Read Across America Week Activities

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Read Across America is a widely celebrated holiday in elementary schools all across the United States.

Read Across America Day was established as a holiday by the National Education Association. Originally, it was established as a holiday on March 2nd which is the birthday of famous children's author Dr. Seuss. 

Now, decades later, the National Education Association celebrates and encourages reading all year long, but especially during Read Across America Week, but they are not affiliated with one particular author or book. 

What I particularly love about this holiday as a first grade teacher is that it can be easily integrated into what I'm already doing in my classroom!

In this post, I will outline the different activities that I do with my first grade students and hope you find some great ideas that you will use in your own classroom!

Read Across America Reading Plan for First Grade

As I mentioned earlier, Read Across America week is not celebrated not just on one day, but for an entire week. 

Also, instead of focusing on one particular author or book, it encourages students, teachers and families to read a diverse set of books that help them learn about the world around them! 

For this reason, our school recently started using this Read Across America reading plan for first, second and third grade. 

Because the plan is so flexible, it works with all three grade levels and can easily be integrated into what the teachers are already doing in their classrooms! 

The reading plan is: 

  • Monday: Read a book about a person
  • Tuesday: Read a book about a place
  • Wednesday: Read a book about an animal
  • Thursday: Read a book about a food
  • Friday: Teacher's choice

I encourage the teachers on our campus to alternate between “fact and fiction”, but it is totally up to the preference of the teacher. 

To go along with our reading plan, I made a recording/response sheet for each of the days where students write about the book, illustrate it and circle fact or fiction. 

Read Across America Dress Up Day

In previous years, we had Dr. Seuss dress up days which were extremely fun and always super cute. 

This year, however, we are trying something new and hosting a dress up day where students are encouraged to dress up like their favorite book character! 

I'm super excited about the book character dress up day and we are even talking about having a book character parade! 

The History of Read Across America Week

I gave a brief explanation of the history of Read Across America Day earlier in this post.

However, I've found it very helpful to have a poster that I can use to share this information with my students! 

If we are moving past simply celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday, I want students to understand how Read Across America got started and how their mission has changed over the years!

I think it's an important step in creating readers for life who also encourage others to read!

Read Across America Book Activities

Earlier in this post I showed you some of the reading response sheets that I created specifically for our Read Across America Week reading plan (person, place, animal, food). 

But I also like to use other kids of response sheets during this week to help my students better understand the books we are reading, but to also give me a measurable component to gauge their comprehension. 

Sometimes I have students do the traditional story retell, problem and solution and main idea pages.

But other times, I like to see their creative side and have them draw the cover of their favorite book, or go even further and design-a-book of their own! 

Writing naturally fits into reading comprehension and I think Read Across America week is also a great opportunity to spark students' creative writing and show them they can be great authors, too!

Read Across America Reading Log

I love to use this reading log with my first graders, but I don't just limit it to one week. We typically use it for the entire month of March. 

I challenge each of my students to read 25 books. These can be books they read on their own, or books we read together (because let's be honest, without a little help, some students would struggle to get to 25 books on their own! 

I purposely do not have students write the title of the books on their reading log because I don't want it to feel like a to-do list or a chore. 

I want it to be fun and rewarding! 

Make Reading Fun!

Here are a few other things I do during Read Across America Week to help make reading fun for my students! 

First, I LOVE LOVE LOVE to use reading punch cards. This is very similar to a reading log, but on a much smaller scale.

The concept it simple, each time a student reads a book on their own, they get to punch their card. 

After five books, the student gets a prize. I personally like to use free prizes like no shoes, wear a hat or use a pen for a day. 

Another thing I do for Read Across America Week is to print out bookmarks for my kids. 

Even if they are reading picture books, kids LOVE book marks. I like to print mine out on colored paper, but I like to use fonts and pictures that the students can color in and really  make it their own. 

If I want to get REALLY fancy, I make students personalized bookmarks with their names on it. I let them color and decorate the bookmarks and then I laminate them to make them last longer!

Student Wearables for Read Across America Week

An elementary school holiday wouldn't be complete without some kind of wearable. 

My students' favorites are always hats and more recently I've introduced them to bracelets. 

I love this printable hat because you can print on white and let the students color it or you can print on colored paper for an extra pop of color!

If you really want an extra pop of color, use a contrasting color of sentence strip to attach the hat to.

The bracelets are very similar. Students color/decorate them and then you can tape them around their wrists. 

I love these kind of wearables because they can be as decorative or as easy as you want them to be!

Wrapping Up with Awards

What is a better way to wrap up the Read Across America celebrations than with an award? 

I print out these Reading Awards and give them to all students in my class to celebrate their reading journey and also to remind them to be proud of how hard they have worked over the past week! 

No matter the age, kids always love to get an award and I think it is very important that our students feel proud of themselves for not only reading, but also sharing their reading with others!

Read Across America Activities

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More First Grade Holiday Celebrations

Read Across America - Kristen Sullins Teaching
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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current Elementary Librarian and
Enrichment Teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to save time by finding unique ways to integrate writing, social studies and science into all parts of my day. I also love all things organization!