their goals and progress monitoring graphs. The desire to see these goals and graphs improve is enough to motivate most students to put forth their best effort. Still, a little external recognition doesn’t hurt.

If there’s one thing all teachers seem to agree on, it’s the fact that reading aloud to students is highly beneficial. Indeed, one of our most popular blog posts to date was about the magic of reading aloud to your class. This practice boosts literacy and builds community, and it is often a joyful experience for teachers and students alike. National Read Aloud Month is coming up in March, and we encourage you to start planning now for the ways you will participate.

Make Your Student a STAR!

Read Naturally Star of the Month​Share your student’s success story—nominate him or her for our Star of the Month award. Win a Barnes & Noble gift card for the student and a Read Naturally gift certificate for your class!

pointer Submit a Star-of-the-Month entry

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