One question that has been frequently asked by teachers around the world is “How do I motivate my students to read?” Teachers are particularly interested in finding ways to motivate their students to read because to a greater extend their academic success depend on their ability to read. Reading is the vehicle through which much of the content is transmitted to the students. I feel no different than the teachers I am describing above. In fact, everyday in my classroom, I keep thinking of what I can do to motivate my students to read more.
In the article Seven Rules of Engagement, Linda Grambell offers some wonderful tips to motivate students to read more. She for instance says that students are more motivated to read if the tasks and activities are relevant to their lives. I definitely see how this can increase student motivation to read. However, I keep wondering how possible this is for all the texts that the students will read. I feel that some times, students may be reading texts that have nothing to do with their lives. How then do I proceed?
Having access to a wide range of reading materials is another tip to increase motivation. As a teacher, developing my own classroom library based on students’ interest is a good way to do this. I would even suggest asking students for their ideas in terms of what books they would like to have. In lower elementary, this can be a challenge but to the greatest extend possible, teachers should involve the students.
Teachers should also give ample time in class for their students to just read. Granted, many would argue that there isn’t enough time to cover all the content and still have time to read. Well, it is true that teachers don’t have enough time. But it is also true that if we value something, we can create time for it. Promoting literacy should be an important thing for all the teachers. Beyond the reading, reading is a way to create social interactions amongst students, as they generally like to talk about what they have read with their peers.
If we give our students the opportunity to make choices in terms of what books they want to read, their motivation to read is very likely to increase. I have heard some teachers say that this is not practical as they have many students who need help, as they cannot make good choices. For struggling readers for example, as teachers, we can choose a selection of books that are at the students’ reading level and then present the books to them and have them choose. We would have identified the right books for them but they still had the choice.
In the article Reading, Gender and Engagement, I found out that girls are generally more engaged in reading than boys. Finding ways to encourage the boys becomes an important undertaking. One thing I can do is to have a wide range of reading materials that include themes and topics that boys are generally interested in. I feel that I would have to be very careful as I do not want to promote some interests as belonging to only boys and others for girls as this would be solving one problem but creating another.
I would also consider running a book club after school activity for boys. While this would be a forum to bring the boys together to read, I would also use it as an opportunity to find out other ways of motivating them to read. This may mean having them lead book discussions in class, having reader buddies in the lower grades where they go and read to the younger students etc.