TOP FIVE: Tips for Turning Kids into Readers

If we want students to actually read the books we assign, we need to start by first turning them into readers. This is why, at every grade level, Inquiry By Design’s suggested scope and sequence starts with building a strong independent reading program — Setting Up the Literacy Studio (elementary school), Creating a Text-Based Culture (middle school), and Foundations for Inquiry (high school). Here are just a few of our favorite tips from those units.
1. Choice. 

The hands-down, number-one factor in helping students become readers is giving them the choice of what they read and the time to read it. It’s true. Read more here and here. Or let students tell you themselves.

2. Availability. 

The surest way to create a text-based culture that invites nonreaders to join the party is to surround students with lots and lots of delicious books in a wide variety of topics, genres, and reading levels. Here are a few tips for building your classroom library and introducing kids to the books in it.

3. Goals and Tracking. 

Studies show that people are 49 percent more likely to achieve their goals if they write them down. Inquiry By Design’s independent reading units are full of goal sheets, reading logs, tracking tools, and teaching strategies to keep you and your students motivated and organized. Whatever system you use, just remember that the only assessment criteria for independent reading is to read.

4. Creating Buzz. 

When we read a book we love, we want to share it. Conversely, we are much more likely to read a book that comes highly recommended. Book passes, book talks, reading letters, and shared reviews should be regular occurrences in ELA classrooms. Sites like Goodreads (for 13 and older) and Biblionasium (for elementary age) allow kids to keep their “to read” lists, track their reading, post and share reviews, and get recommendations based on their reading histories.

5. Authors. 

Authors love to visit classrooms. If you can’t arrange a personal visit, inquire about a Skype visit. Recently, Portland based writer Brian Doyle visited a sixth grade classroom in North Clackamas School District where students had been studying one of his essays in an Inquiry By Design unit. Students were able to ask questions and “test-drive” their interpretations. One teacher reported “There is no better way to create engagement and interest around a text, than a conversation with its author. The kids were more excited than we’ve seen them all year.”

Do you have a tip or anecdote about how you have turned kids onto books? Scroll down and leave a comment on this blog post for a chance to win a workshop seat!

The winner will be announced next Friday.