Every elementary school teacher is a reading teacher and is essential in helping each child on his or her reading journey. When we provide the resources to meet the literacy needs of our students beginning as early as prekindergarten, students and teachers will feel both confident and competent in teaching and learning to read.
While helping students learn to read, it is also important to create a love of reading. Students who read voluntarily report less negativity about reading than those who are required to read.
Motivation is the key in promoting a love of literacy in children. One of the best resources I have found for creating motivation is a shelf filled with books that match students’ interest level and reading level. They should be surrounded by titles that reflect the lives of themselves as well as their classmates. When students find titles with characters that look like them and families that resemble their own or their neighbors, their interest level increases. Making these connections also increases student comprehension.
Students should be provided with books that represent all genres so that they can determine what they most enjoy reading. Unless a child is given the opportunity to read poetry, mysteries, historical fiction, biographies, autobiographies, and science fiction, he or she may not know all of the types of stories that are created for readers of all ages. Student book choice is the first step in getting children hooked on reading. When students have ownership of their reading, successful, independent readers begin to bloom.
Teachers can be the best book matchmakers for their students. While teachers are building relationships with their students in the beginning of the year, they can also conduct one-on-one interviews or give interest surveys to each child. This practice will help teachers learn the strengths, challenges, likes, and dislikes of their students. This information helps teachers select the best book to spark a child’s interest in reading.
Peers can be a great resource for helping students find what books they will love to read. Encourage classmates to be book matchmakers by creating personalized book recommendations for their peers. It's easy to create a recommendation template that can be stacked in the class book nook. When students find a book they think would match the interests and hobbies of classmates, they can fill out the personalized book recommendation form and give it to their classmate.
Literacy diagnostic tools such as running records or anecdotal notes can also be used to understand the instructional and independent reading levels of students. During one-on-one or small-group reading instruction, teachers can note the reading behaviors they observe, including any errors made during reading, students’ responses to comprehension questions, or details about their expression, tone, or reading rate.
Through daily guided reading, teachers can introduce students to high-interest instructional text across genres. Daily individualized reading practice gives students the opportunity to read books of choice on their independent reading level and grow as readers. Introduce children to multiple genres of books during small-group reading instruction. When children find a book of interest, they can turn the book into their choice book for independent reading time.
Background knowledge about a topic or subject matter can help students engage in the reading. For example, if a child has never been to a farm, he or she may not understand how the setting of the barn is crucial to the plot of a story that takes place on a farm. If a student has no prior knowledge about the roaring twenties, he or she will not fully comprehend an article about the Great Depression. Making stories and articles relevant to everyday life and current events is one more way to increase background knowledge. In order to build background knowledge before reading, teachers should consider taking students on virtual or live field trips or giving them access to real objects.
Assume that students have no understanding of the vocabulary words or content of the text. Allow them to make predictions, make connections, and ask questions before every reading experience to gauge their knowledge. These three comprehension strategies inform a teacher of the students’ proficiency about a particular topic. Encourage readers to use the title and pictures to make a prediction about what the book is about before reading it. During reading, students confirm their prediction and make a connection. Ask questions such as, “What does this text remind you of?” or “What is going to happen next?” to build comprehension.
Give students daily experiences in instructional guided reading, independent reading, and choice. Exposure them to culturally relevant and diverse genres, and guide them with comprehension strategies to enhance a love of reading.