Dog-gone Good Motivators for Young Kids to Read!

"This little puppy is looking for a student to read to her!" Who want to sit next to 'Brownie' and share a good book?"

“This little puppy is looking for a student to read to her!” Who wants to sit next to ‘Brownie’ and share a good book?”

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Big Animal Books & Soft Stuffed Animals Motivate Kids to Read – Looking for attention-grabbing dog-gone good motivators to encourage children in your K – 2  class to read more?

Hold up a soft stuffed animal or a big book with a textured cover that features an animal. Choose one, for example, with an adorable brown puppy on the cover, complete with a circle of faux fur on its chest.

Give the featured animal a name. Ask students if they hear the animal “talking.” For example, ask if the children can hear “Brownie,” the puppy shown here, “barking for them to rub her fur and read to her, please, please, please!”

“No barking yet?” You ask the class to keep their focus on you, knowing of course that there has been no sound yet.

Some kids may shout out that they heard a “bark” because young children’s imagination is so easily sparked and most little kids are eager to please the teacher.

Everyone will nod yes, though, when you put the attention-getting elements of a dramatic voice and personification to work. Personification is a powerful teaching tool.

Continue your quick trick dramatic act. Move the book in your hand and make the puppy “bark!” “Oh this puppy is eager to sit with a helpful friend,” you say as a lead-in to reading time.

“Who wants to sit with ‘Brownie’ and quietly read a book to her during reading time?” When volunteer hands fly, choose a deserving student. Let the reading begin.

Designate a Dog-gone Good Reading Corner in Your Classroom – So as not to distract other students during class-wide reading time, ask the lucky student you’ve chosen to “read to the puppy” to take the animal or animal book back to your designated corner to read aloud. If you’ve held up a stuffed animal with no book, the student will need to choose a book in the reading corner to “share with the animal.”

Another way to motivate young children to read is to…

Paws on a Book – Hold up a stuffed animal with a book in its paws or set stuffed animals on a bookshelf or table with their paws made to look like each animal is holding a book.

"Lucky Lamb looks like he'd love for a student to read him a poem!"

“Lucky Lamb looks like he’d love for a student to read him a poem!”

When you’ve set up this lead-in to reading time, ask students to look around the room and spot animals that are holding books in their paws. Use this to prompt a discussion about choosing books to read in your room and the Media Center.

For pre-readers: talk about how pictures give clues as to what a book is about. Use this motivator to teach young readers about titles: titles offer clues and good titles draw readers in.

This attention-getting trick also develops observation skills.

Original Storytelling by Pre-readers – Invite groups of pre-readers to tell their own original stories to selected stuffed animals.

  • Give students sheets of colored construction paper to fold in half to make book covers.
  • Ask students to choose a story theme and color the cover with an illustration about the theme.
  • Group the kids with a stuffed pet pal and start storytelling time.
  • Instruct the children to take turns telling their stories aloud. Very young children believe that their pet pals are really listening!

Class Pets as Teacher Assistants – If your school allows class pets as permanent room residents, use your class pet as an assistant to help students stay engaged during instruction time in a variety of subjects.

Any kind of animal can be an effective teacher assistant.  As you’re reviewing math problems, for example, glance over towards “Hopper,” the class rabbit, and casually mention that “Hopper is COUNTING on the class getting their math problems correct.”

Tell your class that “Hopper” would appreciate receiving a “high number of carrots” to celebrate students’ good work . Making quick connections with a class pet is fun for kids and functional for teachers during instructional periods.

"Would you please read a story to your sweet black dog and me?"

“Would you please read a story to your sweet black dog and me?”

Pair Up Student Readers with Four-legged Listeners – If you can get permission from your school and make the logistics work, partner up with an organization like a regional school of veterinary medicine or “Sea Spot Read” to help boost elementary school students’ reading skills.

Veterinary students sometimes volunteer to visit schools to introduce children to veterinary medicine. In the process, they can encourage kids to read books about all of the sciences, including books about animals and animal care.

Volunteers with “See Spot Read,” a group in North Carolina (US), bring certified pet therapy dogs to libraries and local schools for children to meet and read to.

Furry friends make lovable listeners because they don’t judge a child while he or she is reading. They simply snuggle up next to the children and sit patiently even as the young readers struggle with word pronunciation and story comprehension.

Volunteers who bring the dogs in the program sit nearby, ready to help children read, but only when needed.

In some communities, students as old as eleven and twelve who are reading below grade level delight in sharing stories with a four-legged audience.

Reading is at the heart of the Core Curriculum and other standards. Teachers know that it’s helpful to add new and creative tools and strategies to those that are tried and true. We may improve outcomes by motivating young children to:

1) love language.

2) read because they want to read, not just because they have to in school.

3) read more.

4) make connections between reading and all subjects.

5) what else? Please send comments and share!

Education blogs like can help connect teachers to ideas that may be dog-gone successful in drawing kids into reading circles that grow wider every year for each child they reach.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Look for Mid-Week Focus on Wednesday. Talk with you soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
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