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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
The author's son discovers new books stores and new books.

As a teacher, I was obsessed with cultivating a love of reading in my students. I love to read, loved it as a kid too. I'm equally compelled to ensure that my own child loves reading -- and he does. I well aware that I'm on a mission -- but I also know it's a worthy one!

Here are ten suggestions for how any teacher, teaching any subject can participate in this mission, and how parents and administrators can help.

  1. Read. Simple first step! If we're going to encourage kids to read we need to do it too. Read for pleasure, information, instructions, connecting with others, and so on. Read. Read a little more than you've been reading lately.
  2. Share your reading experiences. Share with colleagues, friends and students. Tell them what you've been reading, what you've gained or learned from these texts, what you recommend. As a teacher, I very intentionally and regularly told my students what I was reading, where I read, ("in the bath!"); I brought in the books I read, I read passages to them, I read during silent reading, I told them about how I couldn't wait for the weekend so that I could read, about my book club arguments, the stories my husband I read aloud to each other...and so on. Help them see what a reader does. Also -- I recently discovered Goodreads where you can share, get recommendations, and read reviews that friend have written -- I had so much fun on this site and was reminded of how socializing and reading are a perfect match. If you are on Goodreads, or join, find me there! I'd love to hear about what you're reading. I also wonder if there's an equivalent for kids to use -- anyone know?
  3. Invite students to socialize around reading. Set up book clubs, reading groups, literature circles. Many students (especially boys) need to interact with each other around texts. It greatly enhances their comprehension and makes it so much more enjoyable. Adults know that (we join book clubs and spend hours on Goodreads) so let's help kids have this experience too.
  4. Organize a Read-a-Thon. A beautiful event that parents and administrators can take a lead on setting up. My son's school recently did a Read-a-Thon and it was the highlight of the year for my boy. Kids wore PJs, took their pillows and stuffed animals to school, were invited to re-read their favorite books or select a "challenge book." Parents supplied snacks, teachers and administrators read. It was fun and community building and they raised a lot of money.
  5. Take a field trip. This is another way to make reading social and exciting. Visit your local library, a university library or a bookstore. It's not about checking out or buying books -- it's about being surrounded by thousands of books, touching their gorgeous pages, seeing the world of possibility in print, salivating over what there is to know and explore. In my family, we often take weekend trips to explore different bookstores in the area. We make it an adventure and talk about what constitutes a "good bookstore;" it's just fun. This is another event that parents can organize and administrators can support or encourage.
  6. Listen to audio books. Invite students to listen to them; play short passages. To me, audio books "count" as reading. While you're not developing decoding or fluency skills, you are acquiring vocabulary, applying comprehension strategies, and enjoying stories or accruing information. Some of the audio books I've listened to have stuck with me in ways that reading text hasn't. My mind was free to visualize the scenes in a way that creating lasting images. (One such book like this was Native Son by Richard Wright. A phenomenal listen).
  7. Invite authors to speak. Another activity that can be supported by admin and parents. Kids can be greatly impacted from hearing an author (if possible, especially one from a similar background to theirs) speak about reading and writing.

     

  8. Make connections between reading and other issues. I just read this this fascinating article in Harper's about how people in Mali hid their ancient sacred texts as Islamic militants took over Timbuktu. Books and reading have always been political (think banned books, prohibitions on slaves becoming literate, etc.). Help students see the wider, historical and political context of the importance of reading to enhance their appreciation.
  9. Learn about specific needs for specific populations. Those responsible for teaching literacy also need professional development in how to serve specific vulnerable populations. One book that dramatically changed how I taught reading in middle school is Reading Don't Fix No Chevys, by Wilhelm and Smith. If you teach boys, you must read this book! Another equally impactful book for me was Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males, by A. Tatum. We need to meet the needs of all learners.
  10. Teach reading strategies. Finally, I believe that all teachers, in every content area, should be responsible for teaching reading. Text genres are different in every content area -- teachers should receive PD in how to teach reading strategies so that they can do so with students. Kids won't enjoy reading if they can't do it -- no one loves doing something that's really hard. We must give them the skills to read at the same time that we cultivate an attitude.

There's so much more we can all do -- from the superintendent to the classroom teacher, the custodian to the parent's association. I'm tempted to turn this list into "20 things..." but I'll stop here and invite your participation!

Teaches, how do you cultivate a love of reading? Administrators, what do you do towards this end? Parents, how do you do this with your own children? Please comment in the section below.

