Next Read

Tips to help your students become binge readers.

GUEST COLUMN | by Rita Platt

credit-renaissance-accelerated-readerBinge watching has become an American phenomenon. With online choices including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go, and more, viewers can watch their favorite television shows in quick succession, even enjoying an entire season in a weekend. This is, at least in part, due to two facts: 1) shows are quickly and easily available and, 2) the viewer knows what to watch next.

If you’ve ever used Amazon or Netflix, you know that the programs are very sneaky.
They observe what you watch and offer recommendations based on your viewing history.

As a long-time teacher and librarian, it occurred to me that there are tools that would allow readers to harness the power of on-demand watching in the service of “binge reading.” In other words, to use both high and low technology resources to engage students in continuous reading—for fun!

Below are the top five ideas and resources to engage your students in non-stop reading by helping them know what to read next:

  1. If you’ve ever used Amazon or Netflix, you know that the programs are very sneaky. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-22-31-amThey observe what you watch and offer recommendations based on your viewing history. This means that as soon as the viewer finishes one show, they can start on another that will likely match their interests. There are online and offline tools that do the same for readers. Scholastic Book Wizard has a “Similar Book” feature where readers and their teachers can find titles that are similar to those students have already enjoyed. As a tech-free alternative, making displays of books with the heading, “If you liked _____________, then try _____________!” In either case, it can be powerful to readers to have good ideas on what to read next within their grasp.
  1. Engaging students in social media for readers can be as fun as it is effective. Goodreads has been described as the Facebook for book-lovers. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-22-43-amReaders set up accounts and add books they have read or want to read. Then, they follow other readers for ideas and recommendations. While Goodreads is best for young adults and adults, Biblionasium is a great option for younger readers. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of both programs, as related to binge reading, is that users create to-read lists so they are never without an idea of what to read next.
  1. Surveys and interest inventories can also be helpful to teachers and librarians as they guide readers to books they will love. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-22-58-amHeinemann Publishing offers several paper and pencil surveys ready for download. The online reading platform EPIC! also offers a survey. EPIC! is free for educators and includes an online interest inventory, thousands of high-quality fiction and nonfiction books, and a built in incentive system. Really, EPIC! is a one-stop-shop for binge readers. Parents can subscribe for $4.99 per month and it is well worth it.
  1. If your school is one of the 60,000 that use Renaissance Accelerated Reader®, you can use it to facilitate binge reading. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-11-23-11-amThere is a built-in feature that monitors books students have taken tests on and offers a visual list of “Top Book Ideas for You” as a running scroll each time a student logs on. This platform also allows students to set reading goals and monitor their own progress, which is highly motivating for binge reading.
  1. One last idea is to create challenges for students that will help them read, read, and read some more. There are many great series and sets of books that students love and cannot seem to put down. Introduce first graders to Elephant and Piggy by Mo Willems, second graders to anything by Dav Pikley (of Captain Underpants fame), third graders to My Weird School, by Dan Gutman and I almost guarantee binge reading! Upper elementary-aged students love Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Gregg Kinney and the I Survived… series by Lauren Tarshis. Also try Jonathan Rand’s Michigan and American Chillers series, they are seriously addictive! Engage students in Ten Book Challenges where they try to read ten books by the same author, on the same subject, or in a series. Alternatively, try Book BINGO to get students to read a variety of books in a given time period. Either way, students are primed to binge read, in part, because they know what to read next.

Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls School District in Wisconsin and teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and consults with local school districts. Find Rita at 3C’s Educational Consulting.


  1. These are some great strategies. I find challenges work great with younger students, but my older students need some personal connection to the book and an outlet to discover it, journaling, discussion, etc.

  2. I find that a well-established and clearly understood reading incentive program will spur binge reading among students as they pursue specific goals or prizes.

  3. I really like the Book Bingo idea. I think the students will respond just the way I want! Thanks for this great article and wonderful ideas.

  4. I love the ideas here and plan to use them and share with our staff. I also like to do read-alouds of favorite chapter books from various authors to “hook” them into a series. The Magic Tree House series is a favorite of mine.

  5. What a wonderful analogy for those of us who know we are binge watchers but struggle in the classroom to build binge readers. I plan to share this with my team. Thanks for thinking and connecting with relevant material.

  6. We were just trying to work out a way to encourage students to read various genre. The genre Bingo will be a fun way to do that! We have had a “Similar Books” notebook ever since the Harry Potter craze hit. It was my daughter’s idea and creation. I love what AR 360 has done with it and so do the students.

  7. This is phenomenal, I love the idea of varying book/reading challenges. It makes reading coincide with a game-based learning model!

  8. This is a fantastic article! I am making plans to use some the web sites in the library! Today I handed out the Genre Bingo for our 8th grade class to play. I am looking forward to some fun!

  9. I plan on sharing these ideas with the 2 English teachers in the middle school I work at. These ideas and tips are great.

  10. I am planning on sharing the web sites for Scholastic Book Wizard and Biblionasium with our students! I have already created the plaque to go near the computer bank. I love the idea of Book Bingo!!!

  11. I am doing this! I will start next week and challenge them to do this until Christmas break! Awesome idea!

  12. I definitely will recommend the Captain Underpants series to my second graders. I also want to use the Top Book Ideas for You list with my kids!

  13. I really like the Binge Reading ideas. Since I’ve not seen these ideas used at our school, I will share with my co-teacher who manages the students’ AR. Even though I’m their math teacher, we are all teachers of reading.

  14. We try to have students use the book recommendation feature in AR as well. Really helps that it is built into the program.

  15. I plan to introduce Biblionasium to my students. I think they will love searching online for good reads. We already follow Renaissance Rules for best practices with AR so we just need a way to learn about new books!

  16. I really like the 10 Book Challenge! I’m thinking about using this idea prior to the students’ informational writing.

  17. Great ideas! I encourage students to complete a “Dewey Challenge” in which they read a book from each of the Dewey sections (000s, 100s, etc.). When they complete the challenge, I give them a book as a reward.

  18. Yes! Am looking forward to introducing Bingo! Had made something similar using book genre stickers for students in the past.

  19. As a former media specialist and a current assistant principal, The Epic app has really provided students with an expanded library to find books. Students are able to read books without having to go purchase them or not being able to check them out because another student has it. It is a great resource for teachers, students, and parents.

  20. That is amazing. I will have to check out some of these sources for my students! I am always trying to find new books for them to read that they would enjoy!

  21. I constantly use Accelerated Reader. Setting Goals is an excellent way for students to stay motivated.

  22. I have notated these strategies and put the 10 book challenges and Book Bingo as favorites on my internet favorites list! I’m excited to try these strategies!!!

  23. To get my kids to read more if they have slowed down I will do a weekly challenge for either books read or pages read with a fun prize at the end. . It is just enough to get them reenergized.

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