Project Ideas for Reading

Many of these ideas are excerpted from "Share with a Flare" by Anne Semple Bruce, Blue Ribbon Press.


Most projects will be related in some way to comprehension, understanding genres and developing dispositions to enjoy reading, read for daily living and/or read for information.


Audiotape a book or play for the visually impaired. Students first read the book, discuss its message, characters, and whether there are changes of mood that should be reflected as it is read. Pronunciations and meanings for unfamiliar words are clarified. Different students read dialogue for particular characters as such dialogue appears. The audiotape is presented to an appropriate institution or program in the community. (Comprehension, vocabulary and fluency are all addressed.)

How do I know it? Let me show the ways! Books/stories/information from articles are retold in other creative formats (plays, newspapers, comic books, puppet shows, song and dance, illustrated guides, etc.) and shared with an appropriate audience. Reading the targeted text and group discussion precedes the selection of the project(s) by different teams.

Romeo, Juliet, who would you be today? Reset a Shakespearean play into modern day and retell the story. Play reading and discussion for comprehension precedes the transformation.

Books as Calls to Action. Stories and songs arouse emotions. Emotions often spur a desire to do something. Discuss the fact that there are universal themes that authors use to create the conflicts or problems at the center of great literature. After eliciting several of these themes (greed, injustice, poverty, discrimination, war, love, selfishness, overcoming obstacles, fear, etc.) present students with a choice of books to read (e.g., To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, Grapes of Wrath, The Diary of Anne Frank, etc.). Their discussions should tie the theme to modern problems. Students can plan a debate on how society should deal with the problem, an informative exhibit or event, or a service project to help alleviate the basic problem. An alternate approach is to have them select a theme and assign a book dealing with that theme.

Is Shakespeare Still Relevant? Students read at least one of Shakespeare’s plays and identify the universal theme, which will still be relevant today. They then select a way to convince an audience of their opinions. Lends itself to debate, resetting in modern times, finding articles in newspapers (current and archived) and highlighting (and giving meaning to) quotes to think about today.

Extend the Reading. Students or groups of students can extend the reading of a common text from different perspectives and using different talents to reveal their understanding by engaging in any of these activities.

Visual arts and crafts

Create a(n):

Advertisement to buy or read a book—Be prepared to explain what in the advertisement will attract people. Think about what in the book might attract people with different interests and backgrounds.

Award for the book—Awards are often certificates or plaques. What about the book deserves an award? What kind of award does it deserve?

Book jacket—The jacket should give a brief summary—but not give away the ending! It should also say something about the author.

Bulletin board or posters—List the funniest jokes or riddles from books, or amazing facts; the display is interactive and can grow over time as children add to it.

Chalk talk—Using chalk on a chalkboard or markers on a white board, briefly retell the story in pictures while simultaneously relating it orally.

Collage—Show the important ideas, events or characters—Be sure you can tell why each part of the collage is there. What was its importance? All of the pieces together could present a message. What would it be for this book?

Cartoon or graphic novel of the story or part of it—Does the cartoon version illustrate the important events and feelings?

Costume for a character—Why is this an appropriate costume? Be able to tell us about the character in terms of who he/she is and about the setting of the story that would bring images of this costume.

Diorama—It should portray several important scenes that allow you to retell highlights of the story as seen in the diorama.

Family tree of a character—Some stories will not lend themselves to this very well. Choose only if a family tree is important to the story.

Illustration of a setting, favorite part or amazing or important facts—Be able to explain all you can about what you have illustrated. Was it the most important setting? The first? The last? What about the fact is amazing or important?

Map of the setting or a character’s journey—As you point out different sites on the map, can you relate what happened there?

Mask of a character—Help others know the character. Who was he or she? What part did the character play in the story? Do you know someone like this character?

Mobile of story elements (story grammar)—Mobiles can be made from separate pieces of paper, on a cube, a balloon, or beach ball that can be hung with each element visible. Important parts of the story should be highlighted. These may include characters, setting, problem, solution, plot and theme. Very young children may use a simpler format of story beginning, middle and end.

