Series Reading Program: Creating a Culture of Reading


At Walter Bracken STEAM Academy Elementary, a Title 1 magnet school in urban Las Vegas, Nevada, educators have created a culture of reading by introducing Series Reading across all grade levels.

“Kids are hungry to read,” explains Anna Hurst, Walter Bracken’s assistant principal. “They come in on a Friday and ask me, ‘Can I check out two books?’ because they want to take two books home on the weekend.”

The Series Reading program supplements curriculum. “That reading program gives me more hours than any other teacher,” says Klaus Friedrich, a Walter Bracken fifth-grade teacher. “I feel like I’m at a higher-level middle- or high-school ability with them as far as understanding plot, character development, complexity, and style because I’m not spending a lot of time on fluency.”

The Benefits of Reading a Book Series

Walter Bracken didn’t always have a culture of reading. A lot of their kids weren’t finishing their books at home. They would read a chapter and stop, and they weren’t doing their reading logs. To remedy this, teachers introduced Series Reading to their students.

When students read a series:

For ELL students:

“They read tons of series each year, and they just don’t stop,” says Katie Decker, Walter Bracken’s principal. “We found this magical thing where they were talking about characters and comparing and contrasting in the hallway.”

How It’s Done

Step 1: All Staff Choose Their Favorite Book Series

Every staff member at Walter Bracken — from teachers to administrators to nurses — chooses a series that will be in their office or classroom. Students have to visit these spaces again and again to check out books from their series. This allows each staff member to:

“I keep over 17 series in my office. My office is their office,” says Decker, “and I want the children to know that I value literacy and those are my favorite book series, too.”

To get started, Decker recommends:

Step 2: Assess Your Students

Walter Bracken teachers initiate a benchmark test using the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, and they use AR quizzes to test students on their comprehension after they finish each book. This assessment helps teachers to know whether or not their students understand what they’re reading.

With this benchmark, students get to read at their level, differentiating their learning, and they can choose which series within their level they want to read. Teachers use colors to represent each reading level. They put colored dots (pink, blue, orange, etc.) on the spines of each book so that students know whether the books are within their reading level. They also have a website listing each series by grade level and color code to help students decide which series to read next.

For teachers who want a low-cost alternative to AR, Decker recommends:

The Answerpad



Step 3: Acknowledge Your Students When They Finish a Series

Students at Walter Bracken are acknowledged and rewarded when they achieve their reading goals. Their progress is tracked through the Accelerated Reader program. AR assigns points to students based on how much they have read and the level of difficulty at which they’re reading, and teachers use this data to gamify students’ reading.

For lower elementary, students are motivated to read at first because they’re excited to get the rewards, like trophies or wearable trinkets. As they get older, it becomes less about the incentives. The rewards help build the habit of reading, but it’s the reading itself that engages the students.

“The books entice the kids to read,” explains Decker. “Once they get into the characters, they get excited about it. The conversations with the adults on campus, the conversations with their peers about the series — that entices them to read.”

“Sometimes the books are so interesting that I actually feel that I’m in the book,” says Braulio, a Walter Bracken fourth-grade student.

These are some of the school-wide rewards that students earn:

Walter Bracken purchases their rewards at and For a low-cost alternative, Decker suggests hanging a chart on your classroom wall to showcase which series your students have completed. The school also asks their graduating fifth-grade students to donate their charms back to the school. Most kids do, and those charms can be cleaned and reused.

Step 4: Help Your Students Navigate Which Book to Read Next

When Walter Bracken first created the Series Reading program, the younger students would spend ten minutes looking at all the covers trying to find the right book, because they didn’t know which book in the series came next.

Teachers solved the problem by creating series bookmarks (PDF). Each book series has its own bookmark displaying the titles and covers of each book. This helps students easily identify the order of the books within a series, helps them keep track of which ones they’ve read, and is also a place to record their AR score for each book.

Step 5: Track the Books That Your Students Are Checking Out

When each student begins reading, they get a face bookmark. Completely unrelated to the popular social media site, these are bookmarks showing the student’s face, his or her room number, and the teacher’s name on the front. The back of the bookmark is full of blank lines for students to fill in which series they’ve completed.

At a glance, this helps teachers to identify how far their students are in their reading, and it also helps staff track which students have their books when they need to collect them at the end of the year. These face bookmarks serve as sign-out slips. When students check out a book, they leave their face bookmark with the staff.





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