How to Build Community During Back to School Using How to Read a Book

How to Build Community During Back to School Using How to Read a Book

As much as I have been (and am) enjoying my summer, I’m getting excited about returning to my physical classroom in a few short weeks after teaching from home for over a year. The gears in my mind are turning and my creative juices are flowing. Recently, I was Googling great books to start the school year and found a genuine treasure, How to Read a Book, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Not only is this book lyrical, poetic, and beautifully illustrated, it is also one of the most perfect books for launching readers’ workshop that I have encountered in my decades long career in education. Let me tell you why.

Image features a picture of Amy holding the book and the cover of the free resource.
How to Read a Book is a Great Resource for Launching Readers’ Workshop

Establishing Workshop Norms

What’s one of the first things you do at the beginning of the school year when you’re talking to your students about choosing books that are “just right” for them? I know I talk a lot about finding a good SPOT to read. How to Read a Book starts with finding a good spot to read. The book recommends a tree or a stoop so students can design their perfect spot on a stoop or under a tree, but I also think some students will want a blank page so they can design their own ideal reading spots in the classroom. I can’t wait to see the spaces my students design.

Image features photos of stoops, dawn redwoods, and black tupelos
Students will design their own ideal reading spots inspired by stoops and trees.

The First Week of School

After students design their ideal reading spots, I plan to use the book and the rest of the book companion to inspire and engage my students throughout the week. I want to balance both creative and more academic responses. Therefore, I plan to include both in my first week as I build relationships with my students and encourage them to get to know each other. Like all of my book companions, I start by front-loading vocabulary. This resource includes two levels of vocabulary analysis – a copy and paste (drag-and-drop in the digital version) and fill-in-the-blank – for differentiation.

Following the vocabulary assignment, I want to bring in some fun discussion opportunities. Enter, cootie catchers! Yes! This resource includes two cootie catchers that students can use to question each other about their favorite books, authors, and illustrators. I plan to copy each cootie catcher on colorful paper (half on one color and half on another color) and randomly distribute them. Then, I will have each student pair with another student who has a cootie catcher of a different color to chat.

This image features cootie catchers (a.k.a. fortune tellers), vocabulary activities, and creative writing prompts.
Encourage Creative Expression Using How to Read a Book

Next, I want my students to have some time for creative expression through crafts and writing. Designing a reading spot is included in the freebie and the full product, but stocking and decorating a book mobile and filling a word toaster are included in the full resource. If students are using printable materials, they can use paint, crayons, markers, colored pencils, and other art supplies as well as collage materials (like Melissa Sweet) to design and decorate their reading spots, book mobiles, and word toasters. If they’re using the digital version, they can use drag and drop clip art and/or the Google search feature on Google slides to find images they like to add to their reading spots, book mobiles, and word toasters. Then students will write about their designs and share in small groups or in a whole class meeting. Throughout the week, we’ll look at and discuss, as well as create, figurative language, as well.

Image features How to Read a Book and Writing Activities to Go Along with It
Writing Activities for How to Read a Book

Finally, we’ll wrap up the week with discussing the main idea, topics, and theme. Since this book isn’t a story (it’s a poem), students might need some support with identifying the main idea. Fortunately, suggested answers are included on the answer key.

New Book Companion Bundle

I created a narrative nonfiction bundle a few years ago and have been wanting to create a fiction bundle for a while. This fiction bundle includes How to Read a Book and all of the other companions pictured on the cover below. Grab the FREEBIE for a sample.

How to Build Community During Back to School Using How to Read a Book
Fiction Book Companions GROWING BUNDLE


I am thrilled to share a new Reading Crew eBook of 23 phenomenal freebies with you today. There are reading and writing resources for primary and intermediate grades that you can use with your students right away. One request I will make is that you encourage your friends and colleagues to visit my blog if they would like to access and download the freebies for themselves.

How to Build Community During Back to School Using How to Read a Book
Back-to-School Resource E-Book

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