Keys to Unlock Children’s Love of Reading

This semester students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By V. Saladini

One daunting question in my head every new school year is how am I going to instill in my young students the passion and love of reading.  I love to read, using Rosenblattl definitions, I have learned to distinguish between aesthetic and efferent reading and I can find pleasure on both.

I read when I’m happy or when I’m sad, I read to learn or to enjoy, I read to relax or to accomplish a goal, I’ve learned to transact with a book so that the second or third time around I can find something new and special in it that I didn’t notice before.  So the challenge for me is, how to get the high tech, overstimulated, busy children of today’s society to turn to books and love reading as much as I do. 

I have discovered that one of the keys that opens the door of a lifelong love of reading is to teach by example.  When my students realize that literature is part of my life and who I am inside and outside the classroom, their view and feelings about books slowly begins to change because they see how it influences just about every activity we do and we have fun doing them.

Another key is to read aloud to my students.  The beauty of the read aloud is that age or reading ability have nothing to do with their capacity of enjoying a book.  They can immerse themselves in the story, get to know the characters, predict what would happen or how will it end.  They can be part of a story that is above their reading level or from a genre they would had never picked up on their own; and by default the richness of the interpretations and lessons learned will be as numerous as the children listening to the story.  

The last key I want to mention is something I am just beginning to discover but I am very excited about – Literature Circles.  In the beginning of the year the teacher may want to start implementing literature circles by reading aloud to the whole group, the teacher models how he/she thinks through the reading, how to respond to prompts, how to listen to what others have to say, how to agree or disagree with other people’s opinions, how to use the evidence from the book to back up a point, how to stay on topic, and how to end the discussion. 

As students become more familiar and comfortable with the routines of the book discussions they can be divided into small groups to discuss a book they have chosen from a list of available titles.  With time and practice the teacher role evolves from one of guidance and leadership to one of participant in the discussions and of a monitor of the activity, the students take ownership and responsibility for the richness of the book discussions they participate in.

Book discussions allow students to offer their opinions, ask questions, disagree or agree with someone, in a safe environment, the activities that accompany the book discussions such as a journal, sketching, golden lines, quotes, and others like them help expand the reading of the book into writing and artistic activities that enhance the reading, enriches and guides the discussion, and help develop other literacy skills.

Book discussions are a wonderful key to unlock the love of reading in children.  Age or reading ability should not be a hinder to book discussions, what is important is to teach our students that they can transact with text, express their feelings, share their own interpretation, connections, and develop a relationship with literature that will keep them coming back to books, will make them lifelong readers, and will ensure a rewarding school career.

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