In a world filled with mindless media, how can educators reveal to students the joys and benefits of reading?
Raised during a time of book fairs, bookstores, and the Dewey Decimal system, teachers are familiar with the benefits and adventure of reading. Many educators can still remember their own grammar-school career and the excitement of seeing book club boxes arrive, followed by the torture of waiting until the end of the school day when a teacher would finally distribute the long-awaited orders. Some bibliophiles experience sweet satisfaction simply wandering through libraries and old bookstores while inhaling the aroma of old editions.
Beyond the thrill of receiving that new copy of “Berenstain Bears” or “The Baby-Sitters Club,” reading prepares children for greatness. In an article published by The Week, Warren Buffet reveals, “I just sit in my office and read all day.” The article continues by saying 80 percent of Buffet’s day at work is dedicated to “…reading and thinking.” Bill and Melinda Gates are also voracious readers who strongly believe that reading has the potential to leave an enormous impact on the reader. The couple is famous for sharing lists of the books that have influenced their lives and making reading suggestions, encouraging others to read.
So how can we help our students realize and enjoy the wonder and benefits of reading? Try these tips in your classroom today.
Carve Out Some In-class Reading Time
Whether daily or weekly, designate regularly scheduled time for in-class reading. To make this activity fun, assign different topics for some sessions and encourage students to bring their favorite book that covers this particular subject. Occasionally assign a free-reading period, in which children can choose their own genre, to afford a bit more ownership over their choices. Establish a classroom library, making books more accessible to children who want to read, but might not have access to reading materials at home. Develop opportunities for extra credit incentives, such as creating presentations during which students share their reading experience with a particular book.
It’s Okay to Catch Them Reading in Class
If a child is caught reading in class and not paying attention to a lesson, never severely scold them in front of their peers – in fact, a commendation for their taking the initiative to read might be beneficial. Simply remind them that there is a time and place for reading their own books and while it is important, the current lesson is also essential to their growth. Suggest that they read this selection during designated reading time – but never force them to read something aloud as a punishment.
RIF (Reading is Fun)
Remember the RIF – Reading is Fundamental – campaign? Well, they are still working hard to promote reading among children. We can all agree that reading is fundamental, but it is also fun! With so many distractions – extracurricular activities, homework, electronics, and time simply spent being a kid – reading has a lot of competition when students decide how to spend their free time. Suggest books that are accompanied by, or complement, games and activities. Once children have a deeply ingrained association of reading with fun, they will take the initiative and view it as a pleasurable activity. RIF remains an excellent resource for educators, as they offer activity and book suggestions based on grade or categories, including many STEM options.
The Family That Reads Together
Reach out to parents and encourage their involvement in increasing a student’s reading at home. The University of Michigan Health System recommends parents allow only scheduled television viewing, pick up a book to read by example, and visit the library with children. Family reading time for everyone to gather around is also recommended to allow bonding through reading books and holding relevant discussions.
Connect with STEM
After instilling a general sense of importance regarding reading, introduce sources of fascinating STEM stories. Whether establishing unexpected relationships between STEM with the arts, athletics, or fashion, introduce engaging materials that reflect science, engineering and mathematics. As children read more, they will acquire knowledge, thereby feeling a sense of being a source of valuable information for others. When teachers introduce STEM to the reading equation, interest in both reading and the sciences will grow.
By fostering a love of reading in students, teachers are able to plant seeds for lifelong learning. When children appreciate the process of focusing on a story – regardless of genre – and seeking a conclusion, they acquire skills that are invaluable to carry on into further academic study and a successful career. A desire for lifelong learning is a common trait among many of the world’s innovators. Increase the chances of students becoming one of these success stories by implementing a class reading program.