Once upon a time, I fell in love with teaching high school. For 6 years, I taught high school English, journalism, newspaper, and other electives. I swore that I would stay in high school forever…until I found myself in a 7th grade reading classroom.
AN UNEXPECTED LOVE STORY
Like most love stories, this was unexpected. I never imagined I would teach middle school. I never thought I would teach only reading. After all, I’m Write on With Miss G, right? But the most surprising thing? I never expected just how easily I would fall in love with teaching reading to 12- and 13-year-old kids.
I love browsing my favorite bookstores, thinking of a different student with every spine I pull out. I love the question of “What should I read next?” and gathering a stack of good books. I love putting *that book* a student has been waiting for on their desk and watching them squeal with excitement when they see it. I love watching the self-proclaimed “non-readers” find the right book and fall in love with reading. I love it when students get mad at me because they have “too many books on their list. (Apparently, it’s my fault for telling them about All Of The Books.)
I love looking around my classroom to the sound of nothing but pages turning and the sight of students buried in books. And I secretly love hearing their groans and complaints when I say, “Okay, finish your paragraph or page” to signal the end of our independent reading time. I love watching their faces light up when we read and listening to their over-the-top reactions. I love bonding with them over a shared reading experience and watching them fall in love with literature.
TEACHING READING: A LABOR OF LOVE
But all of this is easier said than done. Teaching reading is truly a labor of love, and you can’t rekindle your students’ love for books overnight. If your students’ relationships with reading are on the rocks, I get it. I’ve been there. In August, I walked into a classroom full of kids who said they “didn’t read an entire book in reading class last year.”
It’s February, and the last few students who initially protested reading are officially head over heels for their books. But it happened. We did it! I even surveyed my students, and every one of them raised their hand to say they had found a book they loved. Whether you call that positive peer pressure or a thriving community of readers, one thing is for certain: They’re reading. All of them. Every single day.
If you’re ready to plant the seeds for a lifelong love for reading, here are 5 ways to help your students fall in love with books!
1. GIVE STUDENTS CHOICE & TIME TO READ WHAT THEY WANT.
Ready to to rekindle your students’ love for reading? If so, there’s only one magic formula that can transform their relationship with books: CHOICE + TIME. Students deserve to choose books that they will actually enjoy, and they need time in class to read. With only assigned books and reading homework, opening a book will feel like a chore. So if you do nothing else in this blog post, launch an independent reading program that gives students choice and time. Without this, all of your other efforts will be in vain!
Thankfully, offering choice and time is easy. Well, easy-ish. Get out of your students’ way and give them the time they need to settle down with a good book. Of course, many students will need your help finding books, but that’s what the rest of this blog post (and Google) is for! 🙂
I give my students 10 minutes of independent reading time at the start of every single class period. If you can’t commit to daily reading, try penciling it in 2 or 3 days of the week. Any time is better than no time, and any choice is better than no choice.
A habit of reading won’t happen overnight. It may take weeks, months even, for students to hit their reading stride and fall in love at first page. But with choice and time, it will happen.
2. HOOK STUDENTS ON BOOKS WITH FIRST CHAPTER FRIDAY.
Once you set students up with choice and time, you’ll be ready to start your role as Book Matchmaker. And what better way to help students fall in love with reading than weekly dates with good books?! First Chapter Friday is a strategy that does just that. This weekly reading date is as simple as it sounds! Read aloud (or play audio from) the first chapter of an engaging, high-interest book every Friday.
First Chapter Friday is a great way to foster a love for reading, build classroom community, and expose your students to even more books. Do the math: If you feature a different book every Friday, you will expose your students to 36 new books by the end of the school year. 36 different dates with 36 different books? You can practically guarantee that students will find The One!
