7 Creative Ways to Get Caught Reading

Young reader floating on a raft in a lake.It’s May! The school year is wrapping up and kids and teachers alike have their minds on summer. (Or perhaps their minds are on end-of-year testing, but that will be over before you know it.) And best of all, it’s Get Caught Reading Month! What better time to kick those recreational reading habits into full gear? In this month’s post I’m focusing on ways you can promote good reading habits throughout the school and community. Some of the ideas include tried-and-true practices from my 10+ years in the school library. Others are ideas I’m excited to try this year and invite you to do the same.

There are so many ways to get children excited about reading. Here are some ideas that will get your whole school building talking.

1. Get Caught Reading

Sponsored by Every Child a Reader, Get Caught Reading Month provides a plethora of ideas on encouraging kids to read. One simple way to promote this event is by asking staff members to share photos when they “catch” students or colleagues reading a book. You can share the photos on a bulletin board or in your newsletter.

For those looking to dress up this idea a bit, create a “WANTED/CAUGHT” display in order to show off different kinds of reading happening throughout the school. “Wanted” posters could include:

  • WANTED: a picture book reader
  • WANTED: a graphic novel reader
  • WANTED: a nonfiction reader
  • WANTED: a reader with a book with a blue cover
  • WANTED: a reader with a book written by an African American author

You can make customized “Wanted” posters using the Poster My Wall website. Display the posters throughout the building to promote Get Caught Reading Month. When a teacher takes a picture of a student with a book that is “Wanted,” replace the corresponding poster with a “Caught Reading” poster that includes the photo of the child reading.

These posters are guaranteed to get the whole building talking, and you may even see readers trying out new books just for the chance of getting caught!

2. The 31 Clues

The 39 Clues books remain a perennial favorite of our readers, so it seems only fitting to host a reading challenge based around a clue hunt. Kick off a month-long reading adventure with daily clues pointing children to different books in the library. Vary clues throughout the month so that all readers in the building can participate.

Clues might include:

  • A big red dog is learning to read. Can you find the book before it’s too late?
  • Is bigfoot real? Find this nonfiction book before while there’s still time!
  • A young wizard and his two friends face off against He-Who-Must-Not Be-Named. Can you find the story that started it all?

Conceal the book in a manila envelope labeled “TOP SECRET” and place it back in its assigned location in the library. Post the clue in a public area. The first student to locate the daily book and check it out wins a prize—a small toy, a bookmark or an extra book at checkout.

3. Summer Reading Kick-Off

Many local public library systems host summer reading programs. These programs keep kids connected to books and help work against the summer slump by promoting literacy year-round. You can hold your own summer reading kick-off by sharing summer book lists, throwing a party with your PTA, or partnering with your local library for other ideas. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it. Letting students know you’re thinking about them and all the great books they’ll read and share this summer is important. Giving them the means to do so is just as important.

The Collaborative Summer Library Program‘s 2018 theme is “Libraries Rock!” and their National Summer Reading Champion is none other than Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, the Grammy award-winning, internationally touring, purple-velvet-tuxedo-wearing, family funk phenomenon. What better way to get kids excited to get out and read and explore their world than through such a fun, positive, kid-centered musical role model? If you’re not yet familiar with 23 Skidoo’s work, start with the album Infinity Plus One and tracks like “Secret Superhero” (there’s a great video for it here) and “Tastes Like Space.” Visit the Collaborative Summer Library Program’s website for 23 Skidoo’s summer reading recommendations and to find other resources you can use to promote summer reading throughout your school.

4. Appoint a Graphic Novel Day

Smile by Raina TelgemeierMay 5th is Free Comic Book Day! This event always falls on the first Saturday in May, and there are tools on the official website for locating local comic shops in your area. After you’ve promoted the event to your students, consider holding your own Comic Book or Graphic Novel Day in your school.

Chances are you’re already aware of the widely popular graphic novel format and books such as Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, Ben Hatke’s Zita the Space Girl, Jeff Smith’s Bone series and the popular Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Kids are drawn to reading graphic novels and the stories can be read quickly and over and over. But sometimes the appeal of graphic novels or the unmistakable way graphic novels support visual literacy are lost on adults. Thankfully, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CMLDF) has a number of outstanding resources for teachers and librarians available for free on their website, covering topics such as “Adding Graphic Novels to Your Library or Classroom Collection,” “How Comics & Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love To Read!” and “Using Graphic Novels in Education.”

Babymouse Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew HolmSpending a day celebrating comics is good for everyone in the building, and it can connect readers with lots of new titles to read and new friends who love reading the same things. And you might even convert a few teachers (perhaps even yourself) into comics advocates!

5. Caught Reading Photo Challenge

Have students and staff submit their wildest pictures of themselves reading in unusual or amazing places this month. Did you visit a historic landmark with a favorite book? Attend a concert or performance? Travel someplace new? Share a photo and get others talking!

6. Reading Is Reading Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt checklist of things to locate and read throughout the month to promote the notion that all reading is reading. Include things like “Read a recipe,” “Read 10 street signs,” “Read a set of instructions,” “Read a menu,” and “Read the ingredients on your favorite snack.”

7. Book Buddies

Work with students in grades four and five to select favorite picture books to read aloud. Spend time practicing reading aloud in order to improve fluency. Pair with a primary grade classroom and have each fourth- or fifth-grade student read to a small group of students in the primary class.

Connect With Us Online

How do you promote reading and literacy with your students? Are there book-centered events that have become tradition in your library program or throughout the school? Be sure to let us know in the comments below or by connecting with us on Twitter at @MatthewWinner and @demco. We’d love to spread the word about the awesome ways you and your school are promoting literacy during Get Caught Reading Month and throughout the year!

To get more ideas from fellow librarians for your summer reading program, check out “33 Winning Summer Reading Program Ideas.”


Matthew Winner

Matthew Winner

Library Media Specialist and Host of The Children’s Book Podcast
Matthew Winner is an elementary school librarian in Howard County, Maryland. He is the host of The Children's Book Podcast (formerly All The Wonders), a weekly podcast featuring insightful and sincere interviews with authors, illustrators and everyone involved in taking a book from drawing board to bookshelf. He is the author of Asha Went Walking, a webcomic for young readers illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean, about a girl, her arctic fox companion and her magic bag. In 2013, Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program. Visit Matthew online at www.matthewcwinner.com/blog or on Twitter at @MatthewWinner.