George Lucas Educational Foundation
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

As a classroom teacher, nurturing a love of reading in my students was almost an obsession. This continued when I had a child. Here are twelve ways to nurture a love of reading in kids.

1. Reflect on reading. We will only do things that we enjoy doing or feel are worth it. When kids have a positive reading experience -- one in which they learned something or felt deeply engrossed in a story -- guide them to name those positive experiences. They need to think and talk about the experience, to mentally register the positive impact, as this may motivate them to repeat the activity.

2. Listen to audiobooks. There are so many benefits we can glean from listening to audiobooks. We can set aside the mechanical skills we need to read and just focus on plot, characters, and accents; we can lose ourselves in a story. For struggling readers, this is a treat. This is one way to give them occasional access to age-appropriate texts and to get them hooked into reading.

3. Identify reasons for reading. We aren't going to do something we don't see a purpose for doing. The more we can engage kids in thinking about why they're doing something, the more chances we have of increasing their investment. When I taught middle school, at the beginning of the school year, I always did an activity called, "Why Read?" I asked students to generate as many reasons as they could think of for why we should read. It was fun. I challenged each class to come up with more reasons than the other classes (a light, competitive element generated sixth-grade energies). We kept these up on the wall all year.

4. Generate excitement about words. When reading with kids, identify a word or two per reading session that you can get them excited about, a new word, one that they might, or might not, want to use. Find the joy in discovering a new combination of sounds, of a word that precisely describes a feeling or place. Then, repeat it aloud, and use it in different ways. Just play with it, and have fun. Don't identify too many words per reading session, just one or two will do. Reading is all about words. (On that note, for younger kids, see this beautiful picture book, The Boy Who Loved Words.)

5. Learn about what boys need. My approach to teaching reading in middle school changed radically after I read, Reading Don't Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men by Michael Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm. As I implemented ideas based on this book, I saw my male students' interest and appreciation for reading skyrocket. I've applied these same ideas while raising my son. Essentially, it's offering them lots of nonfiction and texts that have practical application -- and it has worked for my son, too.

6. Read educational graphic novels. Offer kids a variety of genres, including educational graphic novels. Two very popular and exceptionally well-written graphic novels are: Resistance, a three-part graphic novel about the French resistance to the Nazis, and Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, a three-part graphic novel about the Boxer Rebellion. My son has read each of these several times.

7. Read books over and over. Many young children love hearing the same book over and over. Continue this practice as kids get older. Give older kids permission to read books again and again. Ask them what they're experiencing as they reread books: What new insights do they get from the story? How do they see things differently? What did they appreciate this time?

8. Ask kids for their opinion. Ask kids how you think you could nurture their love of reading. Engage them in this process as an active participant. Ask them what gets them excited about reading, what makes them love it. The next suggestion was my 12-year-old son's suggestion when I asked him for his opinion.

9. Talk about the story. During the story, stop and talk with kids about what's happening. Talk about the characters. Ask them to make predictions. Ask them to make connections. These are all basic reading comprehension strategies, but they are also strategies to get kids more deeply engaged in the reading.

10. Teach kids how to read. When I began teaching sixth grade, I undertook a three-year action research project about how I could nurture a love of reading in my students. One of the unexpected findings I arrived at was that I needed to make sure I was explicitly teaching my students how to read. Appreciating narratives, words, character development, or whatever we learned from nonfiction texts wasn't enough. My kids wouldn't love doing something that was really hard. I had to make sure I knew their reading levels and that I helped them fill the gaps in their reading skills.

11. Model being a reader. Teachers and parents: read in front of your kids. Talk about reading. Talk about why you read. Make connections between your life and the world and things you've read. Model how reading enriches your life -- maybe through your ability to read recipes, or to assemble a piece of furniture, or to research a question on the internet.

12. Take fieldtrips related to reading. Go to the library for a field trip, (or go on the weekends, parents). Go to a bookstore just to hang out and browse the books. Walk around and talk to kids about what you're seeing in the library or bookstore. What calls your attention? Which titles? Which book covers? Ask them what they notice. Read the backs of books. Get excited. Flip through books. Wander into a section you'd never go to. Send kids on a treasure hunt: find a book about stamp collecting, find a book about ancient Rome, find a memoir by someone with whom you have something in common.

What has worked for you to nurture a love of reading in your students or children? Please share in the comments section below.

Was this useful? (2)

Comments (11) Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Conversations on Edutopia (11) Sign in or register to comment

Leona Hinton's picture

When I was a kid my favorite book was The Cartoon Classics Collection Volume 1: The Flintstones Bedtime Storybook and after years I understand why: this wonderful and bright book is interesting to read at any age. My mom loves this book, I love it and I'm sure that my kids will also love these bedtime stories. It's important to find exactly that one book which will nurture a lifelong love of reading in your child.

