10 Means of Instilling a Love of Books in Students

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.

 

Getting Schooled, by Garret Keizer

 

I’m attempting to read 100 books from June of 2018 to June of 2019 (you can follow along on the 100 in 1 page). I won’t bore you by reviewing every single education-related book I read, but when I stumble across one as good as Getting Schooled, by Garret Keizer, I feel obligated to spread the word, not only because as a writer of books myself I know the value of good press, but also because this book deserves to be read.

Within the first few pages, we learn a lot about the author. He taught for 16 years previously and he was good at it. He left to pursue a writing career. After a 14-year hiatus, he’s returning to the same Vermont high school to fill in for a teacher taking a one-year leave of absence.

The implications are obvious to any teacher who fears repercussions for speaking out. Keizer doesn’t disappoint. He writes with the freedom of a teacher who knows he won’t be returning to the classroom. Starting on page two, Keizer admits to something hardly any teacher will:

“There was a never a time during the sixteen years that I taught that I didn’t imagine doing something else…I can’t recall a single year of teaching that didn’t begin with a burst of enthusiasm accompanied by the fervent hope that come June I’d be done with teaching for good.”

But in spite of this, he’s a dedicated and effective teacher, as evidenced by the care he puts into preparing lessons, the patience he shows his students, the willingness to learn new things, and the restraint he exercises in the face of misguided priorities and absurd realities all teachers know and despise. He’s a team player when he needn’t be. Keizer lives by a moral code, fighting for what is right, but careful to never complain to his colleagues. He admirably wages an active war on his own cynicism, sparing colleagues and students his most vitriolic objections. Thankfully, the reader is treated with less consideration. Keizer tells it how he sees it, a refreshing deviation from what one reads in most education circles, where feel-good platitudes and self-serving positivity have spread like a plague among the go-along-to-get-along crowd.

An astute observer of the humans around him, deftly comprehending his students’ motives and his co-workers’ likely reactions should he speak what’s on his mind, Keizer models what it is to be a professional educator. New teachers could do far worse than he for a mentor.

While I could go on about Keizer’s sparkling prose and impressive ability to cut directly to the marrow of a matter, I’ll let his words speak for themselves. Here are three of my favorite passages from the book. They serve here not as highlights, but as representative of the entire work. It was a rare page that didn’t contain some polished gem of truth, some elegant turn of phrase I had to savor again, some deliciously searing critique to which I nodded in agreement, some poignant moment that we sometimes take for granted in the hustle and bustle of our teaching days.

On planning:

“Any teacher worth his or her salt will tell you that there are gains to be had by laying the plan aside and going with the flow of a class’s sudden inspiration, but show me a teacher who sees this as the norm, and I’ll show you a teacher living in a pipe dream of delusional serendipity. In a word, I’ll you show you a slacker.”

Responding to the book Raising the Bar and Closing the Gap:

“I’m also troubled by the repeated, snide, and almost sinister references to those recalcitrant teachers who insist on acting as “lone wolves” and on treating their classrooms as “personal kingdoms.” Admittedly, these are fair descriptors of one of the worst kinds of teacher: the self-described maverick whose primary aims are to amuse himself and do as little work as possible. Not for him a plan book or comprehensive exam; such trivialities are at odds with this “style,” his “philosophy,” his plans for the weekend. At the same time, the authors seem to indict the very teachers who played the biggest role in my formation. Those teachers were never lazy but they were indeed lone wolves, sleek-furred beauties who preferred howling at the moon of their own lunatic inspirations to sniffing hindquarters among the faulty pack. One of their type, a foreign language teacher still going strong after my last stint at the school, still whisking kids away to France on a wing and a bake sale, even as she brings France to them by the vivaciousness of her instruction, will say to me, “I’m afraid the day of the teacher as artist is dead.”

On graduation:

“As in the past, I view commencement exercises as an act of penance for the sins of the teaching year. Not a full expiation, for sure, but at least an act of contrition. The lengthy monotony of the proceedings, the stifling heat of a gymnasium in mid-June, the oxygen deprivation that comes from sitting with hundreds of spectators in a scarcely ventilated space — what else besides a guilty conscience could keep a person coming year after year? Add to these the inevitable if unintended insult that comes from being publicly “thanked” for an education whole quality is thrown into doubt by every other sentence accompanying the thanks, the self-congratulatory tone and smug insider jokes of the valedictory speakers, and the steady deflation of making the rounds afterward to congratulate students in whose eyes it’s clear that anything you might have meant to them or they to you is dissolving like a mirage. Most of all, the oppressive loneliness that is relieved only by remembering that any number of the students up on the dais are feeling lonelier still. At the conclusion of what many of them have repeatedly been assured are the best years of their lives — which in some cases will prove sadly true, the relative crappiness of those years notwithstandings — small wonder that more than a few of them will be stone drunk by nightfall.”

Lazy students, imperious administrators, absurd regulations,  frequent galling interruptions, the new religion of technology, the short-sighted focus on standardized tests. It’s all in there. But so is the human side. The unexpected death of a colleague, the harsh realities of students’ home lives as revealed in their essays, the surprising kindness of 16-year-olds, the earnest dedication of teachers who should by all rights have thrown in the towel long ago. Getting Schooled is no different than getting to school. Once inside the book, you will experience the highs and lows to which you’ve become so familiar as a teacher. The book is a reminder that while there’s plenty to loathe in education today, there are also moments that make life worth living and teaching worth doing.