by Lizette M. Lantigua
Finding ways to encourage students to read for fun is an age-old struggle. Today, ever-present distractions created by cell phones, tablets, and social media, make it even harder. Yet research shows that reading impacts students’ academic success. It now takes enthusiasm, creativity, and more research to get students thinking of books as a source of entertainment instead of a duty and chore. Here are some powerful tips for getting your students to become lifetime book lovers like you!
1. Surround them with good books. Some libraries and classrooms are so smartly arranged that you can hardly walk through them without having your attention drawn to one book or another. Interesting book covers beckon you to pick them up and read them! Sadly, other libraries are devoid of any such books. They resemble sterile laboratories with computers, large screens, small iPads, and chairs for students to sit in and fall asleep. Stimulate your students’ senses. Think of books as wonderfully tempting desserts at a banquet table, beautifully displayed and ready to be devoured. Purchase interesting books that have eye-catching covers that your students can’t resist!
2. Select books students will enjoy. As adults, we might want books with conflict and real-life situations, but these novels might not be what your students want to read. Start with something fun and entertaining. Start your meal with an appetizer. It may be a graphic novel. Get students excited about reading first and then explore more complex books if your students are old enough to appreciate them.
3. Read aloud to your students. It doesn’t matter the student’s age. Reading aloud has been proven to help students appreciate vocabulary, expression, and pronunciation. The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie is a great reference on this subject.
4. Search for fun books at Catholic Christian publishers and booksellers. As Catholic teachers, you need not search only on secular sites. Parents have granted you the opportunity to help them in enriching their children’s faith. There are plenty of fun and age-appropriate books at Catholic and other Christian publishing companies and online bookstores. Many of these companies publish contemporary fiction and clean reads, books that align with our faith and values. Visit www.GoodNewsBookShop.com for books from Pre-K to 8th grades from various Catholic/Christian publishers. Visit www.CatholicTeenBooks.com for books for high school and junior high students. To learn more about these authors and their books, check out the interesting articles found here: www.GoodNewsBookFair.com.
5. Invite authors to visit your classroom. Meeting an author is a very moving experience. If you’ve ever witnessed a child meeting an author, you know how their eyes light up, followed by an incredible smile that seems to say they never thought it possible to have an author visit their school. Once they hear an author speak about a book, they can’t wait to read it! This is priceless. However, unless the author is local, there is often a financial cost for an author visit to cover travel expenses, so be creative in allocating funds for this event. There may be business sponsorship opportunities among the parents in your school who are more than willing to make this happen. You can also consider virtual visits using FaceTime or other software.
6. Invite a Catholic author. Educators at a Catholic school also have the opportunity to invite authors that can bring the faith alive for students. Some good websites to identify Catholic authors are: www.catholicteenbooks.com and www.catholicwritersguild.org.
7. Start book clubs. Separate students into small groups based on their favorite genres (historical fiction, contemporary fiction, classics, series books, etc. …) and discuss what they like or dislike about the book. Incorporate discussion questions created by the author, if available. Bring food or objects to display that are mentioned in the book. Do this for books in the curriculum that are required reading. Make it fun!
8. Fieldtrips. Arrange a fieldtrip to the home of a famous author or the setting of a popular book. States and municipalities have turned many authors’ homes into museums that are open for tours or other special events. This brings a book into a whole new light for your students. If a book has been made into a movie, have your class read the book and then watch the movie. Discuss the differences between the book and the movie.
9. Select weekly time for fun reading: When I was a student, my school had an hour of silent reading on Fridays. We were encouraged to silently read a book in our classrooms. We selected books from our school library or classroom shelves. This was a mandatory school project for elementary to middle school. A bell would ring when silent reading began and ring again when the time concluded. This gives students, otherwise overscheduled with activities, a chance to read for fun. For smaller children, invite a relative or parent to read aloud for the class. Involve parents in your reading projects. This way the love for reading continues in their homes.
10. Create fun projects for students. Have your younger students create a play and act out the story from the picture book they just read. For older students, assign them a character and have them read those parts aloud. Middle school students can write their own desired ending for the book they just read or create a fan fiction novel! (more ideas to come in future newsletters)
The tips above may not be new to you but great reminders of things you can do to instill the love of reading in your students. Make every moment you spend with your students special and enriching. When you feel tired and overwhelmed, remember what St. John Paul II said about educators: “As teachers, you kindle in your students a thirst for truth and wisdom. You spark off in them a desire for beauty. You introduce them to their cultural heritage. You help them to discover the treasures of other cultures and peoples. What an awe
some responsibility and privilege is yours in the teaching profession!” ~Address of John Paul II to the Council, Staff, and Students of the Institute of Catholic Education, Melbourne (Australia), 28 November 1986.
Lizette M. Lantigua is the author of Mission Libertad (Pauline Books & Media) and the owner of Good News! Book Fair. For a handout sheet for parents on How to Get Your Kids to Read for Fun go on www.goodnewsbookfair.com.