Our Reading Approach

The Basics:

  • Selecting Books: On the first day, show your student the Book Box filled with new books of various genres. Encourage your student to look at the covers, flip through the pages, and choose the book that feels most interesting. If your student needs help with more than half the words on the first page, offer a selection of books with fewer words and larger print. This process sets the stage for engagement.
  • Bookmark/Record Keeping: Assist your student in filling out a bookmark.  Plan on logging the date and page progress at the end of each session. After each session, please return the book to the Book Box.
  • Book Completion: Deposit bookmark in the folder marked “Used Bookmarks” once the book is completed. This is essential for our record keeping.

Reading with Your Student:

  • Tracking Words: As your student reads the title on the cover and subsequent pages, encourage tracking each word with a finger. Tracking is essential. It helps establish focus, and promotes a strong learning loop (seeing, touching, hearing, vocalizing). If your student forgets, gently tap the next word with your own finger. Students tend to catch the hint and resume tracking. If not, simply say “Finger, please” as a reminder.
  • Supporting: Assure your student that you will fill in any word they do not know. When you do, enunciate clearly and encourage your student to repeat the word clearly. A phrase like “Now you say it” works well. Although it is tempting to use words like “I know you know this one”, please refrain from doing so. Some students overcoming learning challenges can repeatedly stumble over words such as “of” or “if”. Quickly vocalizing the word promotes word identification, minimizes context loss, and makes your student feel safe and supported.
  • Encouraging Inquisitiveness: Invite your student to ask questions. For example: “If you see a new word or idea that you want me to explain… just ask. I am always happy to answer your questions.”
  • Setting Goals: If your student asks to take possession of the book before completion, decline with a simple explanation such as “If I give it to you now, you just have a book. If I give it to you after we finish reading it together, then you will have a book that you can read to others!”
  • Promoting a Sense of Accomplishment: When your student finishes the book, express how proud you are of the achievement and write a note of encouragement, on the title page, inviting input as your write. Present the book with enthusiasm, such as “You just earned your book! Congratulations!”

Here is an example of how to support and encourage your student while reading.

Note: Volunteers always read with just one student at a time. The one-on-one approach is essential to the success of Read a Book, Earn a Book. Thanks! 

Encouraging a Safe, Supportive Environment:

  • Golden Rule: Always treat your student as you wish to be treated, with dignity and respect.
  • Justice: Young people have a keen sense of justice. For example, if your student has to exit the program due to uncontrollable circumstances (i.e. a relocation) present the book before departure. Recognize their progress and encourage your student to finish the book with a friend or relative.
  • Smile, Smile, Smile: Reading is fun. Smiling and nodding as you read with your student creates an environment that feels safe and supportive. It sends a positive nonverbal message.
  • Offer Encouragement: If your student arrives in an unhappy state, acknowledge that the day is not going well, but that your special reading time together will start to make the day better.


  • Can I change books? Absolutely. If the student decides the book is not interesting, or if your think the book may be too difficult, please select alternative choices and allow the student to pick a new title.
  • Can I send the book with my student before it is completed? Please do not send the book with the student prematurely unless the student has to exit the program due to uncontrollable circumstances (i.e. relocation). We are teaching literacy, but we are also teaching important life skills, like goal setting.
  • Can I give my student gifts? Please refrain from giving your student stickers, gifts, candy, or money. It is important to keep the focus on the intrinsic reward of reading. Reading together IS the reward!