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Guest Readers in the Classroom: Tips, Ideas & Resources for 2021

When I taught kindergarten I welcomed guest readers into my classroom, which I referred to as mystery readers. My little ones were so excited to see who the secret guest would be. We had moms, dads, siblings, grandparents and other special friends. I remember getting a note from one of the moms that read, “I listened to my husband practice reading Green Eggs and Ham at least 20 times last night. He makes presentations for a living. The thought of reading to 5 year olds petrifies him.” Don’t you love getting notes like this from parents? I sure do!

I finished my year in kindergarten and returned to second grade. Assuming they were too old for that type of thing, I stopped having mystery readers come (and boy was I wrong). When I headed to third grade, I brought the mystery readers concept back and used it as a way to practice inferring skills. And… The kids absolutely loved it!

This blog post will explain everything you need to know about a guest reader and will answer the following questions:

  • What is a guest reader?
  • What is a mystery ready?
  • Why should I start a guest reader program?
  • How do I set up a guest reader program?
  • How can I prepare my guest reader for the experience?
  • Can you host virtual mystery readers?
  • How do I prepare my students for the experience?
  • Who should my guest readers be?
  • How do I select a book for my guest reader?

What is a Guest Reader?

A guest reader is someone who doesn’t usually visit or teach your class. They come on a specific day and time to read to your students!

What is a Mystery Reader?

A mystery reader is the same as a guest reader, BUT their identity is kept secret to build anticipation and excitement. Teachers could choose to give clues before they arrive to get the students extra excited!

Benefits of Starting a Guest Reader Program

One of the benefits of starting a guest reader program is that students LOVE welcoming others into their classroom. It is also a great way to mix things up and add a little spice to your reading instruction. Students will hear fluent reading and another voice from a different adult. It gives the teacher a break from reading aloud as well! Family members and other significant adults love coming to see their students in action. An added benefit is that students will get to practice hosting others and sending thank you notes after the guest reader’s visit.

4 Steps for Setting Up a Guest Reader Program

Here are 4 steps for setting up a mystery reader program in your classroom:

  1. Send home letters to families or other adults you’d be interested in hosting as a guest reader.
  2. Set up a schedule and have the guest readers sign up. I love using an online scheduler tool to post time slots I have available each week or month for guest readers, allowing the guest readers to sign up for dates and times that work for them. One idea to consider is scheduling readers for each Friday to make it a weekly treat, but you can choose dates/times that work with your students and schedules! You can use online scheduler tools like Calendly, Sign Up, and Sign Up Genius to make it SUPER easy! These platforms also send reminders to the guest so that they don’t forget their special day!
  3. Host your guest readers! Set up a welcome routine with students. They can get the guest reader from the office or make welcome signs to make it extra special.
  4. Send thank-you notes to the guest readers. This is a unique touch that lets your reader know they were very much appreciated and enjoyed. Plus, this is GREAT writing practice for all students.

6 Tips to Share with Your Guest Reader before their Big Day

Here are 6 tips to share with your mystery reader before they come in to read to your class:

  • Tell your guest reader to have a book that will accommodate the time you have scheduled and will leave room for a discussion or questions at the end.
  • You could even have several book choices for the guest reader to choose from beforehand to make it super easy.
  • Tell the guest reader to introduce themselves to the students by sharing who they are, what they do, and why they love reading. This builds a connection to the guest reader and fosters a love of reading in students.
  • Let the guest reader know they can ask any questions about the book they would like and discuss afterward. This isn’t only about reading, and they may just be surprised by how much students understand!
  • If they are presenting virtually, be sure to walk them through the logistics of sharing a book that way.
  • Tell the guest reader to have fun!

How to Welcome Guest Readers Virtually

In a virtual classroom, welcome virtual mystery readers by introducing them to the class. You can tell students who this person is and why you chose them as the guest reader for class today. You could also introduce mystery readers through a series of facts about them leading up to the day they “visit” your class virtually. This builds connections and excitement for the day the virtual mystery reader joins your class!

How to Prepare your Students for the Read Aloud

Ensure students know and understand the routines & expectations for behavior and attentive listening during read alouds before guest readers arrive. Practice several times as a class to ensure all students understand that the guest reader should feel extra welcome in their classroom. Some example expectations could include: no bathroom breaks (unless it’s an emergency), raising your hand to ask questions, being sure to share or ask things that are on-topic to the discussion, follow all directions the first time, etc.

Who Should You Invite to be Guest Readers?

Virtually anyone can be a guest reader! You could invite parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, other teachers, principals, counselors, district personnel like the superintendent, city or state officials, or other community members. The options are endless!

Good Book Choices and Bad Book Choices for Guest Readers

Good Book Choices for Guest Readers

It can be difficult to determine how how to pick a good read aloud book, especially one for guest readers to share with your elementary students. Good choices for guest reader books are ones that…

  • are of high interest to your students
  • take about 10-20 minutes to read
  • are special to the guest reader
  • are developmentally appropriate

Bad Book Choices for Guest Readers

Poor choices for guest reader books are ones that…

  • are not interesting for your students’ age group
  • do not fit the grade level
  • are too long or short
  • are inappropriate for school

Mystery Reader Resources

Check out these mystery reader printable resources!

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