Most teachers love to read. Actually, do any teachers not love to read something? I haven't met a teacher yet that didn't love to read. So if you are one, let me know!
Anyway, I was thinking about how to foster a love of reading in my students. Some students just automatically love to read. In fact, most classes have one or two students that would rather sit somewhere (anywhere) and read a book than be out running around during recess.
But on the flip side, some students seem to think they are allergic to books. They only pick up a book when they think they have no other choice.
So how do we foster a love in all of our students, the ones that already love books, the ones that don't want to be anywhere near them, and the ones in between? I researched the best ways to foster a love of reading in children and came up with this list of 12 of the best ways:
- Have a good collection of books readily available.
- Design a great spot to read in.
- Make sure they are given plenty of time.
- Make sure they are unplugged.
- Read to them!
- Let them take turns reading to the class.
- Share your excitement of books you are reading.
- Set up book clubs but make them special—nothing normal!
- Make a reading competition where everybody who passes a certain milestone gets rewarded.
- Interview an author of one of their collective favorite books.
- Make connections between what they are reading and their favorite things.
Table of Contents
1. Have a Good Collection of Books Readily Available.
One of the most frustrating things for me as a middle-schooler was going to the class library and seeing nothing there that I wanted to read. I had already read all of the good books. There wasn't anything left that appealed to me.
I was fortunate that my teachers would let me go to the school library at will as long as my work was done. And I was usually able to find some pretty good books to keep me captivated.
Disclaimer: I have always had the terrible need to finish any book no matter how bad it is. I guess because I feel like I still have to know what happens. And also maybe a sliver of hope that the book will somehow redeem itself.
But what if there was an awesome selection of books in every classroom reading area? Not every student in every school has the ability to go to the school library at will. Sometimes there just isn't enough time. Other times, that much freedom is against school policy for the sake of safety. I must admit that I am old enough to have gone to school when this wasn't as much of an issue. There was a bit more freedom in my day.
Having a great selection of the best books in many genres is perfect to keep your students going back to the shelves. If they know that they are going to find something that they love and that it will be fun to read that book, they will return for more. And the more books they read that they love, the more they will love reading in general and seek out more books.
2. Design a Great Spot to Read In
If your students feel like the place they get to read in is special compared to the rest of the classroom, they will be eager to get there on a regular basis.
The most important thing that you want to focus on is making that spot comfortable. If the space in your class is big enough, have two or three different seating options so that your students can choose the type they prefer. My area had a rocker with cushions, a pair of bean bag chairs, and a thick carpet with thick pad underneath. The bean bag chairs did need a refresher of beans from the original ones, but the second batch held up much better.
Once you have the seating taken care of, put a couple of lamps in. You can either use lamps from your house that you don't need or you could get some decent ones at a ridiculous price at your local thrift store. Or you could go all out and buy some new if you have the extra cash.
Regardless of how you obtain your lamps, having them in the reading corner will lend to the hominess and comfort of your space. The students will love being in that space and learn to equate reading with comfort and peace. This is one of the best ways to foster a love of reading in your students.
One of the best comfort items you can have is a couple of throw blankets. They are great for decorating, adding certain colors that you want to emphasize, and of course, for snuggling up with a good book!
And what better decor idea can you have than to display your reading crafts that you have done as a class in your space? I have some great shelving ideas in my Resources section. You can access that page by clicking here. I will try to post a picture soon of how I tied that shelving into my theme.
3. Make Sure They are Given Plenty of Time
I am really bad about feeling like I have to rush my kids along. Don't we all get that way? There are only so many hours in day. And kids don't think that way. So they are either enjoying the project they are already working on, or enjoying whatever break they are taking.
And we are trying to figure out ways to smoothly transition to the next thing without disturbing the balance of life.
In the case of students getting a chance to read in the reading corner or elsewhere, it can be very frustrating to just barely sit down to read and then be told that they must move on to the next thing.
I am not referencing the child that would sit there all day if possible and is irritated because you called them away after 20 minutes of reading. But what I am saying is try to keep a mindful amount of time that they can take to read--probably around 10 or 15 minutes--and then make sure that they get that at a minimum.
If the time does have to be short, give them a quick verbal warning as they are starting so they will know not to get too deep into their reading. That will avoid frustration on both of your parts. They will not be frustrated that their time was cut short. And you will not be frustrated that they are not cooperating with your schedule and inability to make the clock stop. It would be nearly impossible to foster a love of reading in your students if you are frustrating them on a regular basis when they sit down to read.
4. Make Sure They are Unplugged
Depending on what your school policy is, you will want to make sure that your students aren't using the reading corner to catch up on their messages or latest game.
Establish a no electronics reading corner so that kids won't be tempted to use their reading time unwisely. They may hate that policy at first, but as they grow to appreciate their reading time, they will be glad that they put their phones away for a minute.
One of the ways that I am able to do that is to keep their phones on a couple of charging stations during class time. Most don't mind because they aren't supposed to be using them during class time anyway.
And the best benefit for them is that when they get out of class they have a fully charged phone waiting for them!
5. Read to Them!
I realize I am stating the obvious. But I think sometimes as teachers, we get so busy that the reading time is the first thing we cut out in favor of regaining some time to do other critical things.
Classroom time management may be the most difficult thing to figure out. And we never really quite do. There is always something unexpected that pops up. And almost nothing gets done in the designated amount of time.
But sometimes, for the sake of not making our kids feel like cattle being herded through the day, let's try to take a breath and slow things down just a bit. This is one of the hardest things for me to do. But every time I do, the rewards in how the kids behave in class are huge. They definitely respond better when they know that I am looking out for their feelings and wellbeing, and not just trying to push my agenda.