Comments (28)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jeanette Stickel's picture
Jeanette Stickel
I'm a speech therapist in public schools

Wonderful suggestions!

You asked, "how do you cultivate a love of reading?" I use books with my students in speech therapy sessions and they seem to "catch" my love of books. The younger students often ask, repeatedly, for certain books. It seems the more I love a story, the more the students want to hear it. I think we can pass on our love of a book with our own enthusiasm.

Vivianne Fogarty's picture
Vivianne Fogarty
Librarian in a K - 6 school

Great ideas in your list to engage students with reading. As educators, we all need to excite our students with reading and teach literacy skills. I also think school libraries, especially when properly staffed with trained teacher librarians and library technicians are a key factor in providing a wide variety of reading materials for our students - picture books, fiction, non-fiction, magazines and graphic novels. We also need to promtoe ereading on devices, audio books as well as databases like Tumblebooks. Another book that people should read is The Power of Reading by Stephen Krashen - excellent book about FVR - Free Voluntary Reading.

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

Rule 1: Never force any kid to engage in Reading. Surest way to kill any potential love of reading, good intentions aside..
Rule 2: Never a test nor a grade for Reading. Follow this and some of your kids might read for enjoyment, some for learning, and sadly some b/c despite our good measures someone in the family might still push Reading.

zortizfuentes's picture
zortizfuentes
Former middle and high school English teacher.

I blog about Resistant Readers and how I cultivate a love of reading in zortizfuentes.wordpress.com

sheila schlesinger's picture

Great article. Give children a reason to read and to write; have a pen pal, put together anything that has instructions, follow baseball stats or any other sport, write a short story-writing improves reading.
Provide as many opportunities in the real world to read and to write.

Ruchita Parat's picture
Ruchita Parat
US Hindi Foundation organizes interactive and exciting summer camps for kid

Nice suggestions Elena.
Reading is necessary for children to learn new things and as we know most of the children just hate it and get bored of it after some time. So, we should try to adapt new ideas for making it interesting for children.
These ideas will help me a lot for my summer camps for kids.
Thanks for sharing these ideas.

Daneesha Rollison's picture
Daneesha Rollison
Fourth Grade Teacher in Jacksonville, NC

Growing up, I loved to read, and I used every spare minute to read! I still read often, and every year, I try to think of ways to exude my love for reading, and encourage my students to read more. The strategies shared by you and the others are incredible! I have used a few of these reading tips, but others such as hosting a Read-a-Thon or having students form book clubs, sound like great ways to spark an interest for reading in students. I saw a post from Sarah, about using book trailers! That sounds like such a great idea. We have a daily news show, and I can see us using that as a platform to have students share their favorite books and stories. In the past, I have allowed students to blog with me about a book that we have read together. This is very similar to meeting in a reading group or book club and it integrated technology. I hope to use more of these strategies in the future!

Mary Clark's picture
Mary Clark
Middle School Library Media Tech

Hmm, I wonder if your school library staff might be able to help with any of this? Or does your school not have a staffed library? Very sad, but increasingly common. Teachers at my middle school look to me, the library media tech, to promote reading with book talks, book trailers, student reviews, displays, etc. Our library is truly the heart of the school when it comes to reading promotion!

To answer your question in point #2 (library staff love to answer questions, too!) Biblionasium is a kid-friendly site similar to Goodreads. https://www.biblionasium.com/

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

Sometimes it takes just one book to turn a kid into a reader.

For me, it was Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time." I idly picked it up at the school library, and it blow me away. I didn't know books could be like that, and the book transformed me into a voracious reader overnight.

Lisa Dabbs's picture
Lisa Dabbs
Edu Consultant. Blogger & Social Media Marketing at Edutopia
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

I belonged to the childrens "Book of the Month Club" as a little girl Grateful to my Dad for signing me up. I couldn't wait to get that next new book, open the box, smell the pages and dig into reading. Most of the books were the classics, and I loved them. From Black Beauty to Bambi, I read them all. Funny, but as an older middle schooler, I'd sneak my Dad's monthly selections such as Rosemary's Baby and Mephisto's Waltz off to bed to read when all were asleep. He caught me reading Valley of the Dolls one day and that put an end to that. Never the less, I have great ,memories of sharing the love of reading with my own son's and won't ever forget it. They've grown into quite literate lovers of reading, and I'm grateful that the time I out in, paid off! Wish that were true for all parents, but teachers can do SO much to instill the love the reading in their students, too. Bravo, Elena!

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