How to Get Children Reading

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How can we get children reading in the most effective way? What does research show about teaching reading to children?

Teaching literacy starts with understanding the importance of reading aloud to children. Students must develop a love for hearing stories before you can get students reading on their own.

teacher reading to children

One of the issues with literacy education is that often very little time is spent on actual "reading" and listening to stories.

Much time is used teaching isolated skills, and while that is necessary, kids must be practicing those skills in real, authentic ways.

Real practice is done through teaching guided reading, interactive read alouds that develop metacognition, doing oral and choral reading with poetry, and providing enough time for independent reading practice.

They won't become meaningful readers if little time is developed to actual practice.

Volume Directly Impacts Achievement

If a fifth grade student reads an average of 40 minutes per day, that is over 2,350,000 words per year they are being exposed to.  That means that the student will generally rank in the 90th percentile for achievement.

A student who reads less than 5 minutes per day is only exposed to around 51,000 words per year and will likely rank in the 10th percentile.

90 minutes per day is Richard L. Allington's recommendation in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-Based Programs (2nd Edition).

These books need to be age and level appropriate. We all know that many of our students do not have access to literacy experiences outside of our classroom. Elley and Mangubhai (Elley, W.B., & Mangubhai, F. (1983). The impact of reading on second language learning. Reading Research Quarterly, XIX, 53-67 ) found that the countries with the highest literacy rates also had access to the largest classroom and community libraries

This speaks volumes for many of our ESOL students who come to us from poorer countries than our own. The researchers also found that a similar disparity in access to books and growth in reading rates exists between middle-class and economically disadvantages communities.

In short, if we don't provide these kids books, who will?

Get Children Reading Books - for 90 Minutes?

How can you fit in 90 minutes of reading instruction? By incorporating meaningful and structured reading activities for children.

Here is how I manage to get the maximum time of authentic reading in my classroom:

  • Students read as soon as they come in the door (10 minutes)
  • They read to self for at least 30 minutes per day
  • They read with a buddy for at least 20 minutes per day
  • They read at the listening center for 15 minutes per day
  • We read poetry together for 15 minutes every day
  • We do an interactive read aloud together every day (15-20 minutes)

We work on specific reading skills as well, intervene with students who have not reached fluency or comprehension benchmarks, and enrich students who are ready for the "big" bikes. This is done through a meaningful literacy block.

We, as teachers, are responsible for helping our students become passionate consumers of literature.  

By the way, Reading Karate is an awesome way to motivate students to read huge volumes of books in a variety of genres - click the book to find out more.

There's no time to waste - let's get our children reading now!

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