Hooked on Books

Do you have reluctant readers in your classes?  With access to so much technology today, including social media, it can be hard to HOOK your students on books.  Even though it’s challenging sometimes, it is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an English teacher.

Ever since Mrs. McClure, my 5th grade teacher, enticed me to read Taran Wanderer from Lloyd Alexander’s series, The Chronicles of Prydain, I have been a reader.  I know that if I can do the same for some of my students, I will give them much better chances for success in college and life.  In fact, research shows that reading can contribute to success in many facets of life such as health, general knowledge, community involvement, and cultural awareness.  But to me, the real benefit of reading books is the ability to escape the tedium and difficulty of real life at times.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of ways teachers can hook students on books:

1.  Capitalize on the upcoming campaigns for Banned Books Week  and Teen Read Week.  Teens often have a natural desire to be rebellious, so “teasing” them with books that have been challenged in schools and local libraries is a sure bet to get them interested in a book.  Lure them to read with the unanswered question such as “What’s in this book that people are afraid of?” and “Why don’t people want you to read this book?”  Even many classics have been challenged, so this may be a perfect opening into a “boring” classic. 

2.  Give students choices in their reading! In the past, I started with a whole class reading of novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby, but that often shuts down my struggling readers right away.  Now, I start my school year by taking the students to the library within the first few days and use this lesson to guide students toward effective book choices. 

I immediately start Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) at the beginning of class and reinforce their book choices by asking them to show their books for Preferred Activity Time (PAT).  Additionally, I model by reading in front of them.  And to help manage their reading, I have students write the titles and authors of the books selected, so I can keep track of their choices.  This is useful information when talking with parents and school staff.  Finally, I assess their reading with weekly reading logs, which gives them practice with the selection of meaningful sentences and literary analysis. 

3.  Always be a role model.  Talk about the books that you read and enjoy.  During the summer, I am a voracious reader.  Most of the books I read are for my own pleasure but I also make sure to include at least one young adult novel.  And since my students are juniors in high school, many are interested in the same books that I read.  This summer two of my favorites included Mudbound by Hilary Jordan and All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr. I also read Red Queen (thanks to a suggestion by The Literary Maven) and asked my librarian to order the series.  I already have several students reading some of these books.

I hope you like some of these ideas and can put them to use in your own classroom.  Do you have more ideas for getting students engaged with reading?  Please share in the comments below.

Best First Week Ever

Well, the first week of school is finished, and except for a sinus infection (just my luck), it went great! Here's a review of some highlights from the week:

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