Adriana S.'s picture

I especially love that you included information about learning what boys need, and the field trips related to reading. Connecting the ideas in the story to the children's real world can ensure the information is interesting and long lasting in their experience. Here is my short blog post about my love of reading that welcomes any new ideas about fostering a love of reading in students. Thanks from one educator to another!

Annie Rutledge's picture

I agree that nurturing a love of reading should a top priority in the classroom. As an extension of "reflect on reading" and "identify reasons for readings," I think incorporating multicultural books is a valuable way for students to have a positive reading experience and reflect on why they should read. Diversity in texts is very important for young students. Books can act as "mirrors," allowing readers to seem images and reflections of their own lives. Books can also act as "windows" that allow readers to see the lives of others. One of the great values of books is that they have the power to build bridges of cultural understanding.

SaraU's picture

Try a little "competition" with a sibling to get them interested in reading! I wish we would have thought of this years ago. Older son was begging to stay up later than younger son, so we said older son could read quietly in his room for an extra 15-20 minutes with a book light at bedtime, so as not to disturb younger son down the hall. It has worked!! Older son now brags about how late he stayed up reading, asked for books for Christmas, asked to go to the library - WOW! All from a kid who never would read for fun, but will if he can beat his brother at something. Maybe your kids are hankering for a little literary competition too?!

emeagher's picture

At the risk of being too self promoting, encourage your students to discover new books, express themselves about books they find interesting and find other kid readers at DOGObooks - a COPPA compliant platform which acts like a "Goodreads" for Kids.

Jeff's picture
Ecommerce executive passionate about education

I still remember back in elementary school our teacher read us a chapter of The Hobbit at around noon. The whole class was so engaged in the way he read the novel. Each one of us - even the troublemakers would listen. At the end of each chapter we'd beg him to continue!

I think a great way to nurture the love of reading in young people is to simply set aside half an hour - hour each day and read to your class or your kids. Make them fall in love with the art of story telling and reading.

Laura's picture

Reading this article makes me so proud of the school I work at! I think our approach to reading is so in line with the strategies you discuss. At UCDS we foster such a love of reading throughout our whole school. Our entire curriculum is based around a central theme each year (e.g., "Illuminate," and "Thread") that we support with interesting, rich read-aloud books. These are the basis for all of our lessons--integrating characters and concepts from the books across disciplines to create stories for math problems and to inspire writing prompts, etc. I love the ideas you include in this article for even more ways to get kids to love reading. Our school has several iPads that we have access to--I wonder if using these for audiobooks during some of our free-choice time would be an effective way to further engage early readers that aren't decoding yet on their own? Thanks for the great ideas!

Laura Henneghan

meganann0403's picture

As a Kindergarten teacher, I am always interested in reading about more ways to foster a love for reading in the classroom. Part of the curriculum is to teach my Kinders reasons for reading. Sometimes we are reading for fun and sometimes we are reading to gain information. I like the idea of taking students on field trips related to reading. Unfortunately, we do not get to take our students on field trips often. I think children can benefit a lot from the real world experiences. Students should get the opportunity to visit a local library and/or book store. I know several of my students have not been to a library outside of our school media center. I wish we were able to take the students to these places! I think another thing that really keeps my children wanting to read is allowing them to choose their books - self-selected reading time. When we go to the library as a class, I let students choose what they want to check out. They all have different interests and they shouldn't be forced to read certain books all the time.

Cgoddard's picture

Hi, Ms. Aguilar! I stumbled upon your blog today in search for more information and insight into adolescent literacy. I recently read an article by Gay Ivey called, "Texts That Matter." The article really drew me into the ideas and thoughts behind the importance of choosing texts for students to motivate them in reading. I teach students in kindergarten through second grade who have disabilities, mainly in reading. I find it comparable to the saying of "pulling teeth" to get my students interested in reading, especially since it is so difficult for them. The school where I work has an adopted reading series for students to learn through each week. I find the stories to sometimes be engaging, but other times very boring or not interesting to them. I really like your blog post with the different ways to get students to love reading. I am a firm believer in finding texts that are interesting to the student. Unfortunately it can be hard to make time in the school day to teach the required text and also pull in the different resources to reach students. It takes so much time looking for books for each student that are not only of their interest, but also on their Lexile level! I really like your idea of using audiobooks! I think this would be especially helpful, because it could be a center in my classroom. While teaching the required texts, I could incorporate a listening center of students' interests. I usually have a listening center, but to be honest, it is usually just a random story! I also like your #4 point to generate excitement about words! I think teachers (myself included) teach new words and then move on, but if we made it exciting to add words to our vocabulary, maybe they would actually "stick" with our students. I try to make real-life connections and give students ideas of how to use new words at home to teach their families new words. Anyway, I really enjoyed your blog and I am going to send the link to my teacher friends. Thanks for sharing!!

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.