Reading is Fun Week has been around since 1979, a time when I was teaching seventh graders who ranged from loving to read to hating it. Since they had a forty-five minute English class to cover grammar, composition, and literature, my forty-five minute class’s purpose was to motivate and encourage students to read. We dealt with basic skills like finding the main idea, recognizing supporting details, using context clues, making inferences and drawing conclusions; in other words everything that made up comprehension. At that time my biggest goal was to make reading fun, so everything else would fall into place.
We had a bi-weekly magazine from Scholastic titled, Read, which had cool jokes, skits, articles, puzzles, and craziness for pre-teens and teens. I only received 30 copies every other week, so I guarded them with my life! Some of the activities and articles I still use when I want to insert a little humor or fun into my university curriculum. When I left junior high (then, grades 7 and 8) to teach 6th graders in an elementary setting, I packed the magazines in the boxes they were shipped in, labeled them according to month, and stacked them in the teachers closet for my replacement. She said she hardly had to make a lesson plan; she just unpacked a box each first and fifteenth of the month.
The main thing we did for fun was free reading. At first the students took this as an opportunity to goof off or take a little snooze. However, I did nothing during that time myself except read, and often we would take the whole forty-five minutes, leaving those who were not reading bored out of their minds; soon they joined in. We had a “Top Ten” bulletin board, which listed titles and authors on cardboard strips according to popularity, and students loved to see if a book they were reading had placed or moved place each week. Also, these titles provided recommendations from their peers. I was kept busy making trips to Half-Price Books to buy copies for the classroom library. There were no discipline problems; all I had to do was threaten to take the time away, and peer pressure solved the situation. Several times I had enough “points” from book orders from Scholastic to buy a classroom set of the same title. We read S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Where the Red Fern Grows this way. When I introduced a class book, I would read to the first cliffhanger then pass out the books for silent reading. NO ONE was ever asked to read aloud.
My years of teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were some of the “funnest” years of my teaching career, and it was all because reading was FUN!