Barnaby’s Guide to Getting Students To Enjoy Reading

I have only been teaching for one year but this is a topic that has become near and dear to my heart. As I said in my last post, the number of kids that pass through middle school language arts classrooms with a clear disdain for reading is super depressing. I have decided to make it one of my goals to develope a few techniques in helping students develop at least a passing fancy of not a passion for reading. So here are a few things I started developing in my first year as a teacher:

  1. Meet with each student individually: A lot of these activities and techniques are things that I learned during my time at NAU. This is one thing that can be a little difficult to set up as a teacher. Depending on how many students you have, it can take a long time to meet with every student in your class, so  it’s a good idea to have some come in before or after school. During these one on one conferences I try to figure out what genre’s students might be interested in. I talk to them about movies, music, and tv shows. So that I can try to make a few suggestions. I also allow these kids to have access to my YA lit binder. This is a binder full of young adult titles separated by genre. This wonderfully long list was compiled by one of my professors in college and I will guide my students to the genres that they might be interested in. The key is to let them choose the book with minimal guidance. The less a student likes to read the more guidance they will need, but hopefully as the year progresses they will need less and less guidance from the teacher.
  1. Book talks: I mostly do these during my one on one conferences with students but I sometimes do them for the whole class right after I’ve finished reading a book they might be interested in. I try to keeps these brief while using a few key-words to help paint a picture without giving away any spoilers. For example: The Girl on the Milk Carton. A mystery about a girl who is trying to figure out of she was kidnapped or not. Fast paced, quick read, part of a series.
  1. Book store drop off: This is something that I do and I have found that a lot of parents like this idea when I explain it at parent conferences. For this I like to set aside a good chunk of time on the weekend. I tell parents to take their child to a bookstore or library and they aren’t allowed to leave until they’ve chosen a book. They should go through the shelves and choose three or four books that they might be interested in. Then they find a comfy chair and read. I suggest that the student should give each book 25-50 pages. If that book has not grabbed their attention in that time they can set it aside and move on. Once they have found a book has caught their attention they can buy it and go home. This ensures that they are actually interested in the book before spending money. Again this is a big hit with parents, when they ask me how to get their kid reading more.

The key to all of these is choice. A student is more likely to resent a book if it chosen for them. If it isn’t a required reading text for the grade level give the kids a chance to choose what they spend their time reading. They will be a lot more committed and will enjoy the whole experience more.  

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If you live in Portland, Powell’s is a fantastic place to try the book store drop off. Greatest Place on earth! 

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