Turning discouraged students into lifelong lovers of reading can be a difficult task. Trying to get children to “steal” your passion for reading, and use it to build their own positive reading identities often takes patience, creativity and a whole lot of practice.
The first thing you have to understand is that every child is different. Students enter school with a wide range of cultural backgrounds, home-family lifestyles, and experiences with reading. Some kids hear a new book read to them every night—others may not have been read to their entire life.
Good or bad, these background differences all add together to make up a child’s personal reading identity long before they ever enter your classroom.
And though it’s unfortunate that some students have a negative connotation about reading before you ever meet them, the good news is that reading identities are not set in stone. With the right modeling, resources, and lessons in place, you can turn even the most discouraged reader into someone who loves and enjoys the reading process.
The 3 Keys To Building Positive Reading Identities
Children who come from a family of readers and have had books read to them for most of their life are much more likely to enter school with a positive reading identity. They enjoy the reading process and feel like they are already a part of the “reading club.”
On the other hand, students who come from families of nonreaders, and who haven’t been afforded regular lap time readings, are more likely to see reading as a chore, and something that only “other people” do.
“Reading Identity Theft” is a means for you to inspire these nonreaders into “stealing” your love and enthusiasm for reading and keeping it as their own. When you introduce children to a wide variety of texts, genres, and reading methods, you can help them fall in love with the reading process.
International literacy expert Jill Eggleton believes that inspiration is the first step to “lighting the literacy fire” in any child. After all, “you can’t light a fire with a wet match.”
Jill isn’t the only reading specialist who believes students can be inspired to become lovers of reading. In a recent interview, Dr. Michael Opitz, Professor Emeritus of reading education at the University of Northern Colorado, told us that to help a child transform their negative reading identities into one of a lifelong reader, teachers can ask themselves three important questions about the student:
1. Does the child think he or she can succeed?
This may be the most important question of all to ask yourself about a bored or discouraged reader. Getting children to want to steal your passion for reading often requires putting them in situations where they can experience literary “wins” early in the reading process.
One way to do this is by finding materials that aren’t too advanced for their skill level. Leveled texts can play a huge role here. Students can start slowly without feeling discouraged that they are not as up-to-speed as their peers.
As they begin to decode and comprehend lower level books, their confidence will build and their enthusiasm will continue to grow.
2. Does the child want to succeed?
Negative reading identities can be caused for a variety of reasons – maybe the child doesn’t believe they are a good reader or maybe they simply have never had enough experience with reading to know if they like it or not.
Getting them to steal your love of reading means showing them that they have what it takes to be a successful reader and building their desire to continue learning. One way to overcome this obstacle is by finding what materials a student is most enthusiastic about.
Some children prefer to read stories on a specific topic or with humorous and zany characters. Some like fiction, others non-fiction. Whatever the case, finding what sparks their interests is a great way to get them excited about reading.
By keeping reading materials fresh and diverse, you can help children find what excites them most. Once you “light their literacy fire,” their desire to continue reading can grow exponentially.
3. Does the child know how to succeed?
Knowing how to succeed as a reader—especially for a child who has struggled in the past, or has had very little experience—can be a difficult lesson to master. It takes time, patience and a few victories along the way for students to truly understand how to read and think critically about a text. Having a predictable routine in place can help.
Repetition is the best way for students to build familiarity with a text and improve on important skills, like fluency, comprehension, and automaticity. As children read a text again and again and again, these critical literary skills become ingrained in them.
As they go on to read in peer settings and independently, they will be able to take the important lessons they have learned and apply it to any text they encounter down the road.
Remember – You Can Turn Any Student Into A Lifelong Reader
Encountering students with a negative reading identity doesn’t make them a “lost cause.”
Any child’s reading identity can change over time. They just have to be shown that they too can join the “reading club” and be readers themselves. Achieving this goal means:
- Showing children that they can become great readers.
- Inspiring them to want to become great readers.
- Teaching them how to become great readers.
With a little patience, creativity, targeted practice, and engaging materials you can help any student “steal” your passion for books and turn it into their own love of reading. Trust us—there may truly be no more joyful experience than introducing a discouraged student to the exciting world of reading and watching them create a healthier and more enthusiastic reading identity of their own.
Lighting the Literacy Fire!
Ultimately, our goal is to help children find a genuine love for reading through positive, inspiring (and that means balanced) literacy experiences.
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