By Joel Syder
Books are one of the world’s oldest communication devices, and people have been enjoying the activity of reading since time immemorial. Yet how to ensure the next generation of bibliophiles? Here are ten top tips for teachers and parents alike to inspire a love of reading in young learners.
Don’t always dictate the books
If you ask almost any adult what they thought of the books they read at school, the answer will nearly always be the same: ‘I hated most of them.’ Indeed, some adults will readily admit they now love a book they hated in school. The point is that we don’t necessarily love now what we loved when we were young, or vice versa, so why should it be adults (through the form of a curriculum) always dictating the books that students should read? Intersperse the mandatory syllabus choices with books that the students themselves recommend – if you remove the prescribed nature of the choices, half the battle is already won.
Share your love
Chances are you love books, so share your passion with your students. Show them how books have inspired you, have made you laugh and have made you cry. And show them how you read, both to relax and to enjoy. Passions can be infectious.
Use audio, visual and technological accompaniments
This is the 21st Century. Students respond to different forms of technology, so use audio books from time to time, and use e-readers too, sometimes even letting them create and share e-books themselves (there are apps for this). Don’t be afraid to show them movies or take them to stage plays made from stunning original books, or book readings even. “Reading shouldn’t really be about more than words on paper, but what’s the harm in using other stimulants if it instills a love of the real thing?” argues Siobhan Gillen, a librarian at Writemyx and Brit student.
Make it social
Reading absolutely does not have to be a solitary activity. Make it a social occasion by reading together, and not just by using the antiquated format of getting students to read aloud in class, ready to be pounced upon for their pronunciation errors. Get students to act out passages while you read aloud, discuss important points in groups, form a book club! There are so many social possibilities around books – let students see that.
Break down stereotypes
Reading is boring. Reading is for geeks. Bookshops are for losers. These are just some of the stereotypes surrounding reading and books, but they could not be further from the truth. Use inspiring role models to show students how books are loved in equal measure by people from all walks of life. Books can be about sports and adventure as much as they can be about politics and business. There are no barriers, and Hemingway was hardly a geek.
Make it relatable
Think about what books and stories can relate directly to the students. Recognize the feelings and frustrations they are experiencing, and select books which can directly speak to them. No medium can be quite as personal as a book, if you choose the right one. Do your research beforehand, and don’t be afraid to let the students dictate from time to time.
Give realistic time limits, and work with what students actually do
When setting reading tasks, be realistic. People read at different speeds, and some may struggle for a multitude of reasons. Don’t punish students for not hitting reading targets, and don’t fail to include those who likewise fall short.
Use short stories
Make it bite-size by using short stories, which can be more motivating to students than a thick tome. Get them to write short stories too to help them appreciate the craft.
“Short stories are a wonderful way of making books accessible. Select a volume of eclectic short stories and get students to read different ones, then share the stories together in class,” recommends Ben Sedgewick, an English teacher at 1Day2write and Nextcoursework.
Let them meet real authors
Motivate your students by introducing them to real authors. Invite these authors to class and let them discuss the inspiration and passion behind their stories, and allow your students to ask questions. Similarly, take them to author appearances at local book shops and events.
Just do it
There’s no substitute for the real thing, so just read. Read in class. Set them interesting activities based on what you are reading. Let them see you read yourself. Surround them with books. Spread the magic.
IT specialist Joel Syder is a mobile and user-experience blogger at Academic Brits and Origin Writings. A prominent mover in app creation, Joel’s mission is to help people navigate this fast-paced environment, unearthing their talents along the way. Joel is also a writer and a regular contributor of articles to Phd Kingdom.
I am, once again, partnering with Angela Watson to help promote her 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s an online professional development program that has already helped more than 32,000 teachers take control of their time and stay focused on what matters most. The next cohort starts in July, and the Club has been updated to cover emerging best practices for the changes ahead. Click here to join!