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Teaching Students to Love Reading

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

This simple sentiment from Dr. Seuss is something educators and parents can agree on. The challenge for educators is to convince students of the lifelong value of being good readers. How can we teach students to love reading?

Start Early

There seems to be broad agreement that early exposure to reading is beneficial to young children even before they can exhibit reading and writing skills. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), children begin to read words and process letter-sound relations from their initial interactions with adults. They point out, however, that the ability to read and write "does not develop naturally, without careful planning and instruction. Children need regular and active interactions with print."

The connection between reading and academic success starts very young. The Make Way for Books organization points out that, "Research indicates that children who are struggling readers in 1st grade are 88% more likely to be struggling readers in 4th grade. When children struggle to read in 4th grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school."

One Size Does Not Fit All

Teachers in grades K-12 will find considerable diversity in children's oral and written language experiences. In a joint position with the International Reading Association, the NAEYC states, "Some children may have ready access to a range of writing and reading materials, while others may not; some children will observe their parents writing and reading frequently, others only occasionally; some children receive direct instruction, while others receive much more casual, informal assistance."

Multiple studies have shown that there isn't one superior method for teaching reading to children, and that may be due to multiple factors, including those early experiences with reading and writing. Accurate assessment of children's knowledge and skills is the first step in helping teachers match instruction with the student's needs and abilities.

So, How to Motivate Students to Love Reading?

Education writer Janelle Cox (Master of Science, Education) published a list of 10 tips for teachers who want to learn how to kick-start reading motivation. One of the tips she shares is to let students choose their own books. "Studies have shown that when students choose their own books, it will boost their reading ability." This doesn't mean that you shouldn't assign a book for the entire class to discuss as a whole, but in case that book doesn't engage everyone, it's helpful to also give students the opportunity to read something that interests them.

Another tip Cox recommends is to introduce students to a book series. If you can find a genre that students love, get them to read the first selection and you can get them hooked on the series to find out what happens next.

Cox also says it's okay to allow students to dislike books and rate them like they rate things on social media. Tallying the thumbs up or thumbs down can help teachers choose future class novels as well.

In a recent article on Guided Reading, Justin Minkel, a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher and 2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, presents four decisions that can determine whether your reading strategies nourish a love of books or kill it.

First, Cox says, you need to make sure that students have access to real books and not just commercial readers or photocopied packets with snippets of text to read. "Sight words are more fun to learn when the books feature superheroes like Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk."

He also encourages teachers to find a balance between spending time on worksheets and time for students to just enjoy their books. And rather than lecturing, Cox says "if you want them to love reading...make it a conversation."

If you have your students in reading groups based on reading level, Cox says, it makes sense to spend more time each week with your lowest group of readers so you can thoughtfully engage with them rather than rush to spend an equal amount of time with each group.

Teachers Share Techniques for Developing a Love for Reading

In this recent article on Reading Teaching Tips, teachers share nine creative tips that they use to help build fluency and increase comprehension while also developing a love for reading in their students. Several suggestions involve using music and songs in some way to foster fluency and comprehension while making reading fun. Suggestions include singing songs that correspond with units of study and displaying the lyrics on a screen while someone points to the words.

Positive reinforcement is another popular technique among reading teachers. To encourage students to visit their classroom library more often, one teacher made up awards that say "Shhh! It's a secret! _______ was caught in our library! I wonder what the book was about." The award features a picture of a detective and the award idea "has definitely prompted more visitors to the library, as well as more discussion about books borrowed and read."

Become a Reading Specialist

The Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading & Literacy from LSU Shreveport is designed to give teachers the skills they need to serve as a reading specialist in any K-12 grade level. Completion of the program's four specialization courses — Foundations in Reading, Reading Assessment, Practicum in Reading, and Reading in the Content Area — prepares teachers to become reading specialists.

Learn more about the LSUS online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction: Reading & Literacy program.


Sources:

WETA: Learning to Read and Write: What Research Reveals

Make Way for Books: Importance of Early Literacy

TeachHub.com: How to Motivate Students to Love Reading — 10 Tips

Education Week: Guided Reading: How to Make Kids Hate (or Love) to Read

Really Good Teacher: Reading Teaching Tips

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