Getting kids to read is one of the most rewarding and challenging things a teacher can do. Opening the world of adventure and imagination from a book set in a far-off land or even down the street can help students make connections to their lives and to the world. It can make children feel less alone, give them tools to navigate their lives, and even make them think about others.
So how do I get my students to find connections to books that will last a lifetime?
• I try to meet them where they are.
I choose my read-aloud books very carefully. I ensure that the main characters are diverse in gender, culture, religion, and more. Throughout the year, I mix factual and fantasy, historical and fiction. I like to start my year off with Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli, to let my students know that trying something new might be scary and you might be influenced to do something you shouldn’t, but being true to yourself and being kind is always the right thing to do.
I am also not afraid of having an emotional reaction to a story as I read aloud. When I read the passage about Bob, the dog who was thrown out of a car window in The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, I couldn’t help my visceral reaction to the passage. Kids see that it’s ok to be moved by a powerful story.