Mural—Be sure you can tell what the mural shows and why you picked these things to be part of it.

Painting­­—Paint a scene; a part you liked, the turning point in the story, characters or illustrate an amazing or new fact you learned. Share why you chose what you did and what part it (they) played in the story as a whole.

Poster illustrating milestone events—Be able to explain their importance.

Puppet of a character—Create a puppet and be prepared to tell everyone about this character and its place in the book. Since it is a puppet, tell it from the perspective of the character through the mouth of the puppet.

Scrapbook based on information or events in the book—For this you will have to imagine the sequence of events and imagine artifacts or articles that might have been written as the events of the story unfolded.

Three-dimensional characters made of stuffed socks or other material—Tell about the characters and their place in the story or have them talk about themselves and their acquaintances.

PowerPoint presentation based on information from the book or retelling the story—This venue may be more appropriate for nonfiction books.

Research—Books and stories can be used to prompt research on the times, places and customs from the stories, to compare characters to historical figures or to find items in today’s news that relate to the story. Such research should at the very least be presented to the rest of the class, perhaps inviting parents or community members or displayed as an exhibit in the hall.

Performing arts and drama

Design and perform:

Accompaniment to a retelling or reading of the story—Consider sound effects or music.

Choral reading of poetry.

Graphics or use ready-made graphics—Use them to highlight parts of the story or to retell it.

Interview with a character or with the author—This requires a partner, one to be the interviewer and one the interviewee. Try to think of what people listening to the interview would like to know.

Memorize and recite a passage from the book—Be able to tell what happened before and after this passage and what its significance is to the storyline. Several students could memorize favorite passages and present them at appropriate times as a narrator tells the whole story.

Original song or rap about the story—Be sure to pick up an important idea and know how it fits with the whole story if it does not tell the whole story.

Oral critique of the story or topics related to the story that have been researched—what made it interesting or not interesting; were the characters believable or were they meant to take you out of the world into fantasy and did they do that; what do you think of the theme of the story; would you want to read other books like this or by this author? This could be done as a panel show.

Oral directions of how to make or do something from the book—If possible, pick something that the audience will actually be able to make while you speak.

Pantomime the story, a scene, or a character for others who have read the book—Have the audience ask yes or no questions if they need clues.

Parade of characters from one book or a variety of books—Each character can tell about what he or she does in the story and how it all turns out from the character’s perspective. They could tell something that happened to them and ask the audience to identify the book or story.

Play—Create a short play that summarizes the story and act it out using props and costumes (could be a spare tie, hat or ribbon).

Radio commercial—This is similar to a written advertisement but must be done with only sound. How can you make readers want to buy or borrow this book in up to 60 seconds time?

Reader’s theatre—Students develop scripts, perform in groups and practice using their voice to depict characters from texts.

Story retelling orally to a group—Can you use your own words as a storyteller to get them interested? Can you create suspense, excitement or calm? Can you make them think the story is happening right there?

Talk show featuring the book or the author or a character from the book—Someone will be the host and others will play the author and readers and respond to questions.

Television commercial—Sell the book or a play about the book. Visuals are needed and could be produced as PowerPoint or a story board.

Travel lecture about a particular setting or location in the book, using visual aids.

Videotaped retelling or re-enactment of a scene—Live performance is preferable.

Written language

Write a(n):

Alphabet book or large poster with boxes for each letter of the alphabet with something corresponding to the story for each letter.

Autobiography of a character.

Book review or critique of the book—similar to oral project but written so it can be part of an exhibition.

Biography of the author or illustrator.

Copy passages or phrases from the book that are particularly memorable or well written—Keep such passages in a special journal or share on a poster with why you think they are special.

Crossword puzzle or acrostic—Create by using vocabulary or important characters, events or facts from the book.

Diary or journal of a character—Pretend that you are the character in the book. As each part of the story progresses, write an entry from the viewpoint of the character.

