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4 quick tips to build connections with students through reading

By Christina Ostrander, Fourth-Grade Teacher

“The positive teacher-student relationship is thus important not so much because this is worthwhile in itself, but because it helps build the trust to make mistakes, to ask for help, to build confidence to try again, and for students to know they will not look silly when they don’t get it the first time.”

– John Hattie & Gregory Yates, Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn

There is a tremendous amount of power behind the quote above. Many of us will greet new and familiar faces in the coming weeks of the school year. The beginning of the school year marks an important time to build connections and trust with students. Below, I’ve shared four quick tips on how I build these connections and trust through reading.

1. Daily classroom read-alouds. Get in front of your class and share a good picture book. Whether it is the great story of School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex or Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, a good picture book allows for a shared classroom experience that can be reflected upon and discussed. These texts build context in which students can share what they know with you and each other. It’s a terrific way to connect, especially if you can choose a topic that may touch on a particular area of interest of a targeted student. Keep track of those read-alouds and celebrate the authors and books you read as a class throughout the school year.

2. Classroom book clubs that dive deep into the experiences of students. Reading Refugee by Alan Gratz allows middle-grade students to dive deeply into the current issues surrounding refugees while also referencing historical events. Want something for younger students? Jim Ugly by Sid Fleischman will keep any elementary school reader on the edge of his or her seat and wanting to read more. Book clubs build interest around different genres and help students create connections to other books simply by them sharing their likes and dislikes of a book with others. The best is when students are able to create video book trailers of these well-loved and read novels!

3. Classroom and student goal setting allow reading goals to be achieved and celebrated. Setting a target is a great way for students to stretch for success. I use Renaissance Accelerated Reader because it gives points for each successful quiz. It’s a quick tool for students and teachers to track the amount of successful reading that is occurring. I’ve offered recess, prizes, and parties for my classes when they reach important reading goals as individuals or a class. I’ve been able to connect with so many students as we celebrated a perfect Accelerated Reader quiz. High-five!

4. Shared readings of a great novel builds a common experience for the class. We all have our favorites that showcase an amazing plot that builds suspense, and delivers uplifting moments or even quivering sadness. Living through these moments together helps build a unity among students and their teachers. Building and sharing a LOVE for dynamic characters is another great way to connect. Who can’t help but love the actions of Auggie Pullman and Jack in Wonder or the courage and intensity of Jen Talbot from Among the Hidden?

These simple tips allow you as the teacher to create meaningful conversations around reading. Thus, building an awareness of student needs and increasing the confidence of the mighty readers we meet and interact with daily in our schools.

How do you build connections through reading with your students? What tips do you have? Share them in the comments below, post on our Facebook, or tweet us at @RenLearnUS!

Looking to spark reading growth in your classroom? See how Accelerated Reader can help students discover a love for reading and prepare them for college, career, and life success.

Christina Ostrander, Fourth-Grade Teacher
Christina Ostrander, Fourth-Grade Teacher
Christina Ostrander holds a Masters degree from Michigan State in Education. Most recently, she graduated from Oakland University with an Education Specialist in School Administration degree. Christina is passionate about using technology to discover each student's unique genius.


  1. Dvawn Maza says:

    These are all great ideas.

  2. Rita Platt says:

    Great post! Literature can be perfect for making connections. I loved reading about how you use books and literacy to bond with kids.

  3. Jody Steinhaus says:

    I love reading the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Parks. Kids are able to make connections all while using prediction strategies as well.

  4. Liana Ferrer says:

    At the beginning of the year, I try to connect students to reading by letting them know what I like to read. I instill that love of reading by finding books that they can make connections to .

  5. Alecia Walkuski says:

    I also try to personalize my conversations with students about their book. I ask them about connections they may have or their reasons for selecting a book in order to build relationships.

  6. Heidi says:

    We do small reading circles and share what we liked or didn’t like about our books.

  7. Carly says:

    I took a class on integration and building connections over the summer. I learned about having students use their reading books as inspiration for creating math word problems, which is something I plan to try this year.

  8. Virginia Wiedenfeld says:

    Great ideas to reinforce in our classroom!

  9. Laura says:

    My favorite time of the day is our interactive read alouds. I learn so much about my students and they learn to model my reading and thought processes.

  10. Lloyd Goldberg says:

    Kids of all ages love read aloud. I read them classics that they would never picknfor themselves. A favorite is Wizard of Oz.

  11. Robin says:

    We love book clubs and sharing books with our students. Students suggest books and tell us a little about it. Just enough to create an interest, then other students want to read and share as well.

  12. Mary Diener says:

    All great ideas to start the school year off, and to keep it going strong!

  13. Amy says:

    I use journals and shared writing opportunities in my classroom.

  14. RENEE P GRAHAM says:

    Reading aloud to my students is my favorite time of our day! We make connections to our lives and people in our lives and places we’ve been. It’s amazing how easy this is to do when you read aloud daily.

  15. Laura says:

    Great ideas to share with the teachers and interstate in the library.

  16. I can’t wait to use many of these ideas in my students. I am teaching a new grade at a new school.

  17. Laura says:

    I use their student’s daily writing prompt to connect to what they will be working on that day.

  18. Andrea says:

    Read-a-louds on various topics to connect with a variety of student interests.

  19. Virginia Travis says:

    I choose read aloud books to go along with what we are studying at the time.We have a routine and do read aloud right after lunch. The kids take AR tests on each book that we read.

  20. Sharla Voepel says:

    My RTI students currently have a daily read-aloud for the last 10-15 minutes of our time.

  21. Ivy Nelson says:

    Love book clubs!

  22. Sarah Burch says:

    Read aloud books and later in the year my first graders write in journals and we share and discuss different topics.

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