I was recently reshelving returned books when I recognized that 6 out of the 8 titles had been featured for First Chapter Friday. If that doesn’t show you that this works, I don’t know what will! For more information on First Chapter Friday, you can check out my resources HERE or read my blog series:
- Ready to fall in love with First Chapter Friday? Check out this post: 10 Reasons to Try First Chapter Friday
- Want to make sure this strategy is swoon-worthy for you and your students? Check out this helpful post: First Chapter Friday FAQ
- Want to stay in the honeymoon phase of First Chapter Friday forever? You’ll love these hacks for keeping it easy and fun: 15 Tips & Tricks for First Chapter Friday
- Need some help matchmaking? Check out this list of crush-worthy books: First Chapter Friday: Middle School Book List
3. EXPOSE STUDENTS TO EVEN MORE BOOKS WITH BOOK TRAILER TUESDAY.
Searching for another, even quicker way to make the reading sparks fly? A speed date, if you will? If so, get ready to fall crazy in love with Book Trailer Tuesday. Once again, it’s as simple as it sounds: Show a different book trailer every Tuesday!
Like First Chapter Friday, Book Trailer Tuesday is an engaging way to advertise books, generate interest in reading, and help students fall in love with new texts. Luckily, it’s even easier than First Chapter Friday, because all you have to do is find a book trailer on YouTube and press play!
Let’s return to the math: If you feature 2 different books every week, one for Book Trailer Tuesday and another for First Chapter Friday, you will introduce your students to a whopping 72 new titles by the end of the year. That’s 72 chances to fall in love with reading. Good odds, if you ask me!
4. CREATE A COMMUNITY OF READERS WITH GOODREADS.
Help your students commit to a serious relationship with reading by giving them a community of readers to root for them! Of course, you can cultivate this community as a class, but there’s an app for that: Goodreads! Goodreads is like social media for book lovers. It allows you to “friend” other readers, set reading challenge goals, track your progress, post status updates, share reviews, add books to a “Want to Read” list, and more.
I recommend creating an account and then asking your students to “friend” you at the beginning of the year. Help your students set reading goals, give them time to add books to their lists, and encourage them to update their progress. Don’t tie it to a grade; just keep it informal and fun. If your students are anything like mine, they’ll quickly become addicted to updating their page numbers. “Can I update Goodreads?” is a popular question whenever we end class with a minute or two to spare. And I must admit that I absolutely LOVE sitting on my couch and scrolling through the app to see what students are reading. 🙂
5. ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO “BUDDY READ” WITH FRIENDS OR WITH YOU.
What’s better than reading a book you love? Reading the book with someone you love! Encourage your students to find friends and “buddy read” the same book together. Better yet, be the buddy and let students sign up to read a book with you. You can think of buddy reads as mini-book clubs, a chance to connect with friends over a good book.
Think about the shared reading experience of a whole-class novel. Even when the book is required, and even when you have to get creative to get kids to like it, reading a novel as a class is a rewarding experience. Now think about how that might feel on a more intimate scale. Then, consider how that might feel if students could choose the text and their reading buddies. Even more awesome, right? A buddy read is another version of that same shared experience, another chance to build a community of readers in your classroom.
I recently launched a buddy reading program where I (try to) read a new book with a different student every two weeks. The student chooses a book, I approve it, we start reading, and we chat about the book as we go! So far, it’s been such an incredible way to bond with students over a shared love for reading. If you have the time to squeeze something like this in your schedule, I highly recommend it.
If you don’t have the time to commit to this, you can still encourage students to read books with friends. Better yet, you can give them some time in class to discuss their texts with their buddies, and organize “buddy meetups” where they meet with other pairs to share their books.
BONUS: MOTIVATE STUDENTS WITH FUN MONTHLY READING CHALLENGES
Speaking of buddy reads, that’s February’s fun goal in the 2021 Reading Challenge I created. If you’d like to receive a free copy of this exclusive challenge with a clickable Google Slides “menu,” then sign up for my email club HERE. You’ll receive the challenge on Sunday, when I send my emails out. 🙂
Need more ideas for teaching reading? You’ll love these posts!