Many teachers will tell you that there are two phases of reading instruction.
Learning to read and reading to learn.
While our early years of schooling are spent learning to decode words and make sense of what’s on the page, the rest of our reading life is spent using the skill of reading to access information.
I’d venture to say that while these two stages definitely exist, they omit a third and equally important stage of reading: reading for pleasure.
Whether it’s digging into a new novel, or kicking back with the Sunday paper, reading is an activity that can be enjoyable as well as beneficial.
And yet, it feels as if the habit of lifelong reading is increasingly under attack.
Why Reading Instruction Matters More than Ever
Many of us are teachers because we have always loved to read, and this love has stayed with us through adulthood.
This isn’t true for everyone, though, and today it can be especially hard to get kids hooked on reading.
With all of the competing ways to spend time, from video games to social media, fewer and fewer students develop an early love of reading.
Yet reading a diverse range of texts has both academic and social emotional benefits. Students who love to read are not only more likely to succeed in college, but are also more likely to show empathy, curiosity, and appreciate a diversity of perspectives.
So what can teachers do to promote a love for reading in their classrooms? Read on to find out!
Strategies for Creating Lifelong Readers
Implement Sustained Silent Reading
Sustained Silent Reading is a practice that many classrooms and schools have adopted that sets aside a chunk of time every day to silent independent reading.
Usually spanning 15 to 20 minutes, this is a time that all students spend reading.
Also known as IR (independent reading) and DEAR (drop everything and read), the beauty of sustained silent reading is that students get to choose whatever they’d like to read.
Having a break from other school work so sit with a good book or even a graphic novel is a great way to make time for a hobby that often gets neglected with competing after school commitments.
Organize Book Clubs
Some students are reluctant readers because it is such a solitary activity when they are more prone to enjoy social tasks.
Get the best of both worlds by organizing book clubs for students.
Whether these exist within the structure of your class or as an extracurricular activity, a book club is a great way to encourage kids to delve into literature with the promise of spending time with their friends.
You can even sweeten the deal by letting kids bring in snacks to share for book club meetings or by letting them watch film versions of the book once they’ve finished.
Plan a Family Literacy Night
Much of the attitude that students have towards reading develops at home.
Encourage a culture of literacy at home by planning a family literacy night at your school.
Invite parents to school for an evening to partake in literacy-related activities with their children. You might have parents read a newspaper to their children, or plan for children to read a favorite story to their parents.
If you can get the ball rolling for kids and parents to read together, these behaviors are more likely to happen at home as well!
Head to the Library
Libraries are fabulous resources for getting students excited about reading.
Public libraries often have extensive children’s and young adult sections that are overflowing with great reads.
Have kids who aren’t sure where to start? Enlist the help of a librarian to make recommendations.
Or, have students use the website whatshouldireadnext.com to find a book they might like. Students can search by an author, genre, or book they’ve already read and enjoyed to find more titles they’re likely to love.
Struggling readers often don’t enjoy reading because it’s challenging for them. The cognitive work that it takes to make it through a page just isn’t relaxing.
Such readers usually need reading intervention services to get their reading skills up to par, but in the meantime, you can still help them learn to love reading with read alouds.
It may sound childish, but teachers all the way up to high school have found success reading aloud to students. Even competent readers can benefit from listening to an adult read with proper intonation and expression.
Bonus: Choose the first book in a captivating series to read aloud. Once students are hooked, they’ll want to read the rest of the series on their own.
Model Lifelong Reading
Let students catch you reading for pleasure. Whether you bring a book with you to recess duty or tell students about what you read over the weekend, students will take note.
The more they see adults they admire digging into a good book, the more they’ll want to do the same!