4 Strategies to Help Your Students Love Reading
We all tend to like what we are already good at doing. This is particularly true when it comes to reading. Generally, strong readers like to read and weaker readers don’t like to read. So, how do you help your students become stronger readers? By supporting them to become stronger…by getting them to read.
I know. I know. I know. It sounds like a chicken-or-egg first type of conundrum. But it doesn’t have to be! The absolute best place to start is to make it possible for your students to love reading. Bear with me here; I will explain.
Take a moment to think about something at which you excel. You probably don’t remember a time when you weren’t very good at it. You excel because you found joy in it and ultimately stuck with it – getting better each time. The very act of doing it repeatedly propelled your abilities forward.
Even if all of your students aren’t strong readers yet, they can still grow to like, or even fall in love, with reading. It takes time and consistent practice. This, in turn, will help them become stronger readers. And this will deepen your student’s interest in reading, since we typically like what we are good at doing.
How do you know if your students love to read? These are the students who pull out a book when waiting in a long lunch line, always have a book for the bus ride home, or is excited to share about the book they’re reading. So, how can you foster a love of reading in all your students— those who already love it and those who haven’t fallen in love yet?
1. Let your students select their own independent reading books and help them find books that interest them.
On the journey to love reading, students must first enjoy what they are reading. This means allowing students to select their own reading materials. You can help them by making suggestions based on what you know about their interests. But let your students decide what to read when they are doing independent reading or reading for pleasure. Yes, there will always be reading assignments in your classroom or specific texts you want them to read. That reading is incredibly important. But to foster the love of reading, students need to decide to pick up a book when they have free time. They are more likely to do that when they get to select the book. Your students have many different interests, from fiction to non-fiction, graphic novels to biographies, fashion to astronauts, sports to technology. There are books out there to meet any child’s interest. You can help them find good options from which they can choose.
2. Make it easy to access books and other reading materials.
Use the resources available to you to offer a variety of reading materials accessible to your students at school and at home. As you start discovering the types of reading your students are most interested in, make sure you have them in your classroom library. Have a check-out system that allows students to take reading material home to enjoy. If you have a budget for books, use it! Don’t forget about getting magazine and newspaper subscriptions that are geared toward your students’ reading levels. If money is not available, get creative! Use any electronic devices you have to access books. Many apps are available to access free books, including the Open eBooks app available to all students attending a school that receives Title I funding. There are also public libraries in most communities. Beyond these resources, many grant opportunities are available that don’t require much time. Check out some of the many resources available here.
3. Help your students get lost in their books.
Students must read. I mean really read in order to have a chance at falling in love with reading. Create stretches of time of at least 20 minutes when students can read, free from distraction. Distractions can include music, other students talking or moving around them, or other assignments out on their desks. They also need good lighting. Some will say they can read with music or other noises. That’s not true for most, and certainly not likely with reluctant readers. You want to set up the environment so your students have the best chance of getting lost in the book they are reading. Turn off the music, take out the headphones, and turn on the lights!
4. Model what it is like to love reading.
James Baldwin once said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Kids pick up cues from the adults around them. When you go to the library or bookstore for your students, don’t forget to pick up a book for yourself. Pick up books, magazines, or newspapers that interest you. Talk to students about the books you are reading. Read the books you have collected for your students so you can make better recommendations. Be the type of reader you want your students to be.
Students who read for fun and love reading will enjoy many positive outcomes, including building stronger reading habits which lead to greater success in all academic areas. But reading has an impact beyond academics. Leisure readers have the world opened up to them through books, become more creative and imaginative thinkers, and can make connections and empathize with the stories of people unlike them. Just think about the impact, if we can collectively raise a generation who not only reads well, but reads often.
Amanda J. A. Johnson (pictured above) is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at KIPP Delta Public Schools