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These tips and recommendations can help students learn to read, read to learn, and learn to love reading--because a love of reading is a great thing to have

10 educator suggestions to instill a love of reading in students

These tips and recommendations can help students learn to read, read to learn, and learn to love reading

My husband quite often reminds me not to use my behavior as a child OR an adult as an indicator of others’… because I’m weird. From the moment I learned to read, I loved it. My favorite winter break was spent bingeing on every Baby-Sitters Club book in the series. As an adult, at any given moment, I’m listening to an audiobook and bouncing between one or two print books. Sometimes I read to learn. But most often, I read because I love it. But again… I’m weird.

Is it weird? Or did the mere fact I enjoyed access to books at home, school, and in the public library as a student give me a distinct advantage? The most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), otherwise known as The Nation’s Report Card, indicates that students scoring in the lowest percentiles in reading and math are dipping noticeably.

Related content: How school librarians are getting creative in a pandemic

Further examination of the results shows a widening gap between the average reading performance of black and white students. While both are declining, the performance of black students is declining faster than white students.

The pandemic demonstrated further equity gaps as students across rural and urban America still lack access to the internet. In many of those communities, students couldn’t get to print books from the school or public library because both were closed–challenges that make learning to read, reading to learn, and learning to love reading nearly impossible.

Yet, reading is the foundation of learning. It may be aspirational to think we can instill a love of reading in every student. So how about we set our sights on giving students the tools to begin to “like to read,” or maybe even just not hating it?

Reading is embedded in the culture at one high school outside of St. Louis, where every student was challenged to read 1 million pages during their four years. I remember being shocked to walk into that high school before the morning bell and seeing students sitting on the floor by their lockers reading. Building that culture took work and guts. Every teacher allowed for 10 minutes of independent reading that would have previously been used for instruction. Time to read combined with the peer pressure associated with the million-page-reading challenge made reading about more than learning. Those students learned to love to read.

One-million-pages a student might be a bit over-zealous in the middle of pandemic-driven remote learning challenges. But we have to start somewhere…

Here are 10 ideas educators shared with me that developed a love of reading for their students:

1. Talk to students one to one. By getting to know your students’ likes and dislikes and building that relationship, you might be surprised when the “girly-girl” really wants to learn more about dinosaurs.
2. Find the right format. Many students gravitate toward popular trade titles, but others get excited about audiobooks, graphic novels, and eBooks.
3. Get students hooked on a series.
4. Read books out loud to students even if they can read themselves!
5. Connect students to stories and characters that look like and share similar experiences as them—as well as other races, cultures, and experiences—through books, virtual visits, sites, and online experiences.
6. Be a reading role model. Students want to see adults who love to read.
7. Bring a book to life! Help students write a script from a book and have them perform it. Extra credit? Have them create props, sets, and costumes and present it to another class.
8. Put reading levels aside.
9. Create book trailers! Help students create videos for each other, promoting their favorite books.
10. Build a culture where reading is cool!

Perhaps using some – or all – of these ideas can help our country move the needle toward improved reading scores, literacy, and above all, a love for reading. And that is not weird.

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Britten Follett
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