Building a culture of reading in our classrooms is an important step to creating life long readers. Kids who enjoy reading read more. Kids who read more become better readers. Better readers enjoy reading. And the cycle continues.
This – and what I’ve seen in action in my classroom - leads me to conclude that getting kids to enjoy reading is an essential part of building good readers. So, here are some tips to helping students enjoy reading and develop the skills to be life long readers:
1. Introduce students to different genres and authors through read aloud. Exposing students to books they wouldn’t think to choose for themselves is a great way to get kids enthusiastic about reading different kinds of books. I always start the year out with a few authors that I love, to expose kids to quality books on a variety of topics. Find some of the authors I love in my blog post – Authors that Belong in All Elementary Classrooms. In addition to listening to books read aloud, I encourage my students to utilize their reading comprehension skills during read aloud, using my Read Aloud Journal. This helps kids understand that these strategies are something they do every time they “intake” information, in any format.
2. Let kids choose the book. Just as important as it is for us to expose students to books and authors that we love, it is also important to take time to let them read about something they love. My 5th grader currently LOVES World War 2 (don’t ask), so I have encouraged him to read Number the Stars, Anne Frank’s Diary, and Farwell to Manzanar. My 2nd grader is head over heals for Captian Underpants (and anything to do with bodily functions – again, don’t ask), so we have made sure he had access to the entire series. These self chosen books don’t have to just be for pleasure reading either. We are using my Generic Novel Study Packet, which works with any book, to do a full novel study on books that THEY have chosen. Knowing that there are books out there that make them happy – while keeping their teacher happy – is a priceless moment for most kids.
3. Encourage reading in other places than just paper books. Whether it’s an E-Reader, reading articles on the computer or an online magazine, there are so many places to read online books that capture the interest of your “screen kids”. My family is a Kindle family – we have 3 kindles registered to our household. However, there are TONS of other places to find online books and access to online articles. Check out my blog posts – Free E-Books for Kids and Top 10 Reading Websites for Kids to find some great places to allow kids to take reading into the virtual world, their world.
4. Get students to think and write about the books they are reading. When kids start thinking about what they are reading – connecting it to their own life experience, to movies they have read, thinking about the big ideas and themes – they not only better understand what they read, but they start to enjoy what they read more, because it now has impacted their life in a new way. One way that I help students to think about the books they are reading is by having them write responses in their weekly Reading Response Journal. With a different prompt each week, kids are encouraged to look at different parts of their books than they would normally focus on. This extension of their thinking also encourages more enjoyment in the books they read.
5. Let kids be creative with the ways that they report about a book. There are so many more ways to do a book report than simply to summarize the book in an old fashioned book report. In my class, we did Online Book Reports, where students choose to make an online project (like a Prezi or LiveBinders) or a video with the information from the book. Students get so much more engaged with the books when creating these projects and their classmates love viewing the projects. Often, after we present Online Book Reports, the books presented became the most checked out books of the class library.
6. Have kids write recommendations to each other about the books they read. Kids are much more likely to read books recommended by other kids than by us – just like we are more likely to read a book recommended by our friends than by our parents. In my class, we complete Book Review Bookmarks and hang the recommendations around the class library. Kids love choosing books recommended by their friends.
7. Read in fun places! Books – and other reading materials – are extremely portable. Have your students take their books outside to read under a tree. Read laying on your bellies. Bring in beach towels and spread them out in the grass. Read in the hallway. Encourage kids to read in the car, in bed, by the pool, wherever they can take a book. Reading in different places will give students new, hopefully pleasant, memories with their books and encourage them to try reading at many different times in many different ways.
8. Read with book buddies. Reading with older or younger students give students a chance to practice their fluency, make new friends and discover new books. The books they read with their buddies will be further cemented in their brains by this new experience and they will be encouraged to read new kinds of books and make new kinds of friends.
9. Give students a purpose for reading. Having students read to find information gives them a purpose behind their reading. Children will read books and articles that are new and challenging to them if they are dedicated to their purpose. Children working on genius projects or internet scavenger hunts have a new motivation to read things they wouldn’t even consider reading otherwise. Then, once they realize they can do it, they are motivated to read new and different things.
10. Have students keep track of their reading. Using any type of reading log helps students to keep track of how much and what kind of books they have read. Keep a year’s worth of reading logs together in one notebook and let kids look back at the end of the year, to take pride in the wide range of amazing books they have enjoyed this school year.