Motivating Students to Read
In 2007, a report on the state of reading in the U.S. was published by the National Endowment for the Arts. The study found that, not only were Americans reading less, but that reading comprehension skills were also steadily eroding. The findings for students were also troubling: more than 50% of college students engaged in little or no pleasure reading, and less than a third of 13 year-olds read daily. The report concluded that the decline in reading was likely to result in grave economic, social, cultural, and civic consequences.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many students don’t like to read. Such students are often termed “reluctant readers,” and teachers encounter them at all grade levels. Some students find reading to be such a challenge that they avoid it as much as possible; students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities fall into this category. Other students may not have trouble reading, but they aren’t particularly interested in reading and don’t enjoy it. The distractions of online videos, interactive games, and the increased obsession with visual social media sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest have also turned attention away from leisure reading.
Teachers will often scour book reviews and work with their school librarians to find compelling texts with strong narratives that they hope will hook students. Today’s kids are accustomed to fast-paced video games and movies, and many quickly lose interest if the book doesn’t grab them in the first page or two. The best method with which to capture student interest, then, is to offer them books that speak to their interests, through humor, relationship themes, and lots of action. Books such as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy offer flawed yet heroic characters and compelling storylines, and have thus won over many reluctant readers. Other teachers have turned to graphic novels in order to encourage student leisure reading; several teachers that I know report very good success with this tactic. For younger readers, interactive reading apps such as those offered by Wanderful present engaging stories that can not only help teach kids how to read, but may also encourage them to seek out new, additional stories.
Kids who learn to love reading early in life stand a better chance of remaining lifelong readers. Still, it’s never too late for students (and adults) who have consistently resisted reading to suddenly find a book that strikes a chord with them, and prompts them to try a new book. Literature circles, class book reviews, and different genres (and mediums) of reading materials can all make a big difference. Be creative! This week I’ve highlighted three resources that are all geared towards capturing reader interest and motivating students to read more. Also be sure to read Peggy’s companion column (linked below) for additional resources and teaching ideas. We’ll be featuring many more lessons, resources, and activities on motivating readers each day throughout the week on our Twitter and Facebook pages, so be sure to check those pages regularly.
Harry and the Haunted House – Interactive Storybook
Subjects: Whole Language, Storytelling, Reading
Price: $4.99 on iTunes
“Harry and the Haunted House” is a slightly spooky tale of how one’s imagination can make things seem scarier than they actually are. Aimed at young and emergent readers, this interactive reading app for the iPad and iPhone features 12 animated pages with lots of hidden animated surprises on each page. The app is in both English and Spanish, and features dynamic switching between the two languages. The supporting teacher materials feature a 31-page overview of classroom activities for “Harry and the Haunted House,” and also include a free preview of Classroom Activity Guides for other Wanderful titles. All activities in the guide were created by educators, and are aligned with Common Core State Standards. This is a great resource for keeping younger students entertained – and learning – at home, in the classroom, and on-the-go. This app was created by Wanderful Interactive Storybooks, which offers the award-winning Living Books through new, truly interactive technology.
Thrills! Chills! Using Scary Stories to Motivate Students to Read
Subjects: Writing, Reading, Literature
This lesson taps into students' desire to read scary stories and, at the same time, helps them to explore story structure and develop critical thinking skills. Students examine story elements (e.g., character, setting, plot) through teacher read-alouds and independent reading. Reader-response journals and graphic organizers prepare students for the culminating activity - the creation of their own scary stories. While this lesson uses the Goosebumps series as a model, it can be conducted using any scary story. Goosebumps books should be an easy read for most students at this level, so even struggling readers can actively participate in this lesson. This lesson was produced by ReadWriteThink, which offers free resources in reading and language arts instruction.
Literature Circles for High School Reluctant Readers
Subjects: Reading, Writing, Literature
How can you get your reluctant readers to actually read the books you assign - or any books at all for that matter? Literature Circles are a wonderful answer to this dilemma - even for the most reluctant of high school readers. This resource was developed by Scholastic, the children’s publishing, media, and education company.