Simple Strategies for Motivating Reluctant Readers

This past month I stepped into Mrs. Shepard's classroom and asked a few of her students what they cherished most about being in first grade.  They responded emphatically, "It's all about the books!"

Marquis, a first grader in Mrs. Shepard's room, said "I've become a better reader this year.  I'm not afraid of the tricky words.  Mrs. Shepard really got me hooked."    

     How does Mrs. Shepard do it?  How does she turn "reluctant readers" into power-house page turners?  Here are three of Mrs. Shepard's time-tested strategies for motivating reluctant readers.

 Coming Back to Beloved Texts.

Mrs. Shepard loves literature.  Her classroom library is lined with browser bins full of beloved texts that she has thoughtfully acquired over her teaching career.  She has read books alongside first-graders long enough to know the kinds of titles that will light the fires of their wonder and imagination.  You'll find her students reading everything from the Dr. Suess classics to hilarious books about stinky cheese, from the Geronimo Stilton Series.

"Our teacher lets us choose the books we want.  I go for the interesting science books, the penguin books, the dessert habitat books, and books about the weather," first grader, Quinn says proudly.      

Getting into the Small Circles.

Mrs. Shepard knows her readers.  From day one, she has tailored her instruction and organized her teaching time to meet with small circles or groups of readers.  It's in these small Guided Reading Circles that Mrs. Shepard can listen to the identity of the emerging readers in her classroom.  What are their strengths?  What comprehension or decoding skills do they still need to grasp?  And most importantly, which texts will light the sparks of curiosity and turn them into 
hungry readers?  

"I know I am a strong reader.  I'm already into chapter books.  I get so excited so excited when Mrs. Shepard shares a new book with our class.  She picks the best books." said Emily.

 Building a Community of Readers.

"We make connections with books in many different ways . . . . . " Mrs. Shepard says, "my students are always excited to share those connections."

Walking around Mrs. Shepard's room, I notice the classroom library she's built over a lifetime of teaching.  It contains a huge assortment of books perfectly suited for the first-grade reader.  Alongside all the vibrant texts are creative charts displaying students thoughts and connections they've made with the books.

It is our response to books

 that make them truly meaningful.  

Listen to another first grader named Fransisco, as he describes his own experience within this community of readers.  "My teacher lets us read her favorite books and then she's always asking us questions.  The questions really get me thinking, like what might happen next in this book?  I read with my buddies.  My favorite books are the ones I've shared with a friend."

the article was written by  Sandra Berlin


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