There is no better way of unlocking a child’s imagination, enriching their vocabulary, and fueling their creativity than by encouraging them to read. However, in this digital world where we’re surrounded by devices and technology, it can be tricky to convince children and teens that reading is worthwhile. Going beyond that, it’s even trickier getting children who struggle with different learning disabilities to fall in love with reading.
As a teacher, you have the power to instill the love of reading in your students, and help them develop a lifelong habit that will prove beneficial in all aspects of their lives: physical, emotional, academic, and professional. But how do you go about that, and how can you encourage students to put down the smartphone and instead open up a book?
At Da Vinci Collaborative, this is exactly where our focus lies: in helping students struggling with learning difficulties and providing structured literacy strategies and tools to enable teachers to unlock the full potential of their students. So, we’ve gathered a few tips to instill a love of reading for the children in your classroom – even those struggling with reading, writing, and word processing difficulties.
1. Share your own passion for reading
You know what they say, that a child’s mind is like a sponge, absorbing all the information around them? It’s true, and children are very likely to listen to advice from the people they like and admire, whether it’s their parents, sister or brother, a best friend, or their teacher. So, the best way to instill a love of reading in your students is to lead by example.
Share with them your passion for reading, how reading makes you feel, and all the joy and comfort it can bring to one’s life. If your students see you reading during lunch breaks or between classes, if they see you carrying a book with you every day, they’ll be inclined to do the same.
Tell them how nice and relaxing it is to read a book in the bathtub, or before bed, or on the bus, and share with them your favorite books or recent reads. This way, you’ll trigger their curiosity and they might start to follow in your footsteps – and that’s the first step towards building a lifelong reading habit.
If students in your classroom tend to struggle with reading fluency, they might be too intimidated to even try reading a book, so it’s important to emphasize the fact that everyone can enjoy the pleasures of reading. Talk to your students about your own struggles with reading, writing, focusing, and how you overcame them; give examples of famous, successful people who have struggled with issues like dyslexia in their youth, and how they’re thriving now. It’s surprising for people to learn about celebrities, including numerous Hollywood actors who used to struggle with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, and now they have no problem working, reading scripts, and thriving in their careers.
2. Make reading fun
Many children, teens, and even adults tend to associate reading with a chore, a task, something that’s not meant necessarily for fun – think of reading materials during college or reading in preparation for a difficult test or exam. But you have the power to make students see that reading can, and is, a lot of fun, and not something that they have to do for school.
Make it a point to separate school- or homework-related reading from leisurely reading. For instance, if your children have to read something difficult in class or learn about a challenging topic, finish up the lesson with some light, fun reading to lighten up their mood. Save five or ten minutes at the end of each class to read something funny or light-hearted – it can be a funny poem, or a few pages from Harry Potter. Show your students that reading is not a chore, and that they can read whatever they like in their free time.
Children who struggle with reading can exhaust themselves very quickly, so don’t push them to read anything in front of the class if they don’t want to. Instead, read to them or have other kids read their favorite passages and have everyone else simply relax and enjoy.
3. Provide options
When you think of reading, where does your mind go? You’re probably imagining yourself cozying up with a good paperback or a Kindle, and devouring pages until your vision starts to get blurry. But not everyone can enjoy the ‘classic’ way of reading, and for children struggling with fluency, it can prove an incredibly frustrating and tiring experience. Luckily, there are many ways nowadays to enjoy great content.
Thanks to technology, children who struggle with reading, comprehension, word recognition, dyslexia or dysgraphia have other options at their disposal. From audiobooks to in-person read-alouds, to TTS, or text-to-speech, reading is much more accessible than it was decades ago. Make the best use of available options in your classroom, and make them available for all of your students, not just the ones who struggle. Some people realize they prefer to listen to audiobooks instead of reading off of a page, even if they have no issues with reading fluency.
By making different tools, apps, and technologies available to everyone in the class, you’re going to make all of your students feel accepted, included, and respected. Have fun with the options available, and try to get all the students in your classroom to try them out. Perhaps switch up the reading lessons to keep things interesting and keep your struggling students excited in reading. Do a read-aloud session one week, an individual, focused reading session another week, play audiobooks the next week, and so on. Give everyone in the class the opportunity to try out different resources, instead of singling out your struggling students and consequently cause them to feel like they’re different.
4. Turn reading into an interactive activity
Reading is mostly a solitary activity, and it requires focus, and a calm, quiet environment with no distractions, and that can be hard to achieve in a classroom full of students. So, another way to cultivate a love of reading in your students is to organize ‘Read-a-Thons,’ similar to what you see in Hollywood movies.
Make it a fun, relaxing, collaborative activity: set up the mood by turning the classroom into a big reading nook. Bring pillows, blankets, allow the children to come dressed in their pajamas, bring their stuffed toys, and have parents bring snacks and beverages for everyone to enjoy. Think of it as a movie night, but instead of watching a movie together, the students gather around the teacher as you read a book that was either chosen by them through a vote, or a book that you’ve selected.
Trust us, the Read-a-Thon has the potential to become the most anticipated activity of the year for your students. Plus, it leads to healthy, positive associations with reading, which will help children think of reading fondly in the future.
Reading aloud is also one of the best ways to remove the decoding part of the process and make it a fun activity for struggling students. You can pick texts and books that challenge your students, without putting any pressure on them, you can introduce students to new authors or genres, and show them what reading fluency really looks like.
5. Organize a road trip
Everyone loves a fun road trip, and for kids, it’s a great way to spice things up and break the routine of sitting in class on a daily basis. And what better way to further instill a love of reading in your students than to take them on a field trip to a local library, or tour the libraries in your town or a nearby city? This is something that even the students who are struggling with fluency will enjoy tremendously, and it can show them that reading is something that’s worth embracing and practicing.
They’ll get to learn more about the history of books and the written word, learn about all the great writers and all the classic, legendary books they’ve written – and this might pique their curiosity and get them interested in different authors or genres. You can even get a tour guide to show you around different sections of the library, and talk about unique books in their collection.
Besides, libraries are beautiful, architectural masterpieces, so it’s a great cultural experience that everyone in your class will surely enjoy. Even if you don’t live close to a large library, like the New York Public Library, there is surely one in your city, or in a nearby city that you can arrange a fun day trip to visit.
Last but not least, an activity like this can be a great unifier; children struggling with things like fluency, comprehension, word recognition, and other related issues will feel included and on the same level as everyone else, and this can help build community in your classroom.
Want to learn more teaching tips and strategies to better serve the needs of you students? Browse our shop to find training courses, find more resources on our homepage, and contact us with any questions.