How to Get Kids to WANT to Read
Teachers are at a loss when it comes to motivating students to read outside of class. It’s hard enough to get them to do homework, but reading isn’t something they hand in, so therefore it’s often pushed aside or thought of as “extra work”. They know they aren’t being graded on reading, so why do it?
Here is my advice to foster a love of reading in your room:
Act Like Reading is Cool!
English and reading teachers especially, talk about reading like it’s your favorite thing to do. Make your kids view it as a hobby instead of a job. Discuss its importance and explain, with enthusiasm, why it’s so vital that they become strong readers. Show them the stats that demonstrate how readers are more successful in other areas of life, and get them excited about it too!
I have a spot in my room where I have a sign that says, “What’s Miss Bubb Reading?” and here I print off pictures of the covers of books I am reading at any given time. This prompts students to ask me about the book I have posted, and it’s a constant reminder that I also place a large emphasis on reading in my life.
Have Book Talks:
Every Friday I choose a couple books to introduce to my classes. Sometimes I just read the cover, other times I will read the first chapter aloud, and other times I just talk about why I enjoyed it and who I think will like it. You can really do this any way you want, depending on how much time you have to work with. I have my kids read independently year round, so sometimes I will have one or two students do their own book talk in order to share with the class what their peers are reading.
This is effective because half the battle when getting kids to read is that they don’t know what to pick. They don’t know what they like or where to go to find a book that’s at the right level for them. This ensures that they are exposed to many different genres of books.
Implement an Independent Reading Program:
I cannot stress enough how important independent reading is. It’s difficult to find time in a curriculum, I know, but when your goal is to foster lifelong readers it’s vital to figure out a way for your students to have time to read a book of their choice.
Maybe you can have them ready for the first 10 minutes of class every day, or if that’s too much time away from content, pick one day a week where they have time to read. Another option is to have an entire unit focused on just independent reading. If you choose this option you will have more time to really dig into how to choose books, how good readers read, and how to talk about books.
For a few years, I had my 8th graders read at least one book independently every 10 weeks. My only requirement was that it was at least 100 pages, and they had one assignment at the 5-week mark, and by the end of the 10 weeks, they conferenced with me on their novel. This worked well, but I was finding myself overwhelmed at the end of every marking period with students wanting a conference. Another problem with this was that the kids who didn’t do the 5-week assignment or the conference had a zero for independent reading, and it plummeted their grades. Instead, this year I made it even more simple. Each day, instead of a recess, my 8th graders have “home base”, which is a short period of about 13 minutes. Students read their independent reading book for 10 minutes, and then they log a quick summary of what they read. I’m not saying this is the best way to implement SSR (silent sustained reading), but it’s what I am trying right now. The benefit is that it’s a lot easier for me to grade quickly, and at the same time it’s a non-threatening assessment that lets me know that they are reading.
Don’t Kill the Book:
A lot of times teachers spend a full semester hammering on just one novel. For kids who don’t read on their own, this is their only experience with reading, and it makes it feel like a lot of work. If your class novel is really dense and you need to spend a lot of time fleshing it out, maybe just pick a few different passages rather than the entire thing. Another idea is to let kids read and get to their final assignment at their own pace instead of having a rigid schedule.
This is also why I am trying to not attach too much assessment to my independent reading program right now because I want it to be something they enjoy, not something they feel they are forced to do. I’m basically trying to trick them into liking books
Give Them Choices:
I already mentioned letting students choose their books, but also let them choose their form of assessment. Give a few different options for a final project or essay topic. This helps boost confidence because they are able to pick what they think they will excel at. Choices could be anything from creating a video to performing a skit. Give them the opportunity to be creative and choose what they want to do, and you will be amazed.
Read our previous blog post discussing 5 Tips for Collaborating with Teachers here
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This article is written by Lauren Bubb, an English Teacher at Frankfort-Schuyler Central Schools
To reach Lauren, please contact here.