How to Unlock Students' Reading Motivation | Mentoring in the Middle

How to Unlock Students' Reading Motivation

 "He says he hates to read, but I know you'll change his mind."  

"I asked for her to be in your class because you'll introduce her to books that are a good fit."                            

Do you have a reputation at school for being a book "matchmaker?"  I read middle-grade books because they're fun, and I want to stay a step ahead of my voracious readers.  New books come out all the time and I want to have read them to match them up with readers who are a good fit for them.

Here are some things you can do, whether you're teaching remotely or in-person this year, that will get your students hooked on reading.

 Get to know your students' interests and reading habits.  This is critical to do in the early days, and fairly easy to do.  You can create a survey so that you know how much time they spend reading and what other things they like to do.  

  • What are their music interests?  
  • Where do they spend time on social media?
  • How do they feel about reading?
I give my students a digital survey and then I use that information to connect them with books that match their interests and stamina levels.  You can find that teacher survey here.
Read aloud to your students.  
  • Introduce them to new genres - when we read Refugee or The War that Saved My Life or Yankee Girl, they learn that historical fiction can be full of action!
  • Read Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 and you'll have them hooked on Science Fiction!
  • Read The Unwanteds or The False Prince and you might have them hooked on fantasy.
Not only do you expand their horizons, but they hear fluid and fluent reading, which is still very important at this age.  It doesn't need to be a long time; my read-alouds tend to last 10-15 minutes.
Let them CHOOSE THEIR OWN BOOKS and then give them time to read.  This is key!   It doesn't matter if it's at home or in school, they need to carve out at least a half-hour of reading a day.  They might need to build up to it in the beginning.

And here's the thing:
  1. 30 minutes is 30 minutes.  But it's also
  2. 15 minutes + 15 minutes 
  3. 10 minutes + 20 minutes 
  4. 5 minutes + 10 minutes + 15 minutes 
You get the idea.  It doesn't have to be all at once.  But they will start to get hooked on books the more they read, and so carving out that time for them is critical.
Talk to them about what they're reading.  
  • Meet with them individually to discuss the book and perhaps a skill you've been learning
  • Meet in small groups with a focus, so it doesn't matter that they're all reading different books because they're looking for the same thing
  • Have them respond in journals (I let them pick from these prompts to respond to.)
  • Have them respond digitally - they can respond to each other or to you.
Do regular book talks with them.  About once a week, I'll talk about some books.  Introduce your students to all of the wonderful new and tried-and-true books that have made students happy for years.

  • Can't book talk because you don't have the books?  There are tons of book trailers on Youtube, Vimeo, and publisher's and author's websites.  Save yourself time here and get links to 11 good book trailers!
  • Take advantage of Epic, SORA, Libby, or the ebook platform that your school uses.
These are just some of the ways I got kids to build up their reading habits and stamina.  I hope there's a nugget in here that you can use this year!

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