This week I read some amazing articles on motivating students to read. I learned a lot and some of my thoughts about teaching reading were reinforced. I got some new ideas and thought critically about my previous beliefs.
I truly feel that our job as educators is to develop those life-long readers. It is our responsibility to help our students grow. We don’t have a choice in this matter – as educators it is our duty to motivate students and allow them to develop into readers.
But, how do we do that?
My Steps for Developing Life-Long Readers
I think there are four elements needed to create passionate, life-long readers. We must complete them daily, repeatedly, and in new and innovative ways. These steps are..
Talk about reading – their reading and our reading
Talking about reading is vital and essential! We need to show our students through our actions and our conversations that reading is important. We
should ask students what they are reading and honestly listen. We need to talk about elements of stories, interesting nonfiction, and allow them to teach us about what they love to read. We also need to allow our students to talk to each other about their reading. Let them share with a neighbor the newest book in their hands or the book they stayed up too late to read. Validate their experiences with books they didn’t finish or didn’t like (we all have been there), but help them move on to the next book that might be a match. Conversation about reading is essential to developing life-long readers.
Share our excitement about books and drum up their excitement about books
This goes along with the first element – sharing our excitement about reading is sharing what we are reading with students. Book talks, book trailers, and conversations with students will show them that we practice what we preach. We should strive to be that crazy reading teacher who won’t stop talking about the newest book. We also need to encourage their excitement about reading. Let them do a book talk – not graded, just share what they read. Allow them to “sell” the book they LOVE to their friends. Excitement breeds excitement. This is true in life and especially in our reading lives.
Set challenging and realistic goals to motivate our students.
Ever really want something that is just outside of your ability? Didn’t you work hard to attain that goal? We should set goals with our students that ask them to expand their horizons, stretch their reading comforts, and be something that has high interest for them. We should help them to set goals that they can reach when they put in that extra little push of reading muscle. Maybe their goal is to read a certain number of books. Or a certain number of pages. Or to read widely and read various genres. Maybe their challenge and goal is to find that one book they can not believe they never read. Maybe their challenge is to write about what they have read. There are endless goals out there – it is our duty to help students articulate these goals and create plans to reach them.
LET THEM CHOOSE!
If you are a long-time reader of Oz and Other Lands, you will know that I fully support the concept of choice reading. You will also notice that I cite Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) and other educators who advocate for not creating lists of “required reading”. If you haven’t read all of those gems (rants?), go visit the archives and find some of the thoughts these wonderful educators have inspired.
But, here is the long and short of it: let students choose. Countless authors, researchers, teachers, and bloggers have found that when students choose their reading, they are more engaged and they actually want to read the books they have. Choice reading should be encouraged in all classrooms – reading or any other subject. If you have done justice to the other three elements (talking about reading, drumming up excitement about books, and setting challenging but attainable goals), this probably has been one of the key tools you have used. If not, you should try it. I promise that your students will surprise you, read things they never would have read before, and develop and grow into life-long readers.
That was a bit longer than I expected, but I find that I am super passionate about this. We are obligated to create a generation of humans who read, share their knowledge, and act compassionately. It is vital to our well-being and to our society. Talk about books and reading. Get excited about the topic with students. Help them set goals that are attainable but still challenging. Let them choose what they read to reach their goal.
I firmly, wholeheartedly believe that when we do that, we do justice to our profession and students.