During Silent Reading, one small group of students is invited to peruse the books at the Favorite Books Center. I explain that many of the books in the boxes may not pass the Five Finger Test since these are books that I read to them. Silent Reading time gives students a chance to take a close-up look at books that have been shared as a whole group. As Jack explained one day after silent reading, "Steven Kellogg sure used lots of detail in Best Friends. I never noticed all the dog food cans when you read it to the class. There are 38 cans of dog food in the closet!"
At some point during the year, we paint the outside of a large refrigerator box to look like a house, and cut a door and a few windows complete with hanging curtains. The inside is filled with painted bookshelves on which the students place cutouts of their favorite books. This becomes our "House of Books" where two to three students enjoy books from the Favorite Books Box during Silent Reading time.
During our September Open House, I invite parents to join us for Silent Reading time. I ask them to bring a book from home and help model the importance of reading. Since our time for Silent Reading usually falls during lunch hour for working parents, they occasionally take a break from their usual lunch routine to enjoy books with us.
As a reward for a week of hard work, we have Sit Anywhere Fridays. I explain to the class that instead of sitting in their assigned chairs, as long as they are reading their chosen books, they are welcome to stretch out under a table, on the carpet, with a friend at another table, or even in the chair at my desk.
On Partner Days, groups of two to three students enjoy books together. Some of the partners will simply sit together side by side reading their own books while others will take turns reading pages of the same book out loud. The only rule is they must be reading and discussing books.
A stuffed bear, an aquarium full of fish, or an incubator of hatching baby chicks can add another dimension to the usual Silent Reading time. Each day a different student snuggles and reads with Book Bear, a stuffed brown bear, during Silent Reading time. Although his favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, he also enjoys We're Going on a Bear Hunt and Old Bear. Our aquarium is filled with fish who love to hear Swimmy, Fish Is Fish and many other student choices. Our hatching chicks love Are You My Mother? but Feathers for Lunch is not one of their favorites!
Once a week my class reads with fourth grade reading buddies for Silent Reading time. Prior to the initial book buddy meeting, the teachers coordinate partners between the two classes. The older students are responsible for bringing a book to share with the younger friend for the initial meeting. As the partners get to know one another, they each bring books from home or the library to share with their book buddies each week.