For many students, not liking reading is more about not finding what they like than not liking reading at all
A few years ago, I was doing a training based on the book My Ideal Bookshelf. I created my own ideal bookshelf, along with a written piece explaining it, and then had my teachers do the same. It was our welcome back writing workshop training.
After writing my short piece describing my reading life and favorite books, I realized something. I still liked the same type of book I enjoyed when I was seven. If you look at my adult bookshelf or on my iPad, you will see authors like Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Ruth Ware, etc. They are detective stories, many with female protagonists, by female authors. When I looked back at my first reading experiences, I couldn’t help but see the similarity. I started to love reading because of the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. Yep, detective stories with a female protagonist and a female author. Nancy Drew made me a reader. And I continue to be a reader because I get to read a lot of books that I still enjoy (and some I don’t). But what if I had never found Nancy? What if I had never found a book that I couldn’t put down? Would I have become the reader I became?
I ask this because many of our students haven’t found their “Nancy.” They’ve never found a book they just couldn’t put down. They haven’t found that book love, that joy of reading that keeps you up past your bedtime because you just have to know the end.
Those students are our non-readers or at best our compliant readers that it get it done but never really engage. So how do we flip the switch? How do we ignite the love of reading in these students, no matter their age? My answer: we have to help them find their “Nancy.”
I was teaching a high school Pre-AP/GT class, and my students were working in literature circles to read young adult novels. They were all thematically connected. I asked my students what they had learned so far from reading. I had one very bright young man answer, “I learned that I like to read.” It was the most fantastic answer I had ever heard. I had helped him find his “Nancy,” a book or genre that he enjoyed. Though I know a teacher’s job is never ending, that day I felt like my job was done. Mic drop. What could be better than helping a student realize that they like reading?
And whether we like it or not, or whether we feel like we have time in our curriculum or not, the fact remains – we need to help students find what they like to read. We need to expose them to a wide variety of genres – not just what we like or what is called for in the pacing guide. We need to help students explore all that there is out there to read. We need to find what sparks their interest. We need to help them find that love of reading.
But how do we do it?
I think we start by exposing students to wide variety of texts. Take them to the library. Have a text-rich classroom. Talk about different genres. Let them get their hands on different books. Then let them read them.
Give them time to read self-selected texts. Let them read what they want. You can still teach a variety of concepts with students reading different texts.
Next, talk about what you like. Share your reading life. Let them know you have favorite genres and some that you don’t care for. Let them know that it’s ok not to like a book or genre.
Talk to them about what they’re reading. Get interested. Encourage them when they find something they like. Recommend books you think they might like.
Find that spark and build a fire!
Do you have some recommendations on how to help students find their love of reading? Please share!