Reading can evoke many different feelings in people. For some, it is a delight. For others, a horror. Teaching reading skills is a requirement in any education system. There is research available that will support most of the ways we teach these skills. How do we instill in students a passion for reading though? I believe it starts at a young age before students become disillusioned over standardized testing. Some of my fondest memories of school involve the school library and teachers that took the opportunity to engage us in reading for the simple joy of it. I know of some local schools that are taking the last fifteen minutes of school to “Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.).” I support this fully. The students are only asked to maintain a reading log. No other expectations. I know some people would want to encourage formative or summative assessments to prove that students are truly engaged in the reading. I would ask that you envision fifteen minutes at your own job where you were only asked to read something of your choosing during that time. Would that not be a refresher? Here are some ideas on how to encourage students to be passionate about reading:
Initially, you will need to demonstrate a passion for reading. This refers back to your engagement and presentation of reading. You have to bring the books to life for students. Room set-up is important. Project the book onto your Smartboard if you have that option. Dim the lights. Allow students to rest their heads on their hands. Bring snacks. Use different tones of voice for characters. Move around the room. I had a student that I would lightly rub the top of his head as I walked by that remembered this gesture years later. Keep the students wondering about what will happen next, but be predictable enough so it will be a time of the day they look forward to. It starts with you.
Next, design special activities to go along with your book. This could be a wig that reflects one of the characters. It could be a specific food and drink. For example, when reading The Polar Express serve chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate to students. Ask them to wear their pajamas one day. Anything special that could help to bring the book to life. I promise you that years down the road, they will remember these special activities when the book is mentioned.
Once you have demonstrated a passion for reading, designate a select time for students to explore their own passions. I know there will be some students who will try to be a goofball and get a much lower level book than they need. Pay attention to their interests and select an appropriate book for them to “try out” in case they finish with their original book earlier than anticipated. Allow students to bring in appropriate material from home. Please do not dictate their interests. I enjoyed historical romance novels when I was younger. My mother encouraged this and I feel that it is the majority of the reason I enjoy reading today.
Would you be interested in designating a time for students to pursue passionate reading in your classroom? Why or why not?