The First Two Weeks: Helping Students Fall in Love
The key to helping students fall in love with reading is to spend a few weeks teaching students two things:
1- to think of themselves as readers
2- to introduce students to the myriad of books that exist and get them excited to try these books.
I intertwine both of these objectives but I will discuss them as separate parts.
How to help students think of themselves as readers
This is tricky as most struggling readers are incredibly resistant to reading and see reading as something they are “bad” at doing. In this folder (dropbox) you will find a number of activities that use at the beginning to help introduce students to the reader’s workshop method. Several of these are helpful in achieving the objective of getting students to think of themselves as readers.
Book quiz– this is a great way for students to see themselves as reader because students answer questions and the quiz then defines students as a “reading” type. The benefit of this quiz is that ALL students are defined as a reader when they take the quiz. This is key to helping struggling readers see themselves as a reader.
Have students create a literacy autobiography. This asks students to reflect on early (often happier) memories of themselves as readers.
I have students create a reading journal using a composition book. On the front of this journal students choose a Quote About Reading from this list (in dropbox) and this helps students define who they are as readers.
I also do a reading survey to gauge students interest and have student partake in the activity limitations in the mind to help inspire them to overcome something they think is difficult, in this case, reading.
How to introduce students to books
First, you need BOOKS. Lots of them. High interest books. The last document on this list (dropbox) has a list of many of the high interest books I kept in my library for struggling readers.
How to get books?
– I check them out of the school and public library
– Write donors choose grants
– Ask the school for money to purchase books.
It’s important that you have stacks and stacks of books in your classroom. Unleashing struggling readers into the library on their own is often a failing gesture. Students need your help and they need many choices and these choices must readily available to you as you engage in reading with students. You need a stack of books for the first student who realizes they made a poor choice in book selection or the student who finishes their book or forgets their book.
Second, you need to book talk these books. All the time. Tell students about them. You don’t need to have read the books- just show them the cover, read the back, a few pages from the inside, and talk the book up. Get students excited about reading this book.
I have students start a list of books I want to read in their reading journals. When I book talk books, students can write down books they are interested in on this list.
After I’ve filled my room with books and talked up a lot of books I often engage in a book pass which you can find at this link. Students get five minutes with five books. They rate the book using the scale on this handout and put down their reactions. I usually demonstrate a few books first. After we are done, any books that students rated a 3 or a 4 go on the books I want to read list in student’s reading journals.
I intermingle these activities with a few minilessons about reading habits as well. We discuss stamina and how students must build stamina for reading so we will start with small increments of reading and add time as students are ready. I discuss when to give up a book. I emphasize not to stick with a book that isn’t working but also to try to reflect on books that they didn’t like so they can make different choices in the future. See the minilesson true false quiz that I use to open up discussion about this topic at this link.
An important point- I do not begin reading during this time. Students look at books, I read excerpts to them, they develop lists and I expose them to as many books as possible. I want students to be excited and begging me to read. When that happens, I know it’s time to move on to reading. Until then I keep doing these activities to get students excited about the prospect of reading.
When we do begin reading, I make a big deal about it. I usually provide some light snacks and we spend a large chunk of time looking at the books I want to read list and choosing a book. I tell students to try several books if they like. After all, it can take more than one book to find the one to fall in love with. 🙂