Few of us doubt the importance of teaching reading. Parents want their children to read and teachers have resorted to practically begging their students to read. But how do we make it happen? Here’s what we think:
Most of us excel at something when we truly love it. Raw talent, natural inclination and drive helps, but passion is an inextricable part of success. What if we applied this principal to teaching reading? What if we made it our goal not only to teach our students to read, but also taught them to love it? This may be a challenge, but here are 5 simple tips to get you started!
Teaching Reading Means Teaching Students to LOVE Reading
- There’s no such thing as “real” reading
It’s funny how many of our students claim—and vehemently so—that they don’t like reading despite the fact that they read all the time. Try something: Ask your students if they text. Ask them if they update their Facebook account or read and write comments on their friends’ wall. Do they send email? Do they read magazines, comic books or celebrity gossip blogs? We bet they do.
Like it or not, if we want to nurture a love of reading in our students, we must acknowledge that these are legitimate forms of reading. Believe and reinforce this.
- Ask them what they are interested in and help them find books that meet those interests
Remember, if you’re going to teach reading, you’re going to have to teach students to LOVE reading. After you legitimize all forms of reading, ask your students what interests them. Have them write it all down so you can help them research later. Do they like sports, history, exotic food? Maybe they are interested in woodworking or circuit bending electronics. Literally, there’s a book out there for everything; students may just need your expertise to help track it down.
A 2008 survey conducted by Scholastic and Yankelovich revealed that 55 percent of the students surveyed agreed that there aren’t enough good books out there that target their age demographic. Of course this isn’t true. What is true, however, is that students most likely need your help finding the “good books.”
- Texts don’t have to be long for them to be deep
One of the most exhilarating things about teaching reading and discussing texts is that they can be viewed through a variety of lenses. Remember Roland Barthe’s argument? “The author is dead. Who cares what he meant to say? Who cares about his biography?” Barthe’s argument will be a hit with your students who are tired of having their interpretations of a text belittled.
You may not fully subscribe to Barthe’s suggestions, but you can still push them to come to their own conclusions. When you teach reading, don’t impose limitations on books. Teach them to read critically. Teach them to read selfishly. Encourage them to interrogate texts by asking, “So what? Why should I care about this? How does it impact me? How does it impact my world?”
This gets to what we really wanted to say: A text doesn’t have to be long to be deep. Take Ezra Pound’s poem, “In a Station of the Metro.” It may be two lines, but it might as well be a novel. Dissect it. Play with it. Put it back together. Rinse and repeat.
Due to federal mandates left over from No Child Left Behind, literacy is now required to be a cross curricular activity. Blogging encourages students to read and write, regardless of the subject matter. Blogs are a great way to meet federal and state mandated literacy requirements while allowing a wide open field in terms of content.
But there’s more: Blogging creates a space where students get to think and express themselves in a different way. For one thing, blogs can be informal, which makes them less intimidating for weak readers and writers. Students may have mental blocks trying to structure an assignment using academic language, but using blogging in the classroom allows them to get the words out there without the fear of criticism and/or failure.
- Harness the power of FREE literacy apps
Students love technology—it’s adults like us who are skeptical of it. Try something new this year! There is no shortage of FREE, touch-based apps that’ll help your students build their vocabulary and have fun while they do it. If you’re interested and not sure where to begin, check out one of our earlier blogs where you’ll find 5 of our favorite vocabulary building apps.