Helping Students Develop a LOVE of Reading

Is it possible to help any student fall in love with reading? I believe so! I have always wanted to teach those students who have a history of not enjoying reading. When the previous grade-level's teacher says "This child hates reading." I always say "BRING IT!" I believe I turn almost all of those students around within the first two weeks of being in my classroom and I love the challenge of turning ANY and EVERY child into a reader. Even during those years when I've felt like my students came to me as wild readers, many parents still tell me that they noticed a tremendous change in their child's attitude towards reading after spending time in my classroom. In this “Building a Reading Life” blog series, I’ve got a few tips for helping you on your mission of inspiring students to have a love of reading.

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If you are worried about how you will help your students fall in love with reading (or it’s later in the year and some students still do not have an attachment to books, right now is the time to make some changes to see if you can turn those uninterested readers around. Make it your personal challenge!

I first learned about Building a Reading Life from the Lucy Calkin's Reading Units of Study that were published in 2010. I put my own spin on the unit, and decided that the “love of reading” aspect of the unit was something that I wanted to dedicate more time and focus to at the beginning of the year.

Since then, I have launched my reader's workshop with a unit focused on making our reading lives the best they can be at the start of every school year. You too can create an environment of thriving readers in your classroom! Let’s work on getting your beliefs and mindset about shaping readers right on track!

Tip # 1: Remember that your students are shape-able and impressionable!

and that you are their greatest influence. If you demonstrate a love of reading, share amazing books with them daily through read alouds and book talks, and help guide them towards books they can independently read and enjoy, it shouldn't take long before your students are wild readers with amazing reading lives! 

You cannot create a love of reading if you do not model it yourself! 

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I create an environment in my classroom where not being a reader is not acceptable. I assume and behave as if ALL CHILDREN LOVE READING. We read independently every day and I teach my students that if you know you are going to be doing something every day, you ought to be enjoying it!

Tip # 2: Address your curmudgeon (negative) readers head on!

Lucy Calkins talks about being a curmudgeon towards books, (and we can all be curmudgeons from time to time about reading). What's a curmudgeon? Make a scowling face, pick up a book, and have a grouchy attitude, furled eyebrows and all. Overdo it so that a curmudgeon is laughable and not something any of your students would ever want to be. Teach students that we have a choice in our attitude towards things that we do in our lives. We can read books like curmudgeons or we can read books like they are GOLD.

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We have all had great times with reading and terrible times with reading and it's important that you share those stories about your WORST reading times with your students. I have two stories I like to share--one about when I lied to my 1st grade teacher about finishing a book over night. It was the 80's and children's literature just wasn't what it is today. She had given me a book that was totally not interesting to me and I just wanted OUT. My other story is about how hard college science and history courses were for me because of the huge nonfiction reading load.

Students can relate to having a negative attitude about "school" activities and hopefully see that they shouldn't give up on having an amazing reading life just because they have had bad experiences in the past. When I see students having negative reading attitudes, I can always remind them not to be a curmudgeon. Discussing the curmudgeon attitude also gives you the opportunity to teach students that they should be reading books that they enjoy, and that if they are not, abandoning an independent book that is not a good match is always an option. The first time I taught students about being a curmudgeon, I felt like I not only had the goal of making them all into readers, but that I invited students on board to help me with that personal challenge. You can read more about my curmudgeon discussions with students in my original post.

Be sure to catch my other tips for helping students build strong reading lives!

Tip # 3 is chocked full of ideas for how to reach those struggling readers and Tip #4 and 5 address classroom and school libraries and how you can use them strategically to your advantage, especially for struggling readers!

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