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Of course, we all want our students to become readers - we want them to read way beyond the classroom, not just when they have to, but also because they want to. In many ways, that is becoming more and more difficult. While the emphasis the Common Core gives on informational text will likely benefit our kids in many ways, in many classrooms, it is at the expense of fiction. Large amounts of standardized testing only adds to the problem. What can we do to instill a love of reading in our students? Here are 10 suggestions.
Make your classroom a reading Mecca. Your classroom library should be well organized, inviting, and constantly evolving. Rotate in seasonal books. Stock books that are popular with your students, grab new and interesting titles. Make book check out easy. Decorate your classroom with motivational sayings/posters about reading. Get kids excited about book orders with a scavenger hunt or other activity.
Don't lose read aloud time, even in the upper grades. It is really quite lovely to be read aloud to. Personally, I think my love of reading probably stems from my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Watson, who found the best books to read out loud. Two great strategies he had: He almost always picked a book in the middle of a series to read. Instead of reading us The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, he read us The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Of course, I had to read the rest of the series. If he wasn't reading a book from a series, he selected an author with many other books in print. Again, I had to have more. The other thing he did was to stop reading at a cliff hanger. We could not wait for the next day to find out what happened.
Don't lose silent reading time - whether you call it SSR (Silent Sustained Reading), DEAR (Drop Everything And Read), DIRT (Dear, It's Reading Time), NIB (Nose In Book) or whatever, don't let it fall by the wayside in favor of instruction time. For some of your students, this may be the only time during the day that they read for pleasure. Develop a system so that you know that every student has a book. Allow students to read away from their desks - if you can manage pillows, beanbags, cozy reading nooks, all the better. And be a good model - read read yourself!
Allow your students (especially reluctant readers) to read whatever they want, as long as it is school appropriate. Comic books, graphic novels, joke books, books about TV shows or movies, books that focus on things that are gross, books that have the word, "butt" or "underpants" in their titles, etc. Good literature is important and hopefully, all your students will get to a place where they will love and appreciate it, but for the student who is still struggling to sound out words, making sure the content is fun and motivating is super important.
Make reading at home easy. Most teachers require students to read at home for a given number of minutes per day. Whatever system you use to track it, make it easy. If it is too complicated, parents will either skip it, or fill out your form with fake numbers.
Don't make reading for pleasure into extra work. Avoid requiring students to write book reports or answer a bunch of comprehension questions about the books they read for pleasure. If you would like some accountability, below are two FREE possibilities (just click the images to download).
Take advantage of movies that were books first, which does't mean spending valuable class time to watch them. But, you could make sure to have several copies of the book available before the release of the movie and during the run. You could also create extra credit assignments based around comparing the book to the movie. Another idea is to keep a lending library of DVDs of movies that were first books. A student would only be allowed to borrow the movie after he/she had read the book.
Use audio books to motivate reluctant readers. One strategy is to allow students to only listen to the first chapter or two. If they want to know what happens next, they will need to read the book.
Avoid competitons and rewards. This one is up for debate, but in my opinion, reading is one of those things that really should be its own reward, right from the start, at least for most kids. There may be a few where a reward system for number of pages or books read makes sense, and it could be that external rewards at first lead to an intrinsic love of reading, but I would only use a reward system if deemed necessary. I also am not a fan public competitions where it is clear to everyone how many books each student has read. Some kids read fluently from the start, others struggle. It isn't fair to pit them against each other.
Find ways for kids to share. It could be an after school book club, pair sharing what you've been reading, making video book reviews or any number of other things. One of my favorites is to have everyone get in a circle right after silent reading time. Go around the circle and have each student hold up his/her book and say one sentence about it. It often helps to give a prompt such as, "I like this book because...." or "One interesting thing about his book is..."
How do you motivate student reading your classroom? Please share with a comment.