Encouraging Reading for Pleasure

In June The Guardian published some tips from teachers, including me, on how to encourage students to read for pleasure.

Below are my tips from the article, as well as a few other points which were raised when corresponding with Martin Williams, the journalist who wrote the article. Many of these points complement what I previously wrote about literacy in a live chat on The Guardian.


Classroom Environment

I think having a regularly-updated print-rich environment is important to have in the classroom. The surroundings should encourage reading in all its forms and support their choices of reading material. It may even spark interest in reading.

I don’t simply mean putting up a poster which tries to promote reading because it’s ‘cool’/etc. – I think they’re totally ineffective. A poster with a list of reasons why reading is ‘cool’ won’t convince anybody to pick up a book, particularly when considering the ages of students in secondary school.

Instead, students (and teachers!) could share the name of the book that they’re reading at the moment, and offer a sentence about the book. It’s a good example of how to encourage and support reading in the physical classroom environment, and a great way to share recommendations from student to student, teacher to student, and even student to teacher.


Drop Everything And Read

In terms of embedding a reading habit at school, I think reading time is important, for example through Drop Everything And Read. DEAR needs to be grounded in reading for pleasure rather than a task to be done at school (‘reading because we have to’), and book choice and availability is therefore crucial to this. It’s a great way to encourage reading for pleasure, particularly when there may not be strong encouragement at home or good access to books outside of school.

Time in the local and/or school library can also be beneficial. In the library as with DEAR, students need time to explore what’s on offer, find books they may like, and, of course, change the book if it isn’t appealing to them; forcing them to stay with a book they don’t like can do more harm than good.


Reluctant Readers

From my experiences there can be a reluctance among students to read.

However, there’s something to consider when making such a statement: is this a reluctance to ‘read’ or a reluctance to ‘read books’? To a certain extent I think there may be an inclination to only consider and favour books and discount the other facets of what reading is.

A 200-300 page book may seem short to some, but these can be intimidating to reluctant readers. Audiobooks, comics, e-books, short stories, online articles and reviews, magazines about their interests – these shouldn’t be ignored.

Based on my own experiences in teaching, the hesitancy of the majority of the ‘reluctant readers’ dissipates when they find something they like and want to read – the material and medium which ‘suits’ and appeals to them.

Reading is a personal, individualised experience; freedom to choose what to read is key to their enjoyment of reading.


Anything Goes

Introduce students to a wide variety of texts, mediums and genres – they may surprise themselves once they have faced preconceived ideas about what they consider enjoyable and embrace a diversity in what they read.

World Book Day and World Book Night have great potential which can be harnessed in the classroom. For instance, I was a WBN Book Giver this year and I made a Padlet for recipients of the books to access in order to strengthen the encouragement to read. Among other things, the Padlet contained websites for reviews and recommendations, books I recommend, and details of the local library.

Of course, other book and reading activities/events can also help promote reading for pleasure but, like WBD and WBN, they still have to engage with each student involved in order to have a meaningful impact.


Home Support

As I’ve mentioned previously, it’s crucial to bear in mind what the student wants to read. Having this control shouldn’t be undervalued, and I think they should be allowed to venture from one type of book to another. Reading is reading, no matter what kind of book/etc. it is.

I consider encouragement from parents to be quite an important factor: it can difficult to instil a reading habit if it only happens at school.

Access to books and other reading material is just as important. I recognise that the school setting for some students may be the only place access to books may be possible, and, whether or not encouragement is in abundance outside of the school setting, we must do our best to encourage students’ reading and textual choices.



Related Post:

Literacy: Reading Skills, Comments and Thoughts from a Live Chat


Posted on 26/07/2014, in Teachers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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