“But I Don’t Like To Read…”
Strategies To Help Engage Reluctant Middle School Readers
Everyone knows a reluctant reader when they spot one. A reluctant reader rarely seems to find a book he or she likes. They’re often ambivalent about new texts and some need to be coaxed into completing their reading assignment. However, despite not showing a natural interest in the written word, many of these students can become skilled and even enthusiastic readers with the right encouragement.
Our friends at Open Books, a nonprofit literacy organization that provides transformational reading and writing programs for thousands of Chicago students, have compiled a list of tips to help get middle schoolers excited about reading. These tips, as well as their award-winning bookstore in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, are enough to get anyone enthused about literacy. Open Books welcomes young people to come in and peruse their more than 50,000 donated used books and attend their many literary-themed events. For more information, visit: http://www.open-books.org.
Open Books’ Top 5 Tips for Motivating Middle School Students To Read:
1. Offer variety in reading material: Teens often feel hesitant to read because it’s an activity they are forced to do in school, and students seldom have any choice about the material. Open Books regularly hosts book giveaways, allowing students to choose their own books to take home. Having ownership over the text, and allowing students to read whatever they want is a great way to get them jazzed about books!
2. Read book series: A great way to motivate teens to keep reading is by exposing them to series. They’ll get hooked while reading the first book, and greedy to get their hands on the rest!
3. Read the first page…out loud: So many teens at Open Books have said, “If I don’t like the first page, I don’t want to read the rest.” Reading the first page of a book out loud (with plenty of expression!) helps hook young readers – they’ll be eager to learn more. Plus, by the time they’re teenagers, many students no longer get read to during school, so it’s a great opportunity to help them relax and spend their brain energy absorbing and visualizing the text.
4. Practice what you preach: Middle school students model their behavior after what they’re exposed to, so a great way to cultivate readers in your classroom is to talk about your experience as a reader. Tell students what books/passages/articles you’ve loved, share quotations and beautiful sentences, and soon, the students will follow suit.
5. Get in character: Help middle school students deepen their understanding of a text by giving them the opportunity to slip into the skins of the characters they’re reading about. One way to do this is to divide the class into groups, assign each group a character and have them come up with a skit showcasing that character in a new situation. The students have to understand the quirks of the character in the book (his/her voice, vocabulary, and personality) in order to create their skits. It’s fun, educational – and students love the opportunity to do a little acting.
Further resources: Open Books suggest two titles for further reading on this topic, Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High School by Kelly Gallagher and The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers by Nancie Atwell.