Game questions—Create questions based on the story that could be used in a game like Jeopardy or Twenty Questions.

Investigation—Does something in the reading make you curious about your own community or the people you know? Conduct a poll or gather data to find out. Display the data and interpret it for an audience.

Letter to one of the characters—This letter should focus on something that happens in the story to that character, expressing sympathy, outrage, desire to help, request, or questioning something that has been said or done. Your letter should show that you understand the story.

Letter to the author—What would you say to the author about the story? Did you enjoy it? Were you confused by something? Did it make you think or feel strongly? Did it make you think about something in your life?

Letters between characters—Imagine one character writing to another in the story. Think about their relationship. What might they each say to the other? Be prepared to explain why they would write what they do.

Math story problem drawn from the story—In many stories there are references to numbers or shapes or chance. If there are some in your book, can word problems be written about them? (Be sure to provide the solutions.)

Newspaper or newspaper article—Select an event and act as a local reporter. Write an article for the newspaper that captures what was happening. For historic reading, a whole newspaper page or two may be in order reporting on various aspects of the day.

New title for the book—Do you think the book could have a different title? Propose a new title and tell why you think it would be more appropriate than the one it has.

Opinion and proof—Write an opinion about a character or about a piece of information in a non-fiction book and then cite evidence from the book to support your opinion.

Organize a community project—If your reading has brought to mind a need in the community that young people can help with, organize a group for community service and carry it out (e.g., food or clothing collection, visiting the elderly, stories or songs on DVD, cleaning up the neighborhood, etc.).

Persuasive article or speech about the book or a subject explored in the book—Try to convince others to agree with your position on the topic explored or to take action about something the book has addressed.

Poem about a character or event in the book—Look at various forms of poetry such as acrostics, haiku, odes, etc.

Propose legislation—If the reading revealed a need in the community, propose a piece of legislation to correct what is wrong. Support your proposal with logical arguments.

Reference book—Create it from information learned in the book and related books.

Riddles about characters or events—Share them with an audience.

Sequel or prequel to the story—What happened before the book began? After it ended?

Story rewrite—Can you put a new ending on the story? At what point in the current book will the new ending begin to unfold? Why do you like this ending?

Other Activities

Create or use a(n):

Book talk—Discuss several books that will entice other students to read them.

Book discussion, book club or literature circle to talk about the book with others—Books on some topics may lead to debates or campaigns.

Book fair—Have students showcase titles, authors and genres they’ve read.

Build or create something from the story—Pick something that is interesting to students. For example, a book about dogs might lend itself to building a doghouse; a book about frontier days might produce a rag or straw doll; a book about a million might lead to collecting or creating a million of something.

Edible book fair—Students can prepare or bring in a dish that relates to the book. For example, food arrangement or cake baked in the shape of the main character (works well if it’s an animal), or a character’s favorite dish, or food appropriate to a setting, or a type of food that’s discussed in the book such as corn in a book about Midwest farming or Tang orange drink in a book about space exploration, or even food that’s a pun on the title such as a cheese dip called “Velveeta Rabbit” based on the book “The Velveteen Rabbit”.

Graphic organizer to categorize and relate ideas—When using any of these be prepared to explain to the audience what is written to help them understand the story, important aspects and relationships, or the author’s devices.

  • Story map
  • Character map
  • Semantic feature analysis
  • Plot graph
  • Timeline or calendar

Artifacts—Have them relate to the subject such as confederate currency in a book about the Civil War or shells in a book about the seashore.

Organize a community project—If your reading has brought to mind a need in the community that young people can help with, organize a group for community service and carry it out (e.g., food or clothing collection, visiting the elderly, stories or songs on DVD, cleaning up the neighborhood, etc.).

Research the topic of the book, the time period or the author—Present the information to others in an interesting way.

Read similar books—Select books by the same author, in the same series, on the same topic, or on the same topic but in a different genre such as nonfiction or poetry and compare to the original book.