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10 tips to help students develop a love of reading

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When I was six, I learned to read. The first book I remember reading was about a detective who loved pancakes. I haven’t stopped reading since. My family is a reading family. I remember first reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my mom. That wizardly series quickly expanded and bonded my immediate and extended family. We had Halloween parties themed after Harry Potter, we went to the midnight releases of new books, and we cried together through the final book. When my family goes on a road trip, we each take a bag of books. I remember one long drive where my grandmother was listening to a Clive Cussler novel while I read my own book. I became quite practiced at tuning out outside distraction on that drive! When I was thirteen, I converted my best friend to reading simply because that was one of my favorite pastimes; now I've converted my husband as well. He recently told his mother how he has read thirteen books in the past thirteen months (she was very impressed). However, with the growth of technology in our daily lives, our younger generation has many options for entertainment. With so many demands on their attention and so little time in the day, recreational reading seems to fall to the wayside. As a hobby that offers more than just a way to pass the time, here are some tips to get your kids to read. If you would like some tips specifically for teens, this article is a good source for ideas.

With the growth of technology in our daily lives, students have many options for entertainment. With so many demands on their attention and so little time in the day, recreational reading often falls to the wayside. As a hobby that pays amazing dividends in a child's furture, here are some tips to entice your students to read on their own time.

1. Read to them and with them.

Start reading to students even before they can read themselves. Engage young students by using silly voices, animal noises, and other sound effects. Involve students in the story and they will begin to search out stories on their own. Encourage parents to read books with their children.

2. Read on your own, and students will imitate you.

Reading is contagious. Your students will notice if you have a book you are reading. You can also share with your class what your favorite books are or what your latest reading adventure entails. 

3. Make books readily available.

Don’t let reading material be a rare commodity. Have books and magazines available in your classroom. Library sales, garage sales, and thrift stores are great places to build your library. Consider a book drive where students can donate books from their homes for the classroom. If you don’t have a lot of books in  your house, set aside a day every week to go to the library. Encourage your students to get their own library cards. They will value the responsibility of having their own account. Libraries are amazing. But remind your students to return their books on time! No one likes late fees.

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4. Incentivize students to read.

Suggest an age-appropriate book-based video, then tell your class you can watch the video as a class activity if they each either read the book the movie is based on or a similar book at their reading level. Create reading charts with small reward built in as students finish off books and discuss what they learned or their favorite parts. Don't make this competitive between students--simply encourage students to check in with you whenever they finish a book and reward their efforts. You can also offer "free reading time" as a reward for when other classroom tasks are completed, communicating that reading is a treat that we all look forward to!

5. Key in to what interests each student, and purchase or borrow books on their favorite subjects.

If you give a child a book they like, they’ll probably ask for more! Ask each of your students what subjects they love--if they're older, have them fill out a questionnaire. Then fill your classroom library with books on these topics. Of course, it's great for students to read books outside their comfort zone but engaging students in subjects they love is a sure way to encourage a love of reading. 

6. Hold classroom bookclubs.

Organize classroom book clubs--either with a book you are reading to the class as a whole, or in smaller groups that are reading the same book. Incorporate book club meeting times into designated classroom reading time or voluntary time during lunch, recess, or other optional-use time. Research questions to promote academic discourse and discussion for deeper learning and enjoyment.

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7. Introduce your students to books in a series.

If you can get your students hooked on one book in a series, chances are they will seek out the sequels on their own. For series like Ranger’s Apprentice, The Boxcar Children, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter, your students could be in for a long ride of reading goodness.

8. Set aside reading spaces.

Set comfy armchairs, bean bags, pillows, blankets, etc. in areas with good lighting. Encourage your students to find their own special spot for reading in the classroom. You can also organize a trip to a local park to read on a blankets when the weather is good. Essentially, find a comfortable spot, and start reading.

9. Throw a book-themed party. 

Organize a classroom activity based on books your students are reading. Have each child prepare to dress as a character and share something about their character or the book they're reading. You can have activities and food that are reflective of the books and their themes. Check out Pinterest or other  blogs for a host of great book-themed party ideas.

10. Participate in reading/library challenges. 

See what reading challenges your local library is organizing, and encourage your students to participate or participate as a class. Challenge other same-grade classes at your school to reach classroom reading goals. Celebrate by choosing an activity to participate with the other reading classrooms, such as extra time on the playground or a book-themed party (see #9). 

Looking for tips to encourage middle school students to love reading? Check out this article.