How to Create a Classroom Reading Culture in Heritage Spanish Class

Transforming a classroom bulked out with desks crammed into every spare space, into a haven for bookworms is about much more than simply filling shelves with titles. It’s about creating an atmosphere that celebrates the joy of reading and ignites curiosity in young minds. Here are a few ways heritage Spanish teachers can weave the magic of reading into the fabric of their classroom’s culture:

1. Lead by example:

Let your students see you immersed in a book. Lead by example by reading a book during free voluntary reading (of course you will want to position yourself in the best place in the classroom to still keep an eye on everyone). Fight the urge to be a production machine, and rather than using the quiet time to catch up on grading or administrative tasks, allow yourself the pleasure of your own reading time.

Share your favorite reads, discuss what you’re learning, talk about future books you can’t wait to read next and express genuine excitement about the world of literature. Enthusiasm is contagious, and students are more likely to pick up a book when they see their teacher doing the same. You can do this by promoting a “Book of the week” or doing book features, where you draw attention to a book in the classroom library that you highly recommend. You can even find Youtube videos about some books that do a quick synopsis in Spanish for ones you haven’t read yourself. This allows you to help create awareness about “sleeper picks,” or the books in your library that you know your class is missing out on.

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2. Create a cozy reading nook:

Transform a corner of your classroom into a dedicated reading haven. Fill it with comfy pillows, blankets, beanbags, and fairy lights to create a space that feels inviting and special. This cozy nook will become a natural draw for students seeking a quiet escape to lose themselves in a good book.

blue bookshelves in heritage Spanish class

My students love these blue bookshelves I found on Amazon! If your classroom isn’t very large, consider turning on a Fireplace Scene on your TV in class (Netflix has a Yule Log) to create a cozy atmosphere.

3. Curate a diverse library:

Go beyond the textbook and offer a variety of genres, reading levels, and cultural backgrounds. Include graphic novels, poetry collections, non-fiction, fantasy, TPRS novels, and even magazines to cater to different interests and learning styles. Encourage students to make recommendations and add their own favorite books to the shelves, fostering a sense of ownership and community around the library.

I include LGBTQ books and mark them with these rainbow stickers as a way to show my students that everyone is welcome. If you want to mark all of your genres included in your library, these circle stickers can be helpful too.

4. Make reading interactive:

Don’t just assign books; bring them to life! Host book club discussions in small groups, schedule partner-talk-time about their books or a time to check in with each student about their FVR book. You can even have students create their own book trailers or book covers (we do this in Ascendencia Year One). These interactive activities spark deeper engagement with the text and make reading a shared experience.

5. Celebrate reading achievements:

Recognize and reward students for their reading efforts. Create reading challenges, award “bookworm of the week” prizes, or simply celebrate milestones like finishing a particularly long or challenging book. These small gestures show students that their reading journey is valued and appreciated.

Celebrate reading achievements heritage Spanish class

Another idea is to create a bulletin board in class that showcases the books students have finished and what they thought about it with a speech bubble.

By incorporating these strategies, teachers can transform their classrooms into vibrant reading communities where students are not just passively flipping through a book, but are actively drawn into the world of literature. Remember, a love of reading is a gift that keeps on giving, unlocking a lifetime of knowledge, imagination, and personal growth. So, let’s open the door to this magical world and watch our students step inside!

It’s important to not undervalue pleasure reading in the classroom. As Stephen Krashen said, “Reading for enjoyment is the source of most of our literate competence.” Don’t give up, even when students push back.

Real Talk

If you have a particularly difficult class, and creating a culture of reading is a next-level struggle, you are not alone. When the student leaders in class are not on board, they can drag the whole environment down. It may be a simple fix of silently handing out extra credit stickers  when students are reading quietly but it may take some parent phone calls or administrator support to be able to send students out who are being disruptive.

real talk en heritage Spanish class

In fairness to our students who are in class to learn, we have to find a way to mitigate the disruptions and disrespect from students who are not meeting behavior expectations. We want all students to fall in love with reading, but in the worst-case scenario, a small group of students cannot be allowed to negatively control the culture of the classroom.

In those situations, my main prerogative is to create scenarios where as many students as possible are afforded a proper opportunity to read in an environment free of chaos. I want to teach them all, but I’m unable to teach them all, I still want to try and reach as many as possible!

Free Download: These FREE bookmarks can be a fun way to inspire students to enjoy their time reading.

Gain access to hundreds of resources for heritage Spanish by joining the Heritage Spanish Membership. Looking for more information on getting started with Free Voluntary Reading in Heritage Spanish class? How to Get Started with Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) in Heritage Spanish Class

How to Fund an FVR Library for your Classroom

How to Write a Grant Proposal to Fund your FVR Library

100 Must-have Books to Start your Heritage Spanish Class FVR Library

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