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As a first-year English teacher, there were lots of questions that I hadn’t expected to have to answer in my classroom. The most surprising question, however, was this one:

[bctt tweet=”“Do I have to read in this class?” ” username=””]

Now, in my head, there are many sarcastic and snarky comments that I could think of. They practically write themselves, don’t they? Usually, I just looked at those students, confusion in my eyes and eyebrows raised before finally saying, “Yes.”

But this was just part of a bigger problem that I encountered in my classroom. Some people just don’t like to read, and students are no exception. Now, personally, I have always loved to read. Hearing this question from my students and seeing that some of them hated reading, lead to an interesting set of challenges. How could I engage students who hated reading in reading? What could I do, as their teacher, to encourage my students to read?

As I was looking for ideas, I learned that other teachers had this problem as well. From audio books to reading out loud in class, there are some ideas to help that love of reading grow. I tried some of those things in my classroom last year. Something that worked fairly well was helping students find the “hook book.” The “hook book” is the book that is interesting enough or opens the door in a student to enjoy or at least tolerate reading. By helping students find a book that was interesting to them, I could help them foster a love of reading. Or, at least, help some students realize that reading wasn’t so bad after all.

This year, I want to do even more to encourage my students in a love of literature. As I’ve been looking into different strategies, here are the ones that I liked the best. They’ve either worked for me or I am looking forward to trying them out this year.  First on the list is the blind date with a book. Something I heard about quite a few times was the idea of setting up blind dates with books for students.

There are two different ways to make this work. One is to have a wide variety of books in the classroom. The books are covered in paper, so the name is hidden. This is supposed to encourage students to try new books and ideas. Another variation of this idea is called “Book Tasting.” In this set-up, students move from table to table and book to book, reading for a few minutes out of each book. This then helps students try out new books that they might not otherwise have picked up. One of my colleagues suggested starting the year with shorter texts and then encouraging close reading of those texts. Shorter texts could be children’s picture books, magazines, and even manuals.

Something that surprised me was when I found that it could be just as important for teachers to be seen reading. By being an unapologetic fan of reading, and being willing to talk about that with my students, I show them that reading is fun. Since I enjoy reading, I can do that. My department does have a day of reading because we think it’s important, and if I chose to read during that time, it would be setting a good example. Other teachers suggested contests and having local authors visit the classroom.

[bctt tweet=”Some students don’t like to read because they’re not good at it, and they find it very challenging. ” username=””]

The best thing I saw wasn’t a strategy, but a reminder. Some students don’t like to read because they’re not good at it, and they find it very challenging.  Most of us don’t like things that are hard. I know I don’t. Are there ways that I can help my students find reading less hard? I was glad for the reminder that my students face the same thing and a reminder that their reading struggles are not going to be the same as my reading struggles.

Just like last year, I have some goals for my classroom.  One of them is to help my students while they’re looking for the hook book and trying to find things that they can connect and engage with. Encouraging a love of the written word is an important part of English, and these are some ideas to help make that happen.

Are there tricks that you’ve used in your classroom to help encourage students to read? Which ones worked best?


Bailey Cavender is a high school English teacher in the wonderful state of Idaho.

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