Teaching reading often feels like training students for a sports competition. The most challenging part can be the beginning and finding the right method for each student, even the reluctant ones.
We still hear students claim that they never read, and some even say that they hate reading. When these students express how little interest they have in reading, the first thing I want to find out is what they really don’t like about it.
Is the reason the list of compulsory books they have to complete for school? Do they think that ‘serious’ reading equals reading the long classics and textbooks? Do they fear that they will be tested about it? Do they have a reading difficulty? What if they have no memories of bedtime stories, and reading wasn’t an everyday event in their childhood? Is the reading material too hard? Is the student’s vocabulary insufficient for the texts? There is a long series of questions to answer if we really want to understand the reason for our students being reluctant readers.
To become successful, we have to present reading as an activity that can be a shared social event just as much as a time for solitary discovery and reflection. We have to help our students to build a routine and provide them with the right materials and tools for discovery.
Take one step at a time in order to move forward steadily: a scheduled routine will guarantee success and fun. More success and more fun will fuel more desire to read. Timing and reward are also key elements, and these reading sessions can be different from the average classroom lessons. I find that a balanced reading program consists of a combination of several approaches.
Solution 1: Shared reading: groups and pairs
During classroom reading sessions small reading groups and pairs work very well, and not just with young learners. You will have to make sure that every student has a copy of the same book.
During group reading sessions it’s a great idea to use graphic stories. When everyone gets to the double comic spreads, they can read out the dialogues and pick one person to be the narrator.
Why not try reading in a group, but reading different titles? Your students will have a good time together, and they will see that everyone in their group is focussed on their own story. At the end of this kind of reading session your students can talk about their feelings or give a short summary of what they read.
Solution 2: Reading aloud
You can combine shared reading and reading aloud in various ways. Reading aloud to your students has great educational benefits: it will help younger and older students have a role model they can follow, and it will help them with understanding longer sentences and paragraphs. Since reading aloud is a form of interpretation, it will help your students see how they can make meaning in a harder text. Listening to a story and reading it together becomes a fun event. You can have a lesson a week or 15 minutes every second lesson for shared reading and read-aloud sessions. If you are uncomfortable with reading aloud, you can also use the excellent CD recordings that come with each Helbling Reader.
Solution 3: Silent reading in class
We have already talked about the D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) method, which is also called silent reading. These sessions will give your students some time to wind down and have a relaxing moment to themselves during classroom lessons. You will have to provide enough reading materials for this kind of reading, as here the freedom of choice is crucial to the success of the reading session.
You can choose not to have a discussion after a silent reading session as it is a personal moment when everyone can choose what and how to read.
Solution 4: Measure success and reward it
A good way to develop a routine and build reading stamina is using a timer to measure the time spent on reading. Use our reading timers to record and encourage 15-minute reading sessions. You can decide with your students about the reward they can get if they complete 12 or 16 reading sessions. One session can be 15 minutes, but of course this can change as your students advance.
Setting objectives is a simple way to help your students with longer texts. You can set a certain number of pages, a chapter or a whole reader (see the Helbling Readers Red Series Short Reads) as the daily objective.
You can also start a group or class challenge: how many clocks can you complete in a month? Remember that it is a good idea to monitor this kind of reading either during shared or silent reading sessions.
Solution 5: Films and graphic stories
Watch the film to motivate interest in the original. Here you will find a post and a list of film adaptations of classic novels.
Offer graphic stories and illustrated readers to interest the students who are more attracted to visual stories.
Different modes of teaching also work in reading education. Which way of teaching works best with your students? Auditory, visual or kinesthetic? Use a combination of approaches, recommend audio books, use graphic stories, and let your students respond to the text they are reading by drawing or writing.