I had just finished up my welcome presentation to all of my new parents and students at back to school night when a parent came up to me and said, “Well, good luck getting Chris to read this year! He hates books!” Knowing that she was referring to the part of the presentation where I explained about how much I love reading and how we were going to read so many great books in first grade, I smiled at her knowing that I was up for the challenge! I believe that there is a book to unlock every reader’s heart and that it is our mission as teachers to find the right key. It sometimes takes a while to discover, but here are three ways to help you find the key to unlock your reluctant reader’s heart:
- Find out their interests—the first question I asked Chris wasn’t, “What books do you like?” because I knew that would lead to a dead end. Instead, I asked him questions about his interests such as, “What kinds of things do you when you’re not at school? What do you like to watch or play?” When I asked Chris these questions his eyes lit up as he answered, “Pokémon! I love Pokémon!” Bingo—I knew what kind of key to try first!
- Make sure you have books on topics that they like in your classroom library—Honestly, I didn’t even know how to properly pronounce Pokémon at the time, much less own anything Pokémon related. However, I knew that if I was going to help Chris’ love of reading begin I needed to find some books he’d be willing to try. Students need to have access to books on topics they are interested in! So, I got some Pokémon books and when I brought them to school I pulled Chris aside and said, “Do you remember how you told me you love Pokémon? Well, you won’t believe what I found! Would you like to take a look at these?” Hook, line, and sinker—he was like a fish lured to the bait and when he was finished with the books he asked me if I had more! His reader’s heart had been unlocked!
- Let them choose their independent reading books and give them time to read—Not only is interest important, but student choice is important too. I recently finished reading a wonderful fiction book and guess what, no one told me I had to read it! It was a book I was interested in and I decided to give it a try. Our students need access to a wide variety of books and the opportunity to pick and try books that they want to read in order for their love of reading to grow! By trying other books in our classroom library Chris discovered that he also liked Superhero books, mysteries, and animal stories. I’ll never forget the day that we were doing centers and Chris was supposed to be at his favorite center, iPads. Instead, he walked back to my guided reading table and said, “Mrs. Foxwell, can I go pick out new books and read instead?” ABSOLUTELY!! There is nothing better than helping a student discover their love for reading! What a joy and privilege we have as teachers to help them find the key to unlock their reader’s heart.