How do you inspire kids to read?Many of my students--mostly boys, but girls too--tell me they just hate to read because they can't stand to sit still. Yet they'll spend hours in front of a computer...

How do you inspire kids to read?

Many of my students--mostly boys, but girls too--tell me they just hate to read because they can't stand to sit still. Yet they'll spend hours in front of a computer monitor. Do you have any tips for how to get them interested in reading?  

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linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Because I'm also the librarian for our little school, I can tell which books are read over and over again, and which ones are neglected. So last year I started the "Bibliophile Challenge," where students came and got a sheet of paper that I had preprinted with an explanation of the challenge, as well as blanks for them to write in the 10 books they read.  The catch was that they had to find books that had never been checked out before - In order to be able to write the book down on their list, they had to be the first person to check out and read that book.  If I was in doubt that they had actually read the book, I could give a brief verbal quiz, just to check and see.  I had about 10 students participate in it, and most of them earned the prize (a big Easter egg full of a variety of candy).

This might be something you could talk to your school librarians about, or something similar, just to get kids into the library, nosing through books they've never read before.

This is a great idea. We've been looking for something creative to do for Read America day (or whatever it's called). I'm going to suggest it to my dept. head. If she doesn't want to do it, maybe our librarian will give it a try!

malibrarian's profile pic

malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Because I'm also the librarian for our little school, I can tell which books are read over and over again, and which ones are neglected. So last year I started the "Bibliophile Challenge," where students came and got a sheet of paper that I had preprinted with an explanation of the challenge, as well as blanks for them to write in the 10 books they read.  The catch was that they had to find books that had never been checked out before - In order to be able to write the book down on their list, they had to be the first person to check out and read that book.  If I was in doubt that they had actually read the book, I could give a brief verbal quiz, just to check and see.  I had about 10 students participate in it, and most of them earned the prize (a big Easter egg full of a variety of candy).

This might be something you could talk to your school librarians about, or something similar, just to get kids into the library, nosing through books they've never read before.

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I have often thought the same thing to myself when kids are happy just getting by. I almost wish that credits were linked to grades so that more kids would have the drive to do their best, rather than the least amount to get by. I hate when I see a kid who is blissful about a D (60% is passing in CA public schools). When I was in school it was embarrassing to fail or almost fail. Granted I went to a private school, but even my friends at public schools tried to get the best grades they could. When did the attitudes change from "Do your absolute best" to "just try" to "as long as you're passing it's ok". I really try to make the grades as big a deal as I can because I want these kids to value themselves and their abilities more.

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I have that problem all the time, in fact sometimes I think some groups get together and think, "If we all choose not to do it she won't fail us all." NOT TRUE, I do. The way that curb this is that I really keep students in tune with their progress by handing out grades at the end of every two weeks. Their printouts list their missing assignments and credit earned. Many students who don't do work those first two weeks, see their grades and then want to know how they can fix them. For the most part I have a very limited time in which I will even accept late assignments. When they see the affect their dismissive-ness has on their grade and credit they usually work pretty hard to turn things around. For the students at my school credit is a HUGE motivator because if they fail to receive all credits in all classes it's considered a violation of probation or parole and they have to go back to jail to complete their sentences.

At least you have something to hold over their heads. Too many of my students are happy just to get by. One of my students is AP material (but we don't have AP courses here), but he's happy as long as he makes a 70. He'll get the same credit for the course as someone who makes a 90, and he won't have to do as much to get it. Is it a sign of the times, is this a slacker generation, or are these students not typical of the rest?

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I have that problem all the time, in fact sometimes I think some groups get together and think, "If we all choose not to do it she won't fail us all." NOT TRUE, I do. The way that curb this is that I really keep students in tune with their progress by handing out grades at the end of every two weeks. Their printouts list their missing assignments and credit earned. Many students who don't do work those first two weeks, see their grades and then want to know how they can fix them. For the most part I have a very limited time in which I will even accept late assignments. When they see the affect their dismissive-ness has on their grade and credit they usually work pretty hard to turn things around. For the students at my school credit is a HUGE motivator because if they fail to receive all credits in all classes it's considered a violation of probation or parole and they have to go back to jail to complete their sentences.

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I like projects like book talks too, but I have trouble getting the whole class to participate. Last semester, I had my sophs. read biographies and do a short timeline of significant events in the life of the person they read about. Out of 24 students, only 13 turned something in. What do you do with kids who would rather take a 0 than put out a little effort?

amethystrose's profile pic

Susan Woodward | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

When my students talk about movies that were made from novels, I encourage them to read the book for extra credit and come visit me to talk about which they think is better.  Since they already have a basic idea of the plot, many of them don't balk at the assignment.  Since they're are familiar with the story line, there is less, "I don't get it" and then we talk about differnces between the two.  Lots of my students have read the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and some are beginning to read The Golden Compass.  Many times, the extra credit assignment gets them reading more on their own.

I also have my 9th grade kids do an independent reading project with a book talk.  I give them a list from which to choose (with authors like Steinbeck, the Brontes, Twain, Stevenson, Wells, C.S. Lewis, and Tolkien), and they have to complete a written project (an analysis) and give a presentation.  They have a tendency to start this with dragging feet, but most of the time, they end up liking the books and read more by the same author.  With the book talks, other kids have gotten interested in the novels they hear about and actually read them on their own.  I've got two kids reading Dumas (Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers) right now, and they intend to switch books when they've finished! 

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

When my students tell me they hate to read, I tell them that's not true...they just haven't found a topic that thrills them yet.  Isn't it true that Harry Potter has gotten millions of non-readers reading?  Why not find them books The Lord of the Rings,  Artemis Fowl, The Spiderwick Chronicles, etc. that really float their boat?  Of course, those latter ones may not thrill older kiddos.

Another thing you might suggest is books on tape.  They can download free audio books from some sites online, or check them out of the public library.  You could start literature circles and have them choose the book groups they want to join. 

When I taught middle school gifted kids, every Friday we had Book Talks.  The students signed up for a time slot and give book briefs about what they were reading...being careful to intrigue, but not give everything away.  You'd be surprised how many kiddos were waiting for those books to get back on my shelves.  Even the reluctant readers were reading 20 books per year, but then again, I was following Nancy Atwell's reading/writing workshop model where they had lots of in-class time to read.  We are sorely lacking in this these days.  Too much other "stuff" required of us poor underpaid teachers.  :(

clane's profile pic

clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I have motivation problems too coupled with mostly boys and a few girls- I teach at a continuation school. I find that my students hate to read everything, except non-fiction or very real fiction. They love to read about things that actually happened to real people and they especially love to read about people like them, who have had to live hard lives. They really get into any stories or novels that are graphic and violent to some extent (most are entrenched in gang life outside school). I had so much success with the book Night in my classes and some students asked if we were going to read it again this year because it's their favorite book. The Hoopster by Alan Sitomer is a really good one too.

I really think the key when we read Night and other novels was that I read chunks to them aloud and then they would reread chunks in groups, but they knew how to pronounce words and they were familiar with the intonation of the passages so they felt a great degree of success reading aloud.

You have to find something that your kids can get in to and make sure that it's either well within the scope of their reading level or read it to them before they read it on their own so they don't feel "dumb" because they can't read most of the words on their own.

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