In an ideal world, our students would pop out of the womb with an innate appetite for books. That’s not the world we live in, so rather than dreaming, we’re going to offer a few tips to turn your reluctant readers into avid readers. One thing to keep in mind when trying to engage reluctant readers is that there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Reluctant readers—students who can read, but choose not to—have little intrinsic motivation, which means that you’re going to have to be the extrinsic motivator; it’s up to you to use the techniques to unite students with books! Finding a reading role model is one way you can make this happen.
Engaging Reluctant Readers By Recruiting Reading Role Models
- Warm your students up to the idea of a reading role model.
Before you wrangle up your reading role model, you’ll want to have a heart to heart with your students. Explain to them that many people love to read—in fact, reading is as essential to many professions as breathing is. How would a television or radio newscaster be able to tell us what’s going on in the world without reading? Would your students want an illiterate, or even a reluctantly literate, lawyer to take their case? Probably not.
Now ask them to think of professions that require reading and discuss why. Make a list on the board and discuss it. Use it to reach out to potential speakers now
- What do I say to my potential reading role model?
As you start to email or call potential reading mentors, you might say something like this:
This year, I am making it my priority to engage my reluctant readers and teach them not only to value reading, but actually love it. Last week, we had an in-class discussion; we talked about various professions and why reading is an essential part of that profession. As an insert profession here, my students thought that you would be a perfect reading role model! They would be impressed if you would stop by our classroom and tell them about your reading habits and how they correspond to your profession.
- You’ve found your mentor. How do you prepare them?
You might ask the mentor to tell your students about the different types of reading that they use on the job every day. Of course, this isn’t limited to just reading books. Your mentor may not be used to public speaking, so it might be helpful for you to talk a bit about your own reading habits and what you’ve told your students about them. If you need a framework, here’s what we might say:
Every morning, I wake up, brew a pot of coffee and sit down to check my email. I encourage people to contact me as much as they like, so usually there are five or six emails from some of my colleagues, students or parents. Once I’ve read and answered the emails, I read over my lesson plans, reacquaint myself with some of the assigned readings and if I have time, I check out my favorite celebrity gossip blog. Remember, there’s no such thing as “real reading.” When I get home, I have to cook dinner—which means that I have to read and follow the directions in my recipe book. Etc. etc. etc.
One thing we always try to keep in the forefront of our minds is the fact that most of us excel at something when we truly love it. Without passion or love, motivation will almost always diminish. Finding a reading mentor is only one small step we can take toward teaching our reluctant readers to love books. If you need a few more tips, check out one of our most recent blogs, “Teaching Reading Means Teaching Our Students to LOVE Reading.”