Home Reading Ideas

I’m starting to get my thoughts together about a home reading and response program for this year.  Here’s what I’ve got so far.  Comments and suggestions are welcome. 



You’ll be keeping an R4 Journal to track your home reading.  Later in the year I may offer some digital alternatives to the paper journal, too. 


Why read at home?  My job is to help you learn to read better and increase your enjoyment of reading.


Read & Relax: All year you’ll be reading something at home that you’ve chosen yourself and you really like. You can use the same material you are reading for one of your classes if you also spend time with it outside of class.   It doesn’t have to be in book form but it does have to include text, not just pictures.  Over the course of a month you should pick a mix of fiction and non-fiction.  You should seek out a variety of genres and authors.  You can read something like a web site, ebook, graphic novel, short story collection, poetry collection, news article, blog, paper magazine, e-zine, or newsletter. (MySpace- and Facebook-type sites don’t count unless you choose  a longer writing piece on these sites—like a real story, poem, or article.)  Audio books and podcasts are wonderful choices some of the time. Videos are not a good choice for R4. When you are deciding on a piece, remember that you must have parent permission to read or listen to it and the piece should have over 300 words.  If you aren’t choosing a diverse mix of materials I may help by narrowing your options in the future.  You will be responding to the pieces you read, so they need to have some meaning.  I’d be happy to help you choose materials to read if you need assistance.


Note your time spent reading on the attached chart to track your R4.  The chart will stay in your R4 Journal at all times.  Your parent or adult guardian should initial each entry.  A little reading per day is much better than reading hours all at once, but you can decide when it is best for you and your family — that’s real life. You need to read what amounts to about 20 minutes a day (or AT LEAST 140 minutes a week).


Reflect & Respond: You will use your R4 Journal for thinking and writing about what you read.  You don’t need to respond to every single session of your reading but you will be responding to a whole piece or a collection of pieces. Below are a few prompts to get you started. I will give you more later.  The R4 Journal activities are designed to get you to think deeply about your reading and the strategies you use when choosing pieces or while reading.


Here’s what I am looking for in R4 Journal responses:  

  • You should be spending at least 20-30 minutes a week on writing in your R4 Journal. 
  • You don’t have to respond to every piece; just respond at least once a week to something you read. 
  • It’s okay not to finish reading an entire piece in a week, especially if you are reading a long book. However, you need to write at least one reflection per week.
  • You don’t have to write at the end of the week. If there’s a piece you want to write about in the beginning or middle of the week, go for it. 
  • You should use a half to a full page when writing a response.  
  • I expect your Journal responses to be thoughtful and legible yet I am not expecting a formal, super-neat essay.
  • I will read your Notebook and respond to you, so leave me a little bit of room to do that (1/4 of a page or so).
  • Sometimes I will share strong R4 entries with the class, so if one or your responses is private, mark it clearly.

I will be grading your R4 on whether you are completing your minutes and responses as described above. I will not be grading you on the number of pages you read or the number of words in your reflections.


Reflection Prompts:


Remember that I  may not have read the piece you are responding to.  Explain yourself completely so that I can understand and so that you definitely have more than one sentence.


1.  Find the author’s web site.  What can you find that might explain why the author decided to write the piece/book the way he or she did?  

2.  Describe how one of the characters in the book reminds you of someone you know, have met, seen or read about.  How does this connection help you understand the text better?

3.  Draw a picture of your favorite character and on the other side of the page list things you like about the character and why he or she is your favorite.

4.  Explain something you read that your teacher or parents might find interesting.

5.  Write your own prompt and put it in a letter to me.

6. Are the characters realistic (do they seem like they could be read people)? Why or why not?

7. Create a timeline of events from what you have read so far.

8. Create a ‘‘WANTED’’ poster for the antagonist.

9. Describe a character that you would like to meet (which doesn’’t mean that you think you would like the character, but that you think the

character would be interesting). List 4 questions that you would ask.

10. Describe something you have read that is similar to this.

11. Describe the major conflict. What side are you on?

12. Importance of an Episode: Select what you consider the most important episode in the book/film. Explain (briefly) what happens, why

you think it is important to the section, your reaction to the episode, and why you react this way.

13. Setting: What effect does the setting (time, place, social and historical background) have on the character’’s thoughts, actions, and

choices? What would be your reaction to having to adapt to the character’’s environment? Why?

14. Describe the setting’’s time and place. Create a new setting that you think would be better for the story and describe it.

15. Describe what was either believable or unbelievable about your reading. Defend your opinion.

16. Describe the similarities and differences between the main character and you.

17. Theme: Explain an idea or theme ––either stated outright or implied by events——which is meaningful to you. Explain its importance to

the book/film and why you find it meaningful.

18. Character Comparison #1: Compare yourself to a main character. Point out your similarities and try to account for differences

between you and him/her. Considering what you have discovered, what is your reaction to this character? Why? How do you think the

character would feel about you?

19. Character Comparison #2: Compare a character from your book/film to a character from another work of fiction (novel, play, film,

short story). What are their similarities? What are their differences? Which character do you admire more? Why?

20. Judgment: Examine a character’’s actions, values, behavior, etc. with which you disagree. What is happening? Why is the character thinking/acting this way? What do you see wrong with it? Why? What would you suggest as a preferable response/behavior/value?

21. Write a letter to a character or from one character to another. 


22. Create a diary entry in the voice of a character.This can be an ongoing diary for several of your responses during a longer piece.

23. Try the Four-Column Strategy for a piece that you and a parent read together.  Divide a page in your R4 Journal in half lengthwise. Write a short summary on one half. On that same half, then respond to your summary, explaining how they feel about what you read. On a second page — also divided in half lengthwise — have your parent write his or her summary and add his or her own response on just one half of the paper. On the other half, you write  another response to what your parent said. At the same time, your parent writes his or her response to your summary/response.
24.  Sketch to Stretch. Draw a sketch or two that illustrates the main ideas and details in the selection you just read. For example, after reading a description of the nesting habits of hummingbirds, draw a sketch that shows the details in the piece: the place a nest would be found, the size of a hummingbird’s nest, materials used to build the nest, the number of eggs in a nest, the color of eggs, and how parent(s) of baby hummingbirds take care of their young. You could draw a series of sketches to reveal the development of baby birds from egg to first flight.  In a novel you could draw the action that took place in the section you just read.

25.  Finish one or two of these starters and explain so that you definitely have more than one sentence:

-One thing that confused me was when…

-This makes me feel…

-This reminds of…

-I think…will happen next.

-I can imagine what…looked/sounded/felt/tasted like.

-I wonder why…

-I don’t see how…

-I can’t believe…

-It bothered me when…

-I was surprised…

-I can’t really understand…

-I began to think of…

-When I finished reading, I thought…

-The most important (word, phrase, idea) in this book is….because…

-The genre of this book is…..because….

-I agreed/diagreed with the author about…

-If I were the author I would have changed the part of the story when…

-My feelings about (character, book) changed when….

-I am like or different from the character….

-Some important details I noticed were…they were important because…

-What you liked or disliked and why.

-What you wish had happened.

-What you wish the author had included.

-Your opinion of the characters.

-Your opinion of the illustrations, table and figures.

-What you felt as you read.

-Questions you have after reading.

-What it reminded you of.

-What you think will happen next.

-What it reminded you of.