One of the first things that I did to improve reading and writing skills while engaging students is create a classroom blog. I use http://21classes.com it is free and protected. Only my students and myself can see this blog. Since I teach elementary students, I don't want everyone in the world seeing their blog post. The great thing about 21classes is you must preview and allow all post before students can see them.
This improves writing skills because it is public-everyone in the class will see your post. I do not allow students to use informal language in this format. Blogging also requires the student to reflect on his or her reading.
Here was the blog post that students had to reflect on today for chapters 1-3 of "Blood on the River Jamestown 1607": Was it right or wrong for Samuel to steal his mother's locket from the pawn shop? Explain your answer.