Make reading a positive experience
Read to your students or child and choose texts they can really connect with especially texts they choose themselves. Use the magic of expression to bring the text to life. Choose humorous texts and ones that really ignite their imaginations. Read with them for pleasure. Model reading as a fun activity. Stop reading at an exciting part of the text and leave them wanting more. Shorter bursts of exciting reading experiences work better than longer bursts. I call this ‘just right’ timing. Ask yourself: Is what I am doing with reading creating happiness and joy for the child? Their expression and requests for more will be a great success indicator.
Associate reading with life, young people and/or personal interests
If children are reading or listening to texts that connect to their own personal interests and age group, there is more likelihood they will enjoy reading them. They also enjoy reading texts with characters that are the same age or just older than them. At times you might also find that even if the text was not directly related to their personal interests, experiencing something new through a child character or interesting topic might also instil a love of reading and a new interest. Remember when the Harry Potter series started? Who would have thought yet another story about a wizard would have created such an interest in reading.
Model your own passion for reading
As a teacher or parent, do you find time to model your own love of reading and to share great literature? If you want your child or students to love reading, make time to also create your own passion for reading. Allow them to see you reading. Comment on what you read and the value it brings to you.
Make reading a choice not a chore (incidental reading)
Instead of having a set time for reading, allow your child or students to select texts within the context of their learning. For example: if they are exploring ‘sustainability’, they will be seeking information to read about this topic. If they were involved in negotiated learning opportunities (this is similar to 20% time in business where they have the freedom to choose their own learning tasks), they can choose to read at this time especially if you have followed the other great tips.
Talk and question to arouse curiosity
Discuss different interesting texts you may have read. Refer to them during related learning experiences. For example: “It was such an exciting moment when Charlie won the golden ticket. When can you remember a time you were excited like Charlie?”; “Why did Stanley end up with no friends?” You can even take an interest in what your students are reading by asking them questions about the book they choose to read or making comments about the book yourself that engage them even further with upcoming
Allow children to choose the tool they use to read texts
If we want our children to love reading, why are we asking them to read using only one tool? For example, some classrooms might only allow students to read books and not read texts online using a device. It should not make any difference what students use as long as they are loving what they are reading and it supports their learning. You might have great children’s blogs they can read online or even stories published online by children that fascinate them. The tool is irrelevant. The interest in reading is vital.
Encourage children to become authors
The joy children experience when they write and publish their own book is absolutely amazing. Whether it is a physically published book or a digital book that is available online, this experience allows them to realise the pleasure books bring. Create your own library (virtual and physical) of your children’s or student’s books for them and for others to read. Also don’t forget to visit local stores that also provide book publishing services such as Officeworks. Children might also have their own special blog where they can write about their ‘budding expertise’ on certain topics and add their own books on this space to share with an authentic audience.
Set students up for reading success
When you plan for reading, do you ensure the activity is challenging enough so that they are still engaged and interested in reading? At times you might also want to consider reading the text first for students or your child requiring additional support, then giving them opportunities to read the text. Do you set all of the comprehension questions? Have you even thought of asking your students or child to set their own comprehension questions after reading the book for others to answer? This will not only demonstrate their own level of comprehension, but will also increase their confidence and enjoyment of reading as they are in control of the outcome, leading to greater reading success. Of course if they set their comprehension questions they would also need to know the answer. At home parents can also read the same text as their child and then answer comprehension questions their child asks about the text. The fact that as a parent, you are showing interest in what they read by reading it also, makes a huge difference in showing the value of reading to your child and increasing their motivation to want to read the text.
Focus on the effort not the level
Too often there is more focus on the reading level than the effort the child is putting into the reading. “My child is on level x.” “Why is my child still on level y?” “My child is an independent reader.” “My child is behind his peers and is only on level b.” This type of feedback and questioning only leads children to think that the level is more important than the reading itself. If we shifted our focus to reading and enjoying reading rather than the level with our students/children, we may find it will change their perception of reading so that it becomes an enjoyable experience rather than an achievement scale. Create a ‘Great things we do for reading’ list where you can add the child’s/childrens’ successes. For example: Sarah read with great expression today. John loved sharing his new book to the class today. Simone loves to read books every day. We all love reading on the beanbags in our classroom or at home. The more we shift the focus away from levels, the more we will find all students feel successful and enjoy reading for readings sake. They will still climb the reading scale ladder but with so much more enjoyment of the literature they are reading. Some may argue that focusing on levels increases student motivation to succeed in reading. This may be true for students on the higher scale but not true for the majority of students. It also doesn’t factor in comprehension. Some students may be on higher levels and can read, but when it comes to comprehending what they read, this can differ widely. If they are enjoying what they are reading, there is far more chance they are comprehending what they are reading at the same time. If the effort is respected, the motivation to read will increase and the results will also improve.
Allow children to become literature reviewers using innovative approaches
Remember the days of the great old book review? Why not allow students to create literature reviews with a difference? They can create their own ‘Book Raps’ where they present their chosen book as an advertisement and share it with others as a video or podcast. The ability for students to share the great literature they read in different ways makes it far more exciting and interesting. You can have a list of recommend books on your shared site or space and also add a ‘This book has been rapped’ insert into the physical book with the location of the multimedia that was created for them to view. At home parents can also ask their child to create a ‘live presentation’ with them to share why the book was so exciting and a ‘must read’. They can share this with relatives and friends.