When adults think of the skills that are needed for success, what do they value? The ability to speak well? Coding proficiency or science know-how? Pew Research Center sought answers and the public has spoken: in a recent survey, Americans cited reading as one of the most important skills needed for future success — second to only communication.
Building literacy beings with fostering a love of reading . Here are a few tips on creating thriving reading environments in the classroom from Newsela Community Team members and former educators Ted Palenski and Nicole Boyle:
- Create a cozy book corner. Giving students a safe and comfortable space in which to read goes a long way. Keep it lively with pillows, artwork, and a steady rotation of high-interest books.
- Allow for free independent reading time. In addition to carving out a place for reading, students also need time to make the most of the space by exploring their unique interests. Make sure students know that this is a valuable time to delve deeper into any topic that sparks their curiosity.
- Select reading materials based on the student interest. Student voice is crucial in stoking a love of reading. Take note of what students are reading during free reading times and try to incorporate similar themes into assigned readings.
- Encourage research. Refer to books whenever students ask questions that you, the teacher, cannot answer. It’s easy to Google answers in this day and age, but as Reading Rainbow famously put it: “take a look, it’s in a book.”
- Choose readings that reflect the diversity of the class (and the world). Take advantage of technology and delve into international news sources, or connect with educators on social media and ask for recommendations. Students are far more likely to continue reading when they find the subject matter relatable.
- Present students with options. Words are everywhere. Try keeping a stock of magazines readily available in the classroom. By practicing with sources beyond traditional books, more hesitant students often engage with reading.
- Extend the discussion. Encourage students to come up with their own discussion questions for assigned readings. Ask: If you were to lead a conversation about this, what would you say? Students will feel empowered to think critically about what they are reading.
- Think outside the box. Class discussions work best when students know they are expected to provide some context. Try putting up 10 questions and ask students to answer as many as they can during a fixed amount of time. Then encourage everyone to share their work — without repeating each others’ answers.
- Spark some competition. Create reading teams and have students go head-to-head in book trivia, or keep running counts of how many words students have read in a given month. Whenever they reach goals, post names on your door or in the hallway.
- Share. Blog about what you are reading — or post titles on your classroom boards — and have your students do the same. Strike up informal chats and see if your students choose to read some of the same books or articles as their peers.
How would you rank reading among skills for future success? What strategies do you use to encourage reading in the classroom? Let us know at @Newsela.