The Biggest Gift You Can Give Your Students – A LOVE for READING!
Working in schools alongside teachers, teaching children to read, is an absolute pleasure. I am often asked, ‘What else could I be doing?’ This question comes from hard working teachers who spend endless hours planning for their students.
While we are busily trying to teach the strategies and skills associated with reading, we seem to have lost sight of what is important, if not critical. That is, the internal drive to want to be a reader. Without even realising it, we are neglecting the actual factor that will make a difference. As teachers of reading, the biggest gift we can give our students is a LOVE of reading.
The real question here is, how do we develop a genuine love of reading in our students? How do we produce students who choose to be readers by choice, not because they have to, but that because they WANT to, as they genuinely enjoy this thing called ‘reading’?
Let’s examine some practical ideas that will start a ‘buzz’ about reading in your classroom. The beauty about these ideas is that they only need your passion for reading and the desire to make a difference in your students’ lives.
Teaching Tip 1: Share your Reading Life
Share your reading life with your students. Let them know who you are as a person and who you are as a reader. By sharing your reading life, your students will see your enthusiasm and love for reading. Students look up to their teachers as role models, tuning in to everything that is said. Use this to your advantage, as you act as a mentor for your students, and work towards moving your students to be readers by choice.
I begin by sharing my book bag, filled with books that influenced me to become a reader. I start with my all-time favourite picture story book, that I first remember as a child, Harry the Dirty Dog. Then I pull out multiple titles from the Enid Blyton and the Nancy Drew series. I share what I am currently reading, which usually includes some fiction for enjoyment, some teacher resource books, and a couple of magazines. Also included are the books I have ‘waiting in the wings’. This shows an avid reader is always prepared with their next book.
Every book you reveal should be shared with a great sense of enthusiasm and excitement, some, more than others, but each book will have had a significant impact on you.
Let your students peek into your life as a reader, by sharing where in your home you love to read, who you can’t wait to talk to about what you are reading, and who gives you your best recommendations.
Students admire their teachers so when we invite our students in to our reading lives we are inviting them to think about their own. Once the idea of a reading life is part of your students’ lives, invite your students
to share their reading lives with each other. This is the beginning of creating a ‘community of readers.’
Teaching Tip 2: Create a ‘Community of Readers’
A community is ‘the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common’. Creating a ‘Community of Readers’ is all about creating a culture of sharing, and celebrating the common interests
and positive attitudes a group of students and their teacher, has towards reading.
How can you go about this? Firstly, your classroom needs to reflect your common attitudes and interests in reading. It stands out for me, when I walk in to a classroom.
A classroom that reflects a community of readers will have:
- A classroom library that is the focal point of the room, that oozes the value that is placed on reading.
- Student recommendation boards, displaying books that others might want to read.
- Book displays of the class’s favourite read aloud books.
- Authors and series highlighted and placed on a pedestal for others to read.
- Anchor charts that provide practical ways for students to ‘find their next great book’.
By just looking around the room you can see, that books take pride of place in the room, and the community of readers, has a common love and respect for reading.
Teaching Tip 3: Read aloud to your students with passion and excitement
If you want your students to read more, if you want to introduce your students to a new title or author or series, if you want your students to read more non-fiction then it is simple. Read what you want your
students to read, out aloud, with great passion and excitement. The most sought-after book in any classroom, is the one the teacher has just read. You just need to ‘nail it!’
Think of yourself as being on stage, as an actor whose job it is to entertain, to transport the audience to another place. Make reading aloud to your students a performance.
- Choose books that you love, and your students will fall in love with them.
- Let your students see and hear how you make the story live.
- Use expression by creating the characters’ voices.
- Pace your reading, by slowing down and speeding up at different points of the story. This creates anticipation for the listener. You will have them hanging on every word.
- Share your ‘authentic’ responses to what you read; how has the author made you think, feel or react?
- Engage your students to share their responses as you draw them into the book.
Teaching Tip 4: Develop a relationship with each of your students
Approach your role as a teacher of reading, as a mentor, and role model, and you can’t go wrong.
Take the time to get to know each one of your students as people first. What are their likes and dislikes, and what are their interests inside and outside of school? Getting to know your students first, will make
understanding your students, as readers much clearer.
Delve into their reading history to help paint the picture of what has, or has not, influenced them so far as a reader. Build up a sense of their reading life. Understanding who they are and what motivates them as a
reader, will help you connect with them, and establish a genuine relationship as a mentor.
Once this is established your job is to foster your relationship with your students by conversing with them often about their reading. This can be scheduled formally through a reading conference, or can be the spontaneous conversations you instigate with your students throughout the day, as you genuinely engage with them as readers.
‘So go ahead. Watch. Wonder. Relax. Smile. Have some fun. Lean in. Listen with your whole heart. Water seeds. Polish stones. Nurture. Affirm. Nudge. Persist. Offer hope. Shine light on possibilities. Show a fierce and unwavering belief in the capacity of every child. Trust yourself to know and nurture readers.’ To Know and Nurture a Reader Yates and Nosek p.216
Miller, D. (2009). The Book Whisperer. San Francisco, CA: Josey – Bass.
Nosek, C. & Yates, K (2018). To Know and Nurture a Reader – Conferring with Confidence and Joy.
Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers
Routman, R.(2003). Reading Essentials – The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well. Portsmith, NH:Heinemann
Ripp, P. (2018). Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. New York, NY:Routledge.