Are you wondering how to ensure that elementary-age students get the most out of their reading? One way to accomplish this task is to see what is most interesting to the student. When a student says to me, “I’m not interested in reading a book”, I can motivate their interest by getting them involved in a topic—history, social studies, science, math (yes there is reading here as well). We can take them to our bookshelves and ask, “What covers interest you the most?” We can also ask them which of the topics previously mentioned interests them and then steer them toward those books.
For example, I had a first grader who loved to watch her father take photographs on vacations. I found books on photography and together, we made a list of sites in a few of the states she visited so that when they go there again, she’ll be prepared to share the photography experience with her dad.
Every child has the ability to create a world of their own, through reading. As the adults in their lives (whether we are their parents, caregivers, educators, local bookseller or librarian!), we play a huge role in this endeavor through expressions of confidence. A fun suggestion: If you are an educator, bookseller or librarian and you have the space, build a bridge to your children’s reading space so that it becomes an adventurous journey in which the student has to cross to reach the books. Most children like to travel - this will make their reading time more meaningful.
Exercises to encourage love of reading with the children in your life:
- Guess what the book will be about from the cover:
- Why is there a red and green elephant on the cover? Do you think this will be about a holiday? If so, which one?
- Why is that little girl sitting on a bench and crying? Do you think she’s upset about something? Let’s open the cover and see how we can make a classmate feel better when they’re upset.
- Oh, that witch is scary. Please note: Sometimes scary books often turn out to be about something other than spooky things.
- How the author uses emotions:
- In Charlotte’s Web, how does the author use emotions to make the reader feel for the spider?
- In The Wizard of Oz, how do each of the characters show emotion? Does the tin man show the most because he gets a heart and that is the center of emotion or is it the lion who gains courage or the straw man who acquires a brain? What does the expression “there’s no place like home” mean to you?
- How the plot thickens if a story has a villain:
- In the Harry Potter book series, would the story be as exciting if there weren’t a villain?
- What does Voldemort represent to Harry?
- First, discuss the concept of a villain. Were they born bad? Do they hurt themselves as much as they inflict harm on others?
- Reading Prompts—Something for Everyone –Related to a Book:
- The happiest period of the day in school for me is …
- The most interesting place I’ve ever visited OR the place I wanted to learn more about visiting…
- The person I admire most: (This can generate tons of responses from historical figures to a best friend, parent, or grandmother. There’s a book here for each subject…)
- What is the funniest thing that ever happened to me in school?
- When I become an adult, I want to be … (There are tons of books on being an engineer, scientist, gymnast, teacher, musician etc. Check out This Could Be You by Cindy Williams Schrauben!)
- Describe the best present you ever received on your birthday. (There are loads of birthday-themed books…)
The goal here is to encourage their love of books and show them that reading is fun. The possibilities are endless and an active imagination is encouraged and celebrated!Joan Ramirez lives in the New York metropolitan area, is a published photojournalist, has short suspense stories online, and teaches English as a Second Language to students around the globe. She has also published Jamie is Autistic: Learning in a Special Way and Go for It Leadership Handbook to inspire high school students and is crafting a historical suspense set in World War II. Her latest endeavor is The Write Rules, an entrepreneurial handbook, which has been acquired for use by the London Consortium of libraries.