George Lucas Educational Foundation
Student Engagement

Ten Ways to Cultivate a Love of Reading in Students

Ten suggestions for how any teacher, teaching any subject can participate in this mission, and how parents and administrators can help.
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, 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!

Teachers, 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.

About the Author
Share This Story

Comments Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Conversations on Edutopia (0) Sign in or register to comment

sheryl mahoney's picture

I found the article to be very informative and inspiring. in cultivating a love of reading in students, it is indeed important for parents and teachers to model good reading habits at all times. Thus we will be able to share our experiences with them. There are also several reading strategies that as teacher we can use to pull on students background knowledge so that they can take part in formulating stories. This gives especially struggling readers an opportunity to read what they have dictated and to build their self-esteem. I liked the fact that in the ten ways of cultivating a love for reading in students that field trips were mentioned. This gives the students a chance to socialize with each other and to encourage visits to the library where they will get a chance to choose reading materials together opening a way for discussion to be enhanced. "One forgets words as one forgets names. One's vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die'. Cultivating a love for reading is a key way that one's vocabulary can be enriched. If one is not able to read he or she will find it difficult to comprehend. It is important that teachers make reading fun. Students should be allowed to make their own book selections.
As a literacy teacher in training it is essential that I incorporate a variety of methods that can be used to arouse the interest of all students. Reading can be enhanced at home if parents take time to read with their children. It is important that parents model good reading habits for their own children from a tender age, thus they will be able to develop a positive attitude towards reading. It is critical that parents and teachers be motivational and get involved in their children and students learning. Children should be given the opportunity to read from different genres of books and at the same time be allowed to make their own book selections.
At school teachers can engage students in a reading club, where students are able to read in groups and interact with each other by re-telling the story that they had read, which enhances their vocabulary development and reading fluency. There is also the drop every and read method that teachers can use to engage students in reading. Thus students and teachers alike will be encouraged to stop all that they were doing and read a book. This encourages children and build on their reading skills. Organizing a read-a- thon is a good way to get students involved in their own reading, thus cultivating and promoting good reading habits.

Shantana Mullings's picture
Shantana Mullings
Teacher Education Literacy Major at Northern Caribbean Univerity

I have thoroughly read this article and found the various ways suggested to "Cultivate a Love of reading in Children" to be quiet interesting and engaging for students. I have no doubt in mind that if not all, most of the ways suggested will be a good cultivator for the love of reading in students.
The article also provided information on various ways that teachers as well as parents could employ in order to cultivated the love for reading in their children/students. Indeed, I do believe that the love for reading is something that needs to be cultivated to get individuals, especially our students/children inside of the classroom to be not only extrinsically motivated, but intrinsically motivated as well.
Imparting the love for reading in a child is perhaps the greatest gift a parent can give. Early literacy is associated with success in school. Reading difficulties can lead to struggles in the classroom, which increases the odds of future behavioral problems that can hinder students from acquiring various skills needed for their literacy development.
Studies have shown that children's books contain 50-percent more words that children are unlikely to encounter in spoken interactions, than television. In addition to a powerful increase in vocabulary, reading aloud to young children has been proven to increase motivation, curiosity, memory, and language and cognitive skills. The one-on-one attention from a parent during the process of reading aloud also helps the child to create a positive association with books that carries into adulthood.
In a literacy course that I am currently taking in the University, we are creating a Teacher as Reader program. In this Teacher as Reader program we were given a book that is written by the professor to read. The book is entitled, Father Sleeps with the Mud pies By Glasceta Honeyghan. We would do group reading and then discussion of various aspects of what was read, would take place. The objective of this Teacher as Reader program was a way of getting us, the students, to read more often than we possible are reading.
I found it hard to believe that most college students do not do much reading of other reading materials outside of their area of studies. Hence, creating a book club is another great initiative that could be implemented to get individuals reading widely.
I would also suggest that another way that the love for reading could be cultivated is through reading time. At times we the teacher, should be the ones to create the opportunity for students to get themselves engaged in reading activities. In the reading time, students will be given a period out of the class time to select any reading material and read. After reading, individuals will randomly be selected to talk about what they have read, and what they like or dislike about the reading material.
I close with this, "Reading is a lifelong habit." Hence, we as teachers should be the ones to help our students cultivate it early by picking up a book and spending one-on-one time with them discussing and having fun with a variety of reading materials.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

I was thinking about this topic the other day, and I'd add one more strategy: find out what other children are reading and make those books available. A book that's generated some buzz on the yard might spark interest in a "non-reader".

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Reflecting back upon my own experiences as a student with reading...I think it's very important as educators to model having a love of reading -- share what you're reading with your class - your literary passions - your favorite books. Growing up, I didn't have many friends or family that would read often but most of the teachers I had would share their love of reading with me and it inspired me.

zep's picture
Education Specialist

I love your focus on modeling versus coercion; I hope you are able to utilize child friendly strategies such as that and not have to succumb to the forces of mandates which can result in students being forced into skills which they are not yet cognitively and, or emotionally ready for.

Keadle's picture
2nd grade, Georgia

I love the idea of a book club. I am going to try this strategy with my 2nd graders. They love interacting with each other so maybe this will give them an incentive to read. Thank you so much for the idea.

Jackie B's picture

Thank you so much for the suggestions of a book club, as well as the book Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males (I am currently purchasing the e-book on amazon even though it says it applies to middle and high school I think I can find a way to apply to my students). I teach second grade in a city setting and reading is something that I have been really struggling with since over half of my last class was reading below grade level. Another thing I am going to try after this post is have an in class read-a-thon, or some sort of book challenge to make it more engaging for my students and I will participate as well so that I can set an example for them how reading is so important, and fun! I can not wait to look up different lesson plans and set ups for an elementary school book club so that I can start it from the very beginning of school this year! Thank you!

Heidi's picture

I filled a browsing box with superhero books and the boys in my grade two class can't get enough! I plan to take my class to the municipal library once a month. Each child will be celebrated on their special day and a family member will visit the classroom and read the child's favorite picture book. I also read seven novels each year. The love of reading is contagious!

Lore's picture
Teaching in Matamoros, Mexico

I particularty like number 9 .... so true...

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.