Encourage students to read for pleasure

Students read newspapers at The New Times head office. File.

One of the big challenges teachers face is not just getting students to read – it’s getting them to enjoy it too. It’s one thing for students to trudge through set texts in a lesson, but will they open another book when they get home, amidst the heavy homework and numerous course materials? Becoming a lifetime reader is based on developing a deep love of reading, so how do we help our students to develop this profound love of reading?

Theories on the reasons for the decline in reading abound, but the biggest lies in the idea of displacement. It is thought that children reading times are being sacrificed for television or other hobbies. This drop in reading for pleasure has serious side effects, namely a trickle-down influence on students. Teachers have attempted to rectify the problem by assigning reading homework, only to meet frustration when students are noncompliant. It takes both the school and home environment to inculcate a rich reading culture.

For younger readers in particular, the home environment is critically important. If a pupil doesn’t see people reading at home, it may be harder to instill the idea of reading for pleasure. Early exposure to reading pays off in that it creates an expectation in children that reading is an essential part of their daily lives; thus, the families of pre-readers in preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary must be encouraged to expose them to reading, not only by reading to them at home, but also by availing the reading materials like children books, newspapers, magazines or any other interesting text their children may like. They can also speak often about their readings and play reading games with their children when they are still young to build a strong reading foundation.

A part from parental involvement, teacher involvement is also important. Showing students that teachers of all subjects read books, not just the English teachers, is really important. Bring in two or three of your favourite books. Then, at the start of every lesson, whether that be geography, math or whatever, read to the class for ten minutes from your favourite book or allow volunteers to do the same with theirs. It’s especially good if they don’t see people reading at home. Enrich this by having books across the curriculum. Have topics set around a book. Children respond well to it because they love exploring details of books and making books come to life. For example, we had a whole trimester based on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to teach reading and the students loved it.

At school, teachers should try competitions. Reading competitions come in many shapes and sizes, with the aim of spicing up literature and giving children an incentive to open a book. Challenge students to read one book, fiction or non-fiction from a wide range of genres. They can get them ticked off by the teacher and medals given at the end of the year.

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