Another thing I would like to add is to make sure what you are reading is appealing to your students. Your options are nearly endless. Take some time to think about what your students are talking about. Think about what they bring up in class or in line. Or even what they are talking about within earshot on the playground.
They will appreciate that you took the time to care about their interests. And that indeed will foster a love of reading in your students! They will love the topic and they will love that you listened. Double win!
The final thing I would like to add is to read well to them. Add feeling, and even sometimes be dramatic for fun. Just don't overdo it. A couple of eyerolls is okay, though! They are middle schoolers after all!
6. Let Them Take Turns Reading to the Class
I will start this point with a warning not to MAKE the kids take turn reading to the others in class. This must be entirely voluntary. You will have at least a few students that are not comfortable reading in front of the class in that way. And that is fine. There will be other opportunities for them.
But for the students that will jump at the chance to stand up to the lectern and read a few pages or a chapter of the book, it is a great opportunity. It is a really good way to ease them into public speaking at an early age. (Another great way is to have them describe their favorite parts of a chapter or book--but I digress.)
This helps them to get more comfortable reading out loud, and helps them to continue to learn fluency, especially of harder words at this point.
And it will also inspire your less extroverted readers. If they hear that nobody reads perfectly all the time, they may be more willing to read out loud without the fear of being heard reading things wrong or getting stuck on a word.
This will not only foster a love of reading in your students, it will also help them to gain confidence in something that they may have not been very confident in at the beginning.
7. Share Your Excitement of the Books You are Reading
All of us have read a book that we just wished the rest of the world had read as well. Then we could gush on about all of our favorite parts. And everybody would know exactly what we were talking about.
So how do you think your students would feel if you did the same thing with them? If you know of a book they are reading, or if you know that a book you are reading in class is one of their favorites, why not gush on about it with them in random non-teaching moments in and out of class? If you share a favorite part of the book that is also theirs, watch their eyes light up as they realize this. And then I can almost guarantee they will be gushing right back at you!
These are moments that your students will remember for life. And sometimes these moments are way more important to a student's growth than the latest pre-algebra concept that you taught earlier in the day. Sharing these moments with your students will almost certainly encourage a life-long love of reading. This type of exchange shows them that reading can be at the very heart of relationship.
8. Set up Book Clubs But Make Them Special--Nothing Normal!
Most kids that already love reading love reading clubs. But how do you draw in the others? By making them something special!
I think a lot of kids don't love reading because they think it is boring. Reading clubs are an opportunity to change their minds about this!
One of the first things you will want to do is give the students more creative control. Since it is not part of your normal curriculum, let them choose between several books that you have listed. For the first book, highest vote wins. Then for the next book, let the kids whose vote didn't win pick from the list. Keep that up until all of the group has had a chance to pick something. Because you gave them a list, whatever they choose can't be a bad choice. And they all feel like they got a choice.
Make a theme! Kids love to see how things tie in together. This is a great way to do it! You can even encourage them to add to that theme with a project of their own. They can do it at home and then bring it in to show. Who knows, maybe some of those projects will end up on display on the reading corner shelving!
9. Make a Reading Competition in Which Everybody Who Passes a Certain Milestone Gets Rewarded.
A reading competition where students win because they did the work instead of just one winner getting the prize is so much more motivational for kids. They have something tangible to work for which helps them to push to the end.
And upon winning, they don't just get the prize. They get the satisfaction of a job well done.
The prizes can be anything that doesn't cost a ton of money. It can be an ice cream party after hours (encourage a parent or two to come and help out--make sure they are lovers of ice cream themselves!). Or it can be some small treasures that you found on your last trip to the dollar store. The students appreciate being rewarded even more than what the reward is. But you do want to make sure it is something that they will enjoy.
Make sure that it is something attainable for anyone who is interested in participating.
You can use the chart included here. Just click on it and print it up. Or you can make your own chart that works for your class. You can also use this chart just for helping the students keep track of their reading progress. You don't need to make it part of a contest.
10. Research or Interview an Author of One of The Class' Collective Favorite Books
This would make a most incredible surprise for your class. If there is a local author that you all have enjoyed reading, you could schedule an afternoon tea with that author.
If it is a non-local author, you could maybe set up an afternoon tea and skype in that author. What fun if they also have their afternoon tea with a comfy garden or sitting room background!
If the author in mind is no longer alive, you could do an afternoon tea in honor of that author and feature some videos or audios of the author in previous interviews. You could even set it up as though you were asking the questions. Then just start the recording at the point that the author answers.
The food and event of the tea, as well as the change in routine with whatever format of interview you choose will cement this event in your students' minds for a very long time!
11. Make Connections Between What They are Reading and Their Favorite Things
Almost nothing fosters a love of reading in your students more than reading books with them about the things that they love. And fortunately for you, middle school students tend to love a lot of different things.
This one takes a little bit of time and the ability to get to know your kids on a personal level. Well, at least for some of the kids. There are a few students that will wear their heart on their sleeve and you will know what they are all about by the end of the first week. And there are a few students that will be an enigma to you and you will struggle to understand them and get them to open up and share with you. But most of the students will fall somewhere in the middle. And that is just fine.
You can capitalize that first couple of weeks on the students that are eager to share their thoughts, feelings, and dreams with you. Incorporate that into the books that you choose. And then just focus on the students that haven't yet had a chance to contribute.
One of the benefits you will enjoy with this strategy is that most middle schoolers really like a lot of the same things. So it won't be such a stretch for you to pick things that the vast majority of your students will enjoy.
For other ways that you can make classroom life more exciting, check out these articles:
If you would like to read an amazing book about inspiring your kids with books, check out this book:
I am actually planning to do a review on it soon! I will link it here once I do.