Kids reading to each other

Celebrating Read Across America with Studies Weekly

Feb. 25, 2020 • Studies Weekly

At Studies Weekly, we build Social Studies and Science curriculum, but literacy skills are an essential backbone to our work. If students struggle with reading, they will struggle with valuable historical and scientific content and concepts.

As Rebecca Alber explained in a 2014 Edutopia article, “The days of believing that we could hand informational text or a novel to a student and assume they make full meaning of it on their own are gone. Whether we like it or not, regardless of the content we teach, we are all reading instructors.”

Thus, we incorporate English Language Arts strategies into all our curriculum.

Read Across America

Another program that supports and encourages literacy in all grades is the National Education Association’s annual Read Across America program. Read Across America started March 2, 1998, as an initiative celebrating reading. That initiative developed into week-long celebrations as the decades went on.

The NEA provides a calendar with monthly highlighted books and themes for every month. The 2019-2020 school year started in August with the theme, “Set the Tone for the School Year,” using the book All are Welcome, a children’s book by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, which celebrates diversity within the classroom. Each month spotlights another theme and book to celebrate the voices and experiences of different people around the world.

March’s theme is “Grow a Love of Reading.” At the elementary level, the book for this month is The Book Tree by Paul Czajak and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. When the mayor of his town bans books, the main character Arlo finds a way to grow them and restore them to the town.

“Just what we need in today’s world. It reminds us that books matter, stories matter, words matter,” said Jane Yolen, award-winning author, in a review of The Book Tree.

Read Across America Teaching Tools

The NEA provides resources for teaching this book and exploring the importance of reading within the community. Here are a few more ideas for celebrating Read Across America:

Book Scavenger Hunt

This unique scavenger hunt asks students to “search for books that provide mirrors (stories that reflect their own culture and help build identity) and windows (stories that offer a view into someone else’s experience and the range of possibilities in the world).” This helps students self-identify mirrors of their own experience.

Explore Poetry

Poetry’s brevity naturally adds weight to word choice and usage. Students learn the power of show vs. tell writing as they explore poems. But writing it can be intimidating.

The NEA suggests sharing a photo of a place in the community and challenging students to create words and phrases about that place. You may also challenge students to write words or phrases that describe what they want to see at that place. You can then work as a whole class or in small groups to create a group poem about the place, using the students’ contributions.

You can do this with other images — even historical events from Studies Weekly’s curriculum — depending on your grade level.

Guest Readers

When students see outside community members excited about reading, it helps them realize reading is not just a classroom activity, but a life activity.

You can invite guests to read their favorite children’s book or do a sample reading from their favorite junior fiction novel. Guests can include parents, business leaders, those who serve in the community, etc. As you invite these readers, remind them to be aware of their audience, and the diversity of students’ experiences in your classroom.