Motivating Reluctant Readers

Teachers spend a good amount of time focused on struggling readers. We analyze standardized tests, keep running records, and monitor progress in an attempt to diagnose and respond to the needs of students who require added support in order to be successful. So much so, I speculate, that we sometimes find ourselves with little time to attend to one of our other responsibilities: helping kids fall in love with reading.

What are your earliest experiences with books and reading? Linda Clinton’s recent post has left me thinking an awful lot about this over the last few days. Were you one of those lucky kids whose parents shared a love of reading with you? Did your siblings teach you how to read? Do you have fond memories of a teacher who put a book in your hands for the first time? Or was reading something that you came to on your own somehow?

I don’t remember my parents reading to me often as a child, but I do remember the battered copy of Baby Dear that I carried around with me throughout my mother’s pregnancy with my sister and in the months and years that followed. That book remains my favorite children’s book, and reading has always been something that I have loved. When I meet people who don’t enjoy reading, my heart breaks a little for them. It makes me just as sad today as it did when I was in the classroom and met dozens of kids who disliked reading.

Books are a gift and reading is a luxury. We all deserve parents and teachers and schools that help us embrace this notion, as it helps us live a richer life. Books do more than educate and inform. They provide a sense of escape, a sense of possibility, and the realization that we are not alone in our experiences. I firmly believe that books keep us well, and regardless of my passion for technology, nothing will ever replace the experience of holding a book between my two hands, turning the pages, and easing into a story that isn’t my own. Not even Kindle. I know this.

As the teachers that I work with head back to their classrooms this week,  I’d like to share a series of posts that might help them in their efforts to build excitement for books with their kids. Each post will focus on one of three key factors that increase our chances of hooking even the most reluctant readers. Much of the work done in my own classroom targeted the ongoing study of this issue, and many of these teachers I’ve worked with this fall have asked for support in accomplishing this. I’ll be sharing my resources and the discoveries I’ve made along the way through these posts. I’m hoping that those who follow along will be willing to share what they know and do as well by leaving comments or blogging around this topic themselves. I’ll be happy to link to you if you do!

In the mean time, take a look at these fun sites and think about how you might make use of them with your students or with the kids you tuck into bed each night. Happy New Year!

  • Lookybook is a favorite with teachers and professional development providers that I know. There are so many potential uses for this site, including using the books as mentor texts during think-alouds. Another idea? Connect the books on the site to other tools that help kids enjoy learning. For example, you can introduce kids to Jackson Pollock’s work using this book and allow them to play around with his process using this tool. I know there are better examples out there! How do you use Lookybook? How do you link it to other resources and tools and embed it within larger curriculum frameworks?
  • Storynory provides free audiobooks for kids.
  • What Should I Read Next  analyzes a database of REAL readers’ favorite books to help you choose your next title, based on your own preferences.
  • Storyline Online features members of the Screen Actors’ Guild, who read popular stories aloud.
  • Scholastic’s Teacher Book Wizard is one more tool that teachers can use to generate recommended reading lists by level. Teachers may search using their unique reading level system: Lexile, Guided Reading, DRA, or Grade Level Equivalent. Finding great reads that kids can comprehend helps ease frustration and build passion for reading!

3 Comments

  1. Rob Currin says:

    I believe that I have found a connection between the pieces that I am the most passionate about and the pieces that my students seem to enjoy the most. Perhaps they can sense my pure love and enthusiasm for certain pieces and then feel that it is alright to jump on board. (Or I am just so overjoyed to be teaching what I love that my blinders are on.) I don’t know at this stage in the game; however, I think that it is far more important to model a true passion for literature than to drill the seven elements. I guess this all depends on what the curriculum allows us to teach. Before we worry about teaching them how to drive, we must first help our students find the keys.

  2. Angela says:

    You make a great point, Rob. I wonder if it’s possible to help kids love reading if we don’t love it ourselves? I’m not sure I know the answer to that one, but your comment has me thinking about it. And I agree–when there is energy and enthusiasm for what we’re reading, I think kids connect to it and comprehend it in deeper ways. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  3. Elizabeth Fisher says:

    I can’t say it enough, it is so important that we take the time to help kids enjoy reading. I was never taught how to read, really read. Fluency was not a problem for me, but I didn’t know you had to do something while you read, like visualize, or make connections. I loved books…the smell, the feel…I just didn’t know what treasures they held…what treasures I held. I was one of those who learned to read on her own and it makes me sad because of what I missed out on in school. I vowed never to let one of my students miss out on reading. That is my mission still. I love reading and, even to this day, that makes my mom cry when she hears me say that.

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