Teachers in their Words: How to Teach a Love for Reading

March 1, 2016
March 1, 2016

Teachers in their Words: How to Teach a Love for Reading

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, libraries, educators and classrooms across the country are celebrating the joy of reading for fun with Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat and other silliness. But some students struggle with reading, which can make it feel more like work than fun. How does one teach a love of reading to young students who haven’t discovered the fun yet?

We asked a few of our lower school teachers for some ideas. Here they are in their own words with five things you can do to make reading fun as a family:

1. Pick books that are interesting!

“One of my favorite quotes is from Mem Fox, a children’s author from Australia, who said: ‘When I say to parents read to your child I don’t want it to sound like medicine, I want it to sound like chocolate.’ That has always inspired me as a parent and a teacher. I don’t want reading to be like medicine. I want it to be like chocolate. I look for books that draw students in and engage them so they get excited to see what will happen next when you turn the page. One of my favorites is a book called Press Here. As you turn the pages, it asks the children to do things like press on a specific spot or tilt the book this way or that way, and when you turn the page the illustration has changed based on what you’ve done. I could read that book 16 times a day every day and my students would never say stop!”
– Kimber Keating, Junior Kindergarten

2. Explore different genres

“As a class, we try everything from science fiction to non-fiction to historical literature to fantasy in our book clubs. Having students sample different genres in the classroom gets them reading books they wouldn’t normally pick up, and when they discover their ‘hook’ it’s like a lightbulb goes off!”
– Angela Sadler, 3rd Grade

3. Carve out reading time – and talking time – for books

“I try to build in at least 20 minutes of silent sustained reading time every day, which the students love. They can sit anywhere they want in the classroom. We have the loft that they can go up into and sit on the bean bags, they can sit on the benches below the loft, they can lie on the floor or lean up against a pillow. It’s kind of a social time for them in a way, not while they’re reading but afterwards, because they talk about their books and share what’s happening. Right now A Series of Unfortunate Events is really popular because one student read it and couldn’t stop talking about it. It got everyone interested, and now they’re all excited to share what’s happening in each chapter.”
– Polly Johnson, 4th Grade

4. Build confidence book by book

“I often tell parents that the reading experience at home should be like going out to a nice restaurant. Children should start with an appetizer, a fun book they enjoy that they can read well and that gets them into the rhythm of reading so they can feel successful. The main course should be a ‘challenge’ book, where they know most of the words but it’s right on the edge of their reading level. The main course should challenge them to use their word attack skills and push them a little bit. But dessert should be a book that they can share with you. Whether you read the whole thing to them yourself or you alternate reading a few sentences each or a few pages each, the last book of the night should be a shared experience. This way they’re improving fluency, using decoding strategies and gaining competency as they follow along with you, but the child is building in confidence too.”
– Rob Pitera, 2nd Grade

5. Always have a book with you

“Whether it was listening to a book on tape in the car on the way to school, or sharing a quick chapter at the table while waiting for our food at a restaurant, books were always a part of our family when my children were young. We read out loud all the time. Stories were so much a part of our life, and often my son and I would get competitive about who would get the first crack at a series like the Harry Potter books (of course he would always win!) As a family we were always listening to and talking about books, which was such a great way for my children to crack the code.”
– Penny Work, Head of School

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