Fostering Life-Long Reading Habits:
THE POWER OF A READING STACK
by April Connelley
The routines and rituals that put books in our hands are important. They aren’t just crucial for personal growth, they are critical lessons that we need to teach students of all ages. Students need us to be transparent about when, why, and how we keep reading a priority.
Leading a reading life means purposefully thinking about reading and how to fit it into our daily comings and goings. Our lives are busy and there is a lot of competition for each moment. Readers navigate ways to prioritize reading by creating a plan about what they are currently reading and what is coming next. Those plans are supported with habits that foster opportunities to read.
There are multiple reading habits to make that happen, I’m sure several future posts will be dedicated to just that topic. One of my favorites is a reading stack. It’s a strategic move readers can make to keep reading a priority.
I’m going to get down to the nitty gritty, focusing on the what, the why, and the how. Hopefully encouraging you to start your own reading stack and pass the habit onto your students.
A reading stack is just that, a stack of books carefully selected as your next books to read. Readers don’t select one book at a time, they know what they are currently reading, what they just finished reading, and what’s coming next. Readers constantly look for books, sometimes the hardest part of being a reader, is deciding between so many great choices. So a reading stack is a stack of books sitting right where you can see them, within reach, so you can reference them, grab them, and talk about them.
A reading stack is more than a to-read pile. I have loads of books in my house that I still need to read. That’s my to-read pile or you may have a to-read list, a to-read shelf, or perhaps a to-read bookcase. My reading stack is different however, it’s the next five to ten books that I’m going to read. Some readers might even have more than one stack, a stack of personal books and a stack of professional ones. For some readers, ten books may seem daunting, and only want three or four books; for others ten is highly motivating. Everyone should do what works best for them.
My Current Book Stack
- Reader, Come Home
- Uncovering the Logic of English
- The Woman in the Dark
- The Golden Couple
- Black Cake
The benefits of voluminous reading are endless. Readers read for many different reasons, they read for pleasure, for enjoyment, to learn, and to understand. Reading voraciously builds knowledge and schema, impacts vocabulary, and improves accuracy, fluency, and overall comprehension (Miller and Moss, 2013). Voluminous reading doesn’t just happen though, it’s part of learning about life-long reading. Students need to be taught habits that keep them engaged in reading forever.
As I mentioned above, there are lots of ways to do that, so why a reading stack? Here are a few reasons why reading stacks work:
- Reading stacks are visual reminders that nudge you to reading. Especially when you put your stack in a high traffic area. My stack is right on the stand by my couch. So it’s a subtle reminder to binge on a book instead of binging on streaming services.
- Reading stacks are motivating; first off, you’ve selected the next 5-10 titles you want to read. Books you are highly interested in. You know as soon as you finish your current title, there’s a great book right in front of you to start.
- Reading stacks make books accessible. Since you’ve planned ahead, your books are ready to go. No trip to the local bookstore or library needed.
- Reading stacks are simple! Not only are they easy, they also create opportunities for conversation. Once you have your book stack, you’ll just naturally want to talk about it. Conversations about books foster a reading community and help readers connect. Reading is more social than we sometimes realize.
It’s all really quite as simple as it sounds. Decide what your next few reads will be, I’d pick between five and ten books. Stack them up. Put your stack somewhere visible, where it will gain attention. In the classroom, find a place where students will see your stack.
Next comes the fun part. Share your reading stack with those around you. Talk about the books you’re going to read with anyone who will listen. Be transparent about how you selected the books in your stack. For example, my books usually vary, I like to have a book or two that are thought provoking and complex, mixed in with some easy reads for entertainment. Students might need to hear where your books are from, some examples might include school or public library, classroom library, personal collection, borrowed from a friend, or community lending libraries. Model all of these life-long reading habits for your students with your book stack.
Then, start encouraging students to start making their own reading stacks. Give your students a few minutes to share their reading stack with someone in the class. It’s also fun to share your reading stacks digitally on social media or classroom platforms. Digital sharing helps if you have limited space in your classroom and also supports developing reading habits at home.
Let’s Sum it All Up
Reading stacks help readers create a plan for reading by visually reminding the reader of what’s coming next. Reading stacks also provide countless opportunities to share what you’re reading and how you selected it. Your enthusiasm will be contagious, it will support your community of readers, and lead students to creating their own reading stacks.
- Miller, D. & Moss, B. (2013). No more independent reading without support. Portsmouth, NH; Heinemann.
If you’d like more information on creating a reading community and or supporting independent reading, check out these resources.
- Harvey, S. & Ward, A. (2017). From Striving to Thriving: How to grow confident, capable readers. New York, NY: Scholastic.
- Kittle, Penny. (2013). Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers. Portsmouth, NH; Heinemann.
- Miller, D., & Kelley, S. (2014). Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
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