While it’s critical that students develop solid reading and literacy skills so they can be effective learners, most educators understand the importance of developing a love of reading that extends beyond schooling and into adulthood.
During the formative years, it’s crucial that students learn how to read so as they become older, they use those reading skills to learn other content across different disciplines. In a recent article, literacy expert Dr. P. David Pearson says, “Readers need all three to be able to learn new ideas from the books they read. Think of it as a combination of skill, will, and thrill.” The idea is that when just reading skill is taught, students aren’t developing the will or the thrill of reading, which are key components of academic success and lifelong readers.
Here are a few ways to incorporate literacy strategies that will build engaged, lifelong readers:
Take the Fear Out of Classroom Reading
There’s an important aspect to teachers needing to hear students read, and for students to build confidence in reading aloud, though the fear factor and embarrassment makes many students shut down. The classic round robin and popcorn reading sessions that occur in many elementary classrooms should be reconsidered in exchange for strategies that eliminate the fear associated with reading. When the fear is removed, students can build confidence and enjoy reading.
Choral reading can occur when the teacher and all students read aloud at the same time. Choral reading allows students to practice reading aloud, but the fear is eliminated because there is less pressure since no one is heard individually. Teachers can walk around the room and listen to individual students to assess their reading skills.
Even more effective, partner and paired reading opportunities allow students to practice in a safer, smaller environment. Students can be paired with peers with similar skill levels and they can practice together while working on correcting each other in a supportive partnership.
Also effective, buddy reading pairs students with older or younger readers where older students can build confidence reading to younger students and younger students get additional access to literate student role models.
Give Students More Choice
A lot of classroom reading occurs in the form of textbook passages and assigned novels, which are not always the most motivating methodologies. By not feeling a connection to the text or by not seeing themselves represented in a reading passage, students may lose motivation to read and build lifelong reading skills.
Allowing students to choose from a variety of texts that are grade or reading-level appropriate can be accomplished by working with the school library or using online resources to find various content.
Incorporate non-traditional reading content in your instruction. Newspaper articles, blog posts, comic books, magazines, etc. may be more engaging to your students by allowing them to develop reading skills while connecting better with the content. Encourage students to find reading materials that interest them.
Personalize Reading Instruction for ALL Students
Your students’ reading interests and abilities are across the board, and your instruction should meet your students wherever they may be. Programs, such as Reading Plus, allow for personalized and adaptive instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners through individualized online instruction. Reading Plus not only assesses students’ reading skills, but it is the only program to assess students’ reading motivation and how they see themselves as readers, which is a critical component of developing lifelong readers.
Use Metacognition to Build Reading Skills
Metacognition, or the practice of thinking about your thinking, is a good way to develop reading skills from a young age. While some readers naturally think about their thoughts, others need to be taught the process of metacognition. For students who struggle with reading, the practice of thinking about their thinking may be one avenue to begin to build literacy skills.
Teachers can begin by asking students to predict what a book or story will be about, reflect on the outcomes of the story, or make connections between the story and other texts or their personal lives. Another way to encourage metacognitive thinking is to model it while you read a passage with students. Stop and “think aloud” so students can experience what metacognition looks like in action.
Reading is a lifelong skill and, as educators, we want to build students who are passionate, lifelong readers. By incorporating some simple strategies to help build the skill alongside the will and the thrill of reading, students can strengthen their literacy skills while developing a lifelong love of reading.