My goal, as a teacher, is not just to teach children how to read, but to spark a love for reading. I want my students to enjoy reading so much that it becomes an integral part of their life by choice. As adults I want my students to have a pile of library books on their nightstand or books waiting to be read on their e-reader. I want them to take part in book clubs and talk about books with other adults. I don’t believe that we can leave this to happen magically or by chance. I believe that teachers have to be intentional with the decisions we make regarding literacy in order to create an environment in which we foster life-long readers. Here are my top 5 ways to foster a love of reading:
1. Remove leveled bins from your classroom library.
Leveled books have a place in your classroom. A level on a book is a tool to help a teacher choose books that lift a reader’s understanding of reading. A leveled text is best used when providing small reading group instruction. A level on a book is not a means for a student to choose what they want to read. You want to help your readers choose books in real-life ways. When I look for new books to read I read the summary of the book, I do sometimes judge a book by its cover, I read book reviews, and get recommendations from friends. I never look at what level the book is. If you would like to read more about using text levels in your classroom click any of the links below.
2. Learn about your students’ interests and passions.
Learning about your students and their interests is a good teaching practice for so many reasons. This allows you to build a sense of caring and community in your classroom and also helps with differentiating your teaching. Let your students see you as a reader by sharing with them what types of books you like to read. Take an interest inventory to get an idea of what your students like to read, what they are interested in and what they would like to learn more about, and bring those books into your classroom. One year, I had a 2nd grade student bring in a Little House on the Prairie book for me. She knew I loved thrillers and mystery novels and thought I should branch out to historical fiction. Not only did we have some great conversations about Little House on the Prairie that year, but we also had a waiting list for books in our new Little House on the Prairie book bin.
3. Provide books as rewards (or give no rewards)
In our eagerness to encourage students to read we often reward students for reading with trinkets, stickers, free pizza coupons, etc… My thinking on this subject was completely changed after reading a study done by Gambrell and Marinak (2008) on intrinsic motivation and rewards. What they found was when students were given no reward or a book as a reward they were more motivated to engage in reading in the future when compared to being given a reward that was not related to reading. If you would like to read more from Gambrell and Marinak on reading motivation research click here.
4. Choose high quality read alouds to share daily.
I can not stress enough the importance of including interactive read alouds as a daily part of your schedule. Your read alouds set the stage for so many important parts of your literacy teaching. Read aloud time is a great time to build community while the students gather around the teacher immersed in a story. The story can be followed by dialogue where the class is accepting of everybody’s ideas whether they agree or disagree. The books you choose can inspire the choices students make when choosing their own books to read. Your read-aloud books can also be used during your reading and writing mini-lessons.
5. Minimize the amount of writing during independent reading time.
It is important to provide students with daily sustained periods of independent reading. Keep in mind that whenever you have students write during this time you are taking away from their time to read continuous text. I’m not saying that students shouldn’t write about their reading, but that we should be more choosy about what we’re letting interrupt our students’ independent reading time.
My top 5 are all based on my professional reading and experiences. I would love to hear how you help inspire your students to love reading.