“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
How can anyone not love reading, right? I mean, it’s one of the best things in the world. As strange as it may seem, we all know people who don’t read for pleasure. Maybe I read too much (nooooo!) but I do take great joy in encouraging my teenage students to pick up a book.
Make it accessible
Students who are reluctant readers may not have easy access to books. Libraries – school and local – are wonderful resources. Sure, it sounds obvious but the trick is to ensure that kids feel like they can access the library. This means physically for local libraries – does the child view the bus ride as worth the trip? Is the school library unfamiliar territory and somewhere they would not normally venture without teacher direction? Local libraries often run programmes and activities designed to hook kids into reading. Talk to your librarian – they are the professionals and they have a passion for reading. They would have a wealth of knowledge about how to make the library a welcome place for the non-confident reader.
In my office I have a collection of fiction books that students borrow directly from me if they can’t source the book from a library. I love hearing their response to the story when the book is returned. This is a wonderful way to foster a connection with a student.
Online books are available to read on a range of electronic devices – not just e-readers and kindles. Apps are available from Android, iOS, windows etc. for smart phones, tablets, iPads and iPods so that taking a book with you is now easier than ever before. Schools are finding that boys are engaging with reading more now that they can use technology to do so. The BorrowBox app allows students to borrow eBooks from their local library.
Make it fun
Book clubs are popular again and are a great way for kids to make new friends and share a common interest. I run a lunchtime club two terms a year – the YA Booklovers Café – where we get together, eat cake and talk all things YA fiction. It’s heaven. During the first ever meeting a student exclaimed gleefully, ‘Yay! A club where reading is cool.’ As a group we have movie nights (it’s a lot of fun watching a page-to-screen adaptation with an enthusiastic book-loving teenage group), play book-related games and generally share the book love. The students in my lunchtime club love finding out about other titles to read. They also enjoy bringing their friends along who aren’t big readers. It’s great when the enthusiasm rubs off on others.
A reading role model is incredibly important. In particular, boys who regularly see an adult male reading, are more likely to read themselves. This helps remove the stigma that reading is a feminine activity and therefore something boys don’t need to bother with. I would love to see a ‘boys only’ book club run by a male teacher – maybe the Pizza and Prose Club?
Some great resources for encouraging boys to read are available from the following websites:
- Guys Read has a comprehensive list of difference types of books for boys and is organised by categories.
- Me Read? No Way! From the Ontario Ministry of Education, this guide is a useful tool for improving boys’ literacy skills.
Hook them in
I read the class the opening chapter for Matthew Riley’s ‘Hell Island’ as part of a creative writing unit I teach. At least one male student usually asks to borrow it. I had one boy who proudly returned it pronouncing that it was the first book he had ever read the entire way through. He was 17 at the time. We then worked together to find more books that he would enjoy. Taking the time to find book titles that interest your students is worthwhile and can be really rewarding. Students (like adults) will put effort into things that they enjoy.
Many students say that they don’t read for pleasure because they are no good at it. ‘I’m too slow,’ they argue. In turn I ask them, ‘Do you think you could win a karate tournament tomorrow? No, why not?’ Reading is a skill that must be practised. The more you practice, the better you’ll become. I try to put in at least one hour of training every day.
“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” Dr. Seuss My Many Coloured Days
What are some strategies that work for you?