Founder’s Note: Special guest post from a reading specialist, Steven Burrell.
With the distractions of television, smartphones, and computers, it’s not surprising that young children are not always excited by the basic joys of reading.
Especially for very young children, the responsibility to get a kid behind a book largely lies with the adults.
At that age, children will form habits that will last a lifetime, making your role even more important.
Here are 7 easy ways to inspire the children in your classroom to enjoy reading.
1) Introduce students to books. Plenty of kids with parents who read to them still don’t know that the author’s name is on the cover or that the author and the illustrator are two different people.
Show them the parts of the book – the cover, the title page, the table of contents, page numbers – before delving into reading. You can also start pointing out basic punctuation and the fact that sentences start with capital letters.
2) Make a reading corner. If you have the space, create a little nook in your classroom specifically for reading.
Put some pillows on a carpeted floor, or splurge for a couch if you can, put in some lamps, and make it a privilege to get to spend time there.
Give it a coffee shop look to make it feel separate and different from sitting at a desk and make sure they understand there is no talking in the reading corner. If you (or your kids) feel like doing some arts and crafts, make a sign to hang over the entrance.
3) Let kids pick the books they read. Give children a chance to browse through what is available on the shelves, whether in your own classroom, the school library, or a public library. See what they are attracted to instead of guessing for them.
4) Pick books out for the ones that aren’t interested. That being said, sometimes certain children are overwhelmed by choices or they simply don’t think they will find anything they like.
Notice those kids and keep an eye on them. Suggest books to them and read along with them. Ask them questions about the book afterwards. Engage them.
5) Variety is the spice of children’s literature. When reading aloud to your students, mix up the kinds of books you read and the settings you read them in.
Try fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and songs, and try to pick a place that matches the feelings of the book.
A story about an outdoor adventure would be more fun to read outside, while a book about the Civil War could be read to students sitting at desks.
If you’re musical, grab and your guitar and do a sing-a-long.
6) Talk about the books while you read them. Sometimes it’s good to just read a book to children and let them enjoy the story.
But other times, you may find engaging them during the story – by talking about the pictures and asking questions – will help some children maintain focus.
7) Find creative ways to have kids retell the story. Being able to retell the story they have just learned is something that will help children connect plot points, identify characters, and recognize settings.
About the Author: Steven Burrell was an elementary school teacher for 10 years, and he’ll always be a teacher at heart. Now, Steven enjoys researching ways to assess student readiness.