As teachers, we are constantly assessing what works, what doesn’t work, and how would we change things to make them better. This school year, I decided to dig deep and make some changes where I could spark interest in my students when it came to reading.
Was that even possible? How do I engage those students that dislike reading? Isn’t reading for the “smart” kids? At least that’s what I thought…playing outside in our yard or playing sports was what I preferred over reading!
You may be a parent of a child that has a love for reading, and if you do, the suggestions below could be a great supplement. And if you are a parent that has a child like I was, who wasn’t excited about reading, these steps may ignite the spark!
1) EASILY ACCESSIBLE LIBRARY
If you have a library at home, there may be many ways that it is organized. Find a way that makes it quick and easy for your child to grab a book that will interest them. Last year, my classroom library was organized by reading levels. The students would only be focused on the number, rather than the type of book. To combat this problem, my library was reorganized this year by genres first, then reading level. This allowed the children who finally connected with a genre, to return to the library and know exactly where they can find more.
2) EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN
Now that you have your library organized by genre, your children need to be aware of this change and what your new library has to offer. I invited my students to visit the new library and educated them on the many different genres that existed. Looking back, I see this time as the “introduction” of a new found love of reading (even if some didn’t know it yet).
3) ENCOURAGE CHILDREN WITH GOALS
Now it is time to give your children some incentive to read. After much research, The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller was most inspiring for me. The author presents a reading goal program called the “Forty Book Challenge.” The students are encouraged to read books from different genres and document them on the challenge sheet until they reach forty books. Forty books seemed daunting to me, since I was the child that would think, “I never read one book, how am I going to read forty?” To eliminate any of those students automatically disqualifying themselves, I decided to start with a “Twenty Book Challenge.” Not only would it build their self-confidence with making the goal more attainable, but now they can transfer those twenty books to the “Forty Book Challenge” list and BOOM, instantly, they are halfway to their next goal, “The Forty Book Challenge!”
4) EXCITE THE CHILDREN
Now it’s time to build up your children’s excitement for what is to come. When I was young, Mrs. Boudreaux, my 4th grade teacher (who created that spark in me) would read us Nancy Drew. As soon as the story became suspenseful, the bell would ring and we would have to go home. I wanted to just grab that book from her and finish reading it. “Wait a second…I thought I didn’t like to read?” Looking back, I just didn’t know “what” I liked to to read. I wanted to recreate that edge of your seat excitement for the children, so I started reading “Book Trailers” to them. The information on the back of the book gives the children just enough to get them excited about that book. This is a great way to not only excite your children, but give them a little peek into the gems your library is holding.
5) EXPECT THE CHILDREN TO DO GREAT THINGS
Children need to know that we have faith in them; that they can obtain these goals. As their biggest advocates, whether we are family or friends, we are there to be their biggest cheerleaders, and we are also there to keep them accountable. My students cannot put a book down on their book list unless they have taken an Accelerated Reader (AR) quiz on the book. These quizzes are simple, quick quizzes that also serve as a great comprehension check. Each week we have informal meetings to double check their AR records. This gives me a chance to discuss with them which books/genres they really enjoyed. It also gives me a chance to encourage them to try another genre, if I see they gravitate to only one type.
Creating that positive climate around reading is not only doable, but very beneficial. Having students come up to me on a daily basis asking if they can have “read to self” time has made all the above efforts worth it. Moms are sharing with me that their children, who never had been readers before, are now enthralled by reading. This fills my heart with happiness. What’s your next reading challenge for your children going to be? It’s time to ignite that spark!