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 read a page or two to discover if the book feels right to them. If your student needs help with more than 25% of the words, suggest books with fewer words and larger print. Investing time in this process and building excitement sets the stage for reading engagement and growth.
  • 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. Most students eagerly take the pen in hand to help you with this process. After each session, please return the book, with its bookmark, to the front of the Book Box.
  • Book Completion: The day your student finishes reading a book, make it a celebration! Present the book with praise and a personal note in the interior. Invite your student to suggest what you should write. After the note, sign your name and add the date to help make this day memorable.
  • Bookmark Data: The day your student finishes reading a book, please follow the guidance or instructions from your community partner/non-profit for entering the bookmark data. If you are inputting the data, take a few minutes to follow the website address (in red type) to do so. Then file the bookmark in the folder marked “Used Bookmarks.” We use the data to track which book titles are most engaging and the hours of support for each student.

Reading with Your Student:

  • Tracking Words: Encourage your student to read the book title and subsequent pages with a “powerful reading finger” to track each word. If your reader forgets, gently tap the next word with your own finger. Readers tend to quickly catch the hint and resume tracking. If not, simply say “Finger, please” as a reminder. Tracking is essential. It helps establish focus, and promotes a strong learning loop (seeing, touching, hearing, vocalizing).
  • Supporting: Assure your student that you will fill in any word that is difficult. 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. Students are often challenged by high frequency words such as “of”, “if”, or “for”. Quickly vocalizing words without judgement increases fluency, promotes comprehension, 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.” By encouraging questions, you are promoting inquisitiveness and engagement.
  • 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!”

To get a feel for how we read, take a minute to watch this short video!…

  • Promoting a Sense of Accomplishment: When your student finishes a book, express how proud you are of the achievement and write a note of encouragement, in the interior, inviting input as your write. Present the book with enthusiasm, such as “You just earned your book! Congratulations!”

Note: Our one-on-one approach is essential to the success of Read a Book, Earn a Book. 

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, or the end of the reading season) 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, or the end of the reading season). We are teaching literacy, but we are also teaching important life skills, like goal setting and delayed gratification.
  • 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 and your friendship. Reading together IS the reward!

Meet Dr. Raymond Barnes (CMS Executive Director, formerly Principal of Druid Hills Academy.