October 25, 2019

Mini-Musings: 3 Ways to Encourage Children to Read

by Heather Novotny, Librarian

Reading feeds our hearts and minds. Books have power; they’re windows outward into the lives of others, and mirrors that reflect and validate our own lives.(1) Reading is both a joy that lasts a lifetime and a foundational skill that drives future success in education and in life. As parents and as educators, we’re committed to making sure our kids have both access to books and space and time they need to develop as readers.

Here are three programs designed to support and encourage reading at The McGillis School:

Wednesdays are Lower School's “Just Read” Nights

We believe in providing time and space for independent reading. Lower school teachers don’t assign regular homework on Wednesday nights in order to create time for families and students to spend more time reading.

Ideas to participate:

  1. Use this time for a family read-aloud. What could be cozier than curling up with your child and reading a book aloud?
  2. Read “alone together” as a family. Let your kids see you reading--nothing sets a more powerful example that reading is valued in your home.
  3. Bring your kids to a library or bookstore. Choosing books together is fun, and research shows that kids who pick their own books read longer and report greater engagement.(2)
  4. Visit the McGillis Library together, before or after school. Connecting kids to books is my favorite part of the job. You are also welcome to reach out via email. I am delighted to work with students to create curated booklists tailored to their abilities and tastes.

Reading Feeds Our Hearts & Minds

Every year in Lower School, we pick a theme to encourage reading; this year’s theme is my favorite so far: “Reading Feeds Our Hearts & Minds.” Stop by the bulletin board outside of the McGillis Library. Students celebrate their reading achievement by feeding the magpies a scoop of birdseed after they’ve achieved a meaningful benchmark. Because independent reading looks differently as students grow and develop, your child’s teachers have developed grade-level benchmarks for “feeding the magpie.”

Parents and grownups, you can participate by stopping by the McGillis Library to pick up your own reading log. Every time you read three grownup books, you can give our magpies a snack!

Utah’s Beehive Award

All McGillis students are invited to read and vote on Beehive Books from now until April 1, 2020. The Beehive Book Award, our state book award, is a children’s choice award. The Children’s Literature Association of Utah (CLAU) selects annual shortlists of high-quality young adult, children’s fiction, informational books, graphic novels, and poetry books for students across Utah to read. Students select Beehive Books they are interested in reading and vote using a simple Likert scale on each book they read. I love promoting the Beehive Book Awards because the opportunity to express their opinions by voting gives children a sense of agency and choice--powerful keys to reading engagement.

We know some students are motivated by rewards -- and I think the best prize for reading is a book! Therefore, every time your student writes their name on the back of a completed ballot, they will be entered into a drawing to win a free prize book in May, when this year’s winners will be announced. The McGillis Library will give away about 50 books, so each reader has a great chance of winning a prize. Our ballot box and the Beehive Books are displayed on a special blue bookshelf in the Library. Here is a printable brochure of this year’s nominees.

Let us know what you're reading by posting photos of our child reading their favorite books on Facebook and Instagram and tagging #TheMcGillisSchool! 




(1) We believe kids need to see themselves and others in the books they read. For a great introduction to the concept of “Windows books” opening outward into the lives of others, and “Windows books” reflecting our life experiences back to us, see this short TedX talk by Grace Lin. Dr Rudene Simms Bishop first articulated this framework for understanding the power of diverse books in 1990.

(2) The Kids and Family Reading Report provides an annual snapshot of the reading landscape; this year’s report stresses the importance of choice and access to developing readers.