How to Ensure Students Have Reader-friendly Homes

Guest Writer: Tiffani Wroe

Teachers are tasked with students’ education — but education happens outside the classroom, too. In fact, when it comes to reading, studies show that children who practice their skills at home with parents become better readers faster than their peers who lack reader-friendly homes.

While teachers hardly have any control over what happens at home, they can influence kids and parents to participate in reading outside of school hours. Even more, they can equip parents with the right tools and techniques for improving reading skill. Here’s how.

Identify Non-reading Homes

Because the goal is to get children reading at home with their parents, students who already demonstrate a healthy and happy home reading life are not the priority in this instance. Instead, teachers need to work to identify homes that don’t promote reading — and fortunately, this isn’t as difficult as it might seem.

Toward the beginning of the school year, teachers should talk with their classrooms about their reading habits. With older students, teachers might employ a “get to know you” written questionnaire, but younger students should be surveyed verbally. Teachers should ask questions digging into students’ general reading ability and interests, but particularly, teachers should probe about reading habits at home. Important questions to ask include:

  • Do you ever see your parents, guardians or older siblings reading? How often do they read?
  • Do you ever turn off the TV or computer to read? 
  • What is your favorite kind of book to read, not for schoolwork?

Using tactics like this, educators can divide the classroom into kids who engage in reading at home and kids who don’t. Then, teachers can make a plan for remedying homes that aren’t reader-friendly.

Speak With Non-reading Parents

The unfortunate truth is that educators can engage with students to a high degree and still fail to increase their reading ability or enthusiasm. This is because kids are heavily influenced by their parents’ behavior and attitude, especially when it comes to difficult skills like reading. Thus, to change reading habits at home, teachers need to get through to parents.

To start, it’s important for teachers to have some perspective on why parents aren’t prioritizing reading at home. Most often, parents aren’t anti-reading; they are simply too busy with work or other responsibilities to read, let alone to consider how their lack of reading might impact their children. Additionally, some households might have adults who never gained a strong literacy skill, perhaps because English is not their first language or because they lacked a similarly invested educator in their youth. In all instances, teachers should be sympathetic to parents’ reasons for not reading with their kids — but they should also work to retrain parents with better reading habits.

 A good first step is to reinforce how important reading is, not just for grades but for lifetime success. Studies show that stronger readers tend to be more successful in their academic and professional careers — and that more successful people read more often and enjoy it. Reading is critical for almost every other academic endeavor; a student cannot gain knowledge in fields like history or science if that student cannot read related texts. Finally, parents and children who read together tend to form stronger relationship bonds because they are physically and emotionally closer for more time each week.

Teachers should schedule parent-teacher meetings to stress the importance of reading at home. It might also be useful for teachers to organize parent workshops to give parents tools and techniques for encouraging reading outside of the classroom. Educators might offer resources for struggling parents, like books as well as supplies for utilizing close reading strategies at home. It’s vital that teachers avoid sounding patronizing or condescending when addressing parents; rather, both parents and teachers are part of a team to help students gain the best reading skills possible.

Teachers should never stop trying to bring reading into homes that are not reader-friendly. Educators should consistently reach out to parents and guardians with handouts, presentations, workshops and even information on school websites, extolling the virtues of reading at home and providing tips and tricks for building a strong student reader. Not all parents will take the bait and make their homes reader-friendly — but some will, and improving some students’ lives and reading ability is better than doing nothing.

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.

 

The Dumbest Argument Against Independent Reading

I’m in my eighteenth year of teaching and I’ve set aside time for student self-selected reading every day for every one of those years. It is the most sacred item on my agenda. On one of those days where we have an assembly and a fire drill and a bee gets in the room and blows a ten-minute hole in my science lesson and I have to cut something, I never cut independent reading.

As a student teacher, I was fortunate enough to be placed with a mentor teacher who valued independent reading time as much as I do. But even back then, her principal looked at this 30 minutes as wasteful. When the administration adopted a new program and my mentor teacher was wondering where she would fit it in, the principal suggested she just get rid of that student reading time.

It’s been that way ever since. I have never had an administrator who offered a full-throated endorsement of independent reading. More often, it’s the opposite. I’ve sat in meetings where principals presented research showing independent reading wasn’t effective. (Not true, by the way. Read more here.) I’ve known teachers who were flat out told to end the practice. I’ve sat in meetings where an administrator’s minion (a “coach,” she was rather hilariously called) questioned its efficacy.

An aside: My sneaking suspicion is that administrators don’t like independent reading because teachers aren’t doing enough. This is where the criticism of Drop Everything And Read came from. Teachers, those valuable professionals who eat up the lion’s share of district budgets, shouldn’t be getting paid to sit around reading with their students when they could be teaching. It’s a belief that permeates the entire day. Although providing students feedback is a critical part of the learning process, most teachers I know wouldn’t be caught dead grading student work while students are in the room. Teachers are supposed to teach, every second of every day. And they’re supposed to do all that other teachery stuff during their prep time (good luck with that).

In fairness, some data does suggest that independent reading isn’t effective for our lowest readers. The reason independent reading doesn’t work for the lowest readers, the research has concluded, is because those students — wait for it — don’t use the time to read (or they attempt to read stuff that’s too hard, which is just another way of saying they don’t read). Those students, we are told, should be engaged with the teacher in direct instruction.

This is quite possibly the dumbest reason to stop doing something I have ever heard. I can think of no other thing we do inside the classroom or out of it where we would apply the same logic.

–Students who don’t pay attention to our lessons don’t learn as much, so we should stop teaching lessons.

— Students who don’t do their math assignments don’t learn as much math, so we should stop assigning math.

— Basketball players who refuse to try hard in practice don’t get any better, so we should pull them off to the side and coach them separately.

— Your daughter refuses to practice piano when you ask her to, so you should stop giving her time to practice.

Of course the kids who don’t read during independent reading time don’t get better at reading. That doesn’t mean we should stop doing it. It means we should figure out how to get kids to do it, just like we would for anything else we believe is beneficial.

–We don’t stop making our kids take baths because they don’t like them.

–We don’t tell our daughters, “Ah, the hell with it, just leave your room filthy,” because they don’t want to clean it.

–We don’t allow our sons to eat pancakes and pizza for dinner every night because they don’t like fruits and vegetables.

And we shouldn’t just shrug our shoulders when students don’t want to read. Nor should we pull them back and make them read to us. Reading to oneself is a life skill that has the potential to change futures.

Yes, we should teach reading lessons. We should intervene with kids who struggle. But we should also provide the time for kids to read whatever they want to themselves. We shouldn’t give up just because a handful would rather not.

–My mom got me to eat celery by slathering it with peanut butter.

–My dad got me to clean my room by threatening consequences if I didn’t.

–My third grade teacher got me to turn in my homework by announcing to the class which kids didn’t turn theirs in.

Get creative. Pull out all the stops. Get kids to read to themselves.

For some, that might mean helping them find books they’re interested in or guiding them toward books they can actually read. It might mean establishing a culture where kids don’t feel self-conscious about reading books at a lower level than their peers. It could even mean —gasp — consequences for not reading, just as there would be for kids who refuse to do their math, try hard at basketball practice, or clean their rooms. Experiment. Get creative. But don’t just give up. Independent reading is too important.