As a child, I read. A lot. You never had to ask me to read when I was done my work at school, and I can often be found with my nose in a book. I read mainly fiction, novels were my pleasure. So when I became a teacher, I was astounded at the number of students who didn’t enjoy reading. Making them read independently was torture; they hated it and often would simply stare into space (or into the book) and think they fooled me. And I knew I had to change that.
If students don’t enjoy reading, it’s usually for one of two reasons:
1 – They have difficulty reading
Of course they don’t like reading if they have difficulty reading. Can you imagine trying to lose yourself in an adventure, while trying to decipher every letter first? If reading a 20-page book takes too long, the students doesn’t engage in the book and meanwhile learns to hate reading.
This needs to be corrected early on for an easier transition and a higher success rate. Not that it’s impossible later on in life, but if corrected and fixed at an early age, the easier it is on the child, and the quicker they are on the path of success. This is where proper documentation and strategies come in.
As a teacher, it is important to read with every student as often as possible (every week would be ideal). This way, you can document and learn exactly what issues the child has and fix it. There are many great resources out there that can help. The ones I used were Daily 5 and CAFE. They were great to help me pinpoint exactly what strategy the student needed and give him/her proper feedback and learning objectives while reading. Allowing your students to reflect on their reading goals and getting them involved will also help immensely.
Also, when you correct their difficulty early on, they don’t have time to develop a negative attitude towards reading, stemming from lower self-esteem. The older they are, the more they don’t want to try because they don’t want to fail in front of their peers. Forget trying to get these students to read aloud!
2 – They haven’t found what they like to read
As a young kid, I devoured novels. And luckily for me, that’s exactly the type of books we read in class. As a teacher, I’ve learned to not set a specific guideline as to the type of book my students can read. As long as you’re reading, anything goes!
I once had a student in grade 8 who didn’t enjoy reading. I then introduced him to a World War II novel, more adventure than memoir, and he loved it! He then continued finding more novels based around war adventures and found his love for reading.
Another student of mine (gr 7) hated novels. He found them all so boring. His passion? Comic books. Loved them to pieces! Once he found comic books, he read and read and read and read. Often the same comic book over and over again until he could get his hand on another one!
One last student (gr 11 this time) also hated reading. She was a slow reader, but also never found novels she enjoyed. Then someone bought her a John Green novel (The Fault in Our Stars). Although it took her a bit to read it, she loved it and went on to buy all other John Green novels. She also shared her passion (and the books) with me so we could have great discussions about them.
Moral of the story?
Never limit what your students can read. Let them find their passion! It is so important for them to develop a positive attitude towards reading instead of it always being boring, hard and negative. Learning to love to read will provide them many benefits through life, more than can ever be listed in one simple blog post.
Time to go read a book!