Create a treasure hunt. Give them 10-20 questions, asking them to search for a variety of information in their textbooks. Questions should make it so students have to use the Table of Contents, Index, Glossary, and any other additional information your textbook might include.
Here is a sample of some questions you could ask.
1. What is the title of Chapter 9?
2. On what page does Chapter 6 begin?
3. How does the glossary define abolition?
4. List all the pages in our text where abolition is mentioned.
5. What is the graph on page 536 showing?
6. On page 23, what word is in italics? Why is it in italics?
Let the students work in pairs. They fly through the textbooks, trying to find the information. They are learning the shortcuts to use when they seek answers or information. This is especially helpful for your poorer readers. BUT... all students are familiarizing themselves with the material the course will cover. (You might pick out some things from your text that are high interest for students and make sure that is part of the treasure hunt.)
Have some gum or a mint for the first pair to finish. (Sometimes, I give a little bigger prize to the first pair to finish and something smaller for everyone who finishes. The goal is, after all, to have everyone familiarize themselves with the textbook.)
This is a great activity for the first days of school.