March is National Reading Month and another opportunity to encourage children to read. In this blog, Linda Sahagun shares her experience with students who were not enthusiastic readers, as well as a wonderful resource for educators.
As a teacher, I often heard parents say, “My child just doesn’t like to read.” My response was generally, “Well, then they probably just haven’t found the right book!”
As adults, we’ve probably all had the experience of starting a book and struggling to “get into” the story. Hopefully, we’ve also had the experience of starting a book and not being able to put it down. For those students whose only connection to reading has been the “struggling” scenario, reading is more often endured than embraced. How can teachers help reluctant readers find enjoyment in reading, particularly if these students haven’t had positive reading experiences in the past?
I highly recommend The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Reading her book changed my approach to reading and assigning books to the students in my classroom. Instead of telling students what they had to read, I let them choose for themselves. Not rocket science, right?! After all, I wanted to instill a love of reading in my students.
First, I gave my class a 40-book challenge for the year. Each student was challenged to read a certain number of books in a number of different genres. Exposing my students to many genres gave them an opportunity to try books that they might not normally choose. After a sincere attempt, students were also allowed to abandon books that they really didn’t enjoy.
Student-presented booktalks on the books they were reading was another idea I got from The Book Whisperer. Letting students share their excitement about books created a desire in other students to read the books their friends were recommending. As a result, I had fewer students needing my assistance to find books to read and more students waiting for a friend to finish a book so they could have it next.
Giving students a choice in what they read and letting them talk with their classmates about those books—just a couple of ideas from this book that will do wonders for your reluctant readers and for all your students!
Looking for additional resources to encourage your students to become lifelong readers? Donalyn Miller’s newest offering, with co-author Susan Kelley, is Reading in the Wild. This book offers solid advice and strategies on how to develop, encourage, and assess five key reading habits that cultivate a lifelong love of reading. Also included are “strategies, lesson plans, management tools, and comprehensive lists of recommended books” (Amazon.com). If you are interested in finding new ways to motivate your readers, this might be just what you’ve been looking for.