The key to being a successful learner, is reading. Students need to read what is required of them in English, but also in history, science, and even math. The problem is, when reading becomes a chore, students lose motivation. We often find in the schools that when students enter their upper elementary years (particularly the 4th grade), interest in reading for fun often drops off substantially as students transition from learning to read into reading to learn.
When summer vacation arrives, many students will go the entire 8 weeks without touching a book. This, for many, is even an outright goal. We need to encourage them to embrace reading self-selected materials over this time. It is their best chance of avoiding the dreaded “summer slide” and to actually even become better readers (though we might not want to mention that part). This is the students’ time to read what they want, simply for the joy of experiencing something that interests them.
What can we do to motivate and encourage our students? Here are some great ideas!
1) Invite students to give Book Talks to the entire class. Who influences kids the most? Their peers, of course, so providing children opportunities to pitch books to classmates can be incredibly effective and powerful.
2) Introduce kids (and especially those reluctant readers!) to a book series. This will inspire them to seek out the next book, and the next, and the next.
3) Provide your students and their families with the “Latest and Greatest” in fiction and non-fiction for the grade level you teach. I’ve had students come back to me the next year, and there are x’s by several book titles (they used the reading list I gave them as a check list!)
4) If teaching older kids, set up a Facebook page all about books. Students will then be able to share with their classmates (and you!) updates on what they are reading and post their book reviews.
5) Start or end class with a Read and Tease. This means you read a few enticing lines from a book (it can be the opening words, or midway through). For my students, I’d give a dramatic reading of the opening paragraph and then place the book on the rim of the whiteboard. At the end of class, at least 2 or 3 students would ask to check it out.
6) Advise families to take children to the library and bookstores on a regular basis. Send a letter home or an email with a list of neighborhood libraries and bookstores. Possibly include some inspiring quotes or a bit of research, giving some evidence to why reading is so very important.
7) Encourage your students to register for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. You can even make it a homework assignment. Scholastic also offers creative suggestions for classroom lessons using the Summer Challenge. Once a student does register, she will be able to enter a contest with prizes by simply logging in her reading minutes. Consider sending the Scholastic link to parents where they can download reading lists and get some tips for supporting their child’s summer reading.
Kids need to become lifelong readers early on. Be an advocate, guide and a reason for a child discovering the book that hooks him, inspires him to keep reading, and to continue seeking more and more enriching text. Developing strategic, savvy, critical readers is one of our great charges (and challenges) as teachers. It’s also one of our greatest rewards.