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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.

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Christian Hoffer's picture
Christian Hoffer
2nd Grade Teacher from Waverly, Ohio

I really like the list of ways to cultivate the love of reading. I use shared reading in an unusual way, we call it reader's chair. My students get to pick a book from their reading level box and read it aloud to the class. Everyone gets a chance to read and ask their peers questions afterwards. They love this type of shred reading.

Alexandria Provall's picture
Alexandria Provall
Fifth grade language teacher from Tchula, Mississippi

I found this article to be very interesting. My students listen to audio book via the Promethean board. However, I am excited about sharing the idea of organizing a Read-a-Thon with my colleagues. Great idea!

Sarah Russell's picture
Sarah Russell
I am a third grade teacher in Casa Grande, Arizona.

I am in love with your ideas! I need to start incorporating independent reading time in my classroom. Currently it is not district mandated therefore I will have to find time outside of actual reading time to incorporate it, but I find it to be very important. I also want to let my school know about creating a read-a-thon. Our school has a program called "Reading Counts" where students take quizzes on what they read and they can earn points for passing such quizzes. The points lead to awards and celebrations. I would love to put the two together for at least a one hour read-a-thon.

Ashley's picture
Ashley
4th Grade Teacher from Warrensburg, Missouri

Our school's PTO sponsor's a Read-A-Thon every year as our one and only fundraiser. Students ask people to sponsor them to read and they can donate a certain amount per minute or donate what they please. At any point in the day, our principal will call over the intercom to drop everything and read. Even the teachers must stop what they are doing and read. IT has always been a great way to get the students motivated to get back in the mode of reading after summer break. They have fun and the students begin competing to see who can read the most minutes. IT is one of my favorite weeks of the entire school year. Even the most reluctant readers get motivated to read.

Tina's picture
Tina
Reading Teacher from Garden City, Michigan

Thank you for your suggestions on how to cultivate a love of reading. As a reading support teacher I am always eager to implement new ideas into my classroom. I am especially excited to promote a Read-a-Thon at my school next month for March is reading month. The importance of sharing your reading experience with your students is so simple yet empowering. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. I not only share with my students what I am learning and reading while working on my master's degree in reading I let them see me reading at appropriate times.
Bravo for your suggestions!

Mike You's picture

The information on this blog is great. Although I have been teaching for 8 years now, the information that is presented here is very useful. Since we incorporate readers workshop in our district, we apply several reading strategies. An area I wish we can do more is in the areas of taking more field trips. Due to tight budget cuts at our district, it sometimes is a challenge.

LeeAnna Mills's picture
LeeAnna Mills
School Librarian Northside Middle -AL

I absolutely love your tips and they really will work but curious as to why there is no mention of working with your school librarian? As a school librarian we work with the entire school to promote the love of reading and help to guide students to just the right book for them while helping to explore other areas of interest. Just saying don't forget your best supporter of reading in your schools!

Sarah's picture
Sarah
Elementary School Librarian

Here are some additional things I do: Show book trailers, create book trailers that feature our school, teachers, etc., I empower my student readers by asking for student recommendations of books, reading and talking with the students about the books, going out and immediately buying the books (if they meet my selection criteria), especially series, that students ask for and then make sure the student who requested the book is (and knows they are) the first to read it, ALWAYS remember that I am not just buying books that I like! I must buy books my kids like, whether or not I like them! This is particularly important with reluctant readers - both buying books that I don't necessarily like AND listening to their interests and having them be the first to get to read a new book; I even go and get a book out of the public library and give it to a student if they are just dying to read the book. LIsten to the kids and their interests and requests. Ask about the books a student is reading when I see them in the hall, ask whether they would recommend it to other kids. Teach kids to access their library catalog information and encourage them to put books on hold and to make lists of books they want to read later in the year. Buy a very wide range of books and see which are the most popular - buying paperbacks and then adding hardcovers once it is clear the book is popular. Also, I try to be aware of what teachers are reading in their classrooms and find supplemental resources such as videos of readers theater of their books, book trailers, book websites, etc. and to offer other books in the series once a read aloud is done.

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.

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