Over the years, I’ve found there are some simple steps you can take to encourage students to read more. This isn’t based on an academic study or survey of thousands. It’s mostly common sense tips that I’ve found that work. So here goes —
- Know your students. What do they like/not like? What are they talking about in class (not necessarily tied to classwork). What bores them? What do they find funny? All these things indicate what they might be interested in reading in print.
- Know your collection. What do you currently have that’s popular, and how can you expand those holdings to appeal to the students? Do you need more copies of the same title, or just more books written by the same author? Is your collection lacking in certain topic areas, or on certain reading levels?
- Read everything you can. This doesn’t just apply to the books, but to the publishing companies releases about the books, publications’ reviews of new titles, and other librarians’ and teachers’ thoughts on blogs or through Twitter. I find School Library Journal and my PLN on Twitter to be the most valuable resources. The more you know about what quality materials are available, the better your purchasing decisions will be.
- Read everything you can Part 2. Read as many of the new titles as you can. The more knowledgeable you are about the materials, the more you’ll be able to talk to the students about them. And knowing their scope will allow you to associate similar materials for referrals.
- Be enthusiastic! Excitement is contagious. The more enthusiasm you show when talking about books with students, the more excited they’ll be about reading them. I call it “The Oprah Effect.” Whenever I talk about a new title in the library and how great it is, I always have a long line waiting to check it out. Granted, my power doesn’t have the scope of Oprah, but it sometimes feels as if it does.
- Give them freedom. Let students read what they want and when they want (within reason). Don’t be rigid about titles and genres. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be exposed to all different kinds of literature, but let them enjoy their favorite kinds without restriction. Reading needs to be a pleasurable experience for children to choose it over the myriad of options available to them in their free time.
- Be willing to listen and discuss. Students often return after reading to a book wanting to talk about it. Give them the time and attention. Engage in a discussion. Offer new reading suggestions. You’ll develop a trusting relationship that will continue to grow.
- Model reading. This may not seem obvious, but letting students see you read, and letting them know that reading is important to you can have more power than you think. Find the time, even if it’s just a couple of minutes a day.