Tips for Hooking Kids on Reading

Successfully hooking kids on reading depends upon a number of factors: how old the child is, in what manner you will interact with the child (are you the parent, teacher, sibling, or friend), the personality and interests of the child, the disabilities or mentality of the child, as well as many other considerations.

I teach Special Education Reading and Language Arts to junior high students, some with minor reading and language disabilities, others with significant mental disabilities. Getting a student who not only has great difficulty reading, but who has also been berated, put down, and told over and over that he or she will never be good enough, to enjoy the art of reading is a significant challenge. I also face the difficulty of having to choose the right books for a variety of students with many different backgrounds and interests. Some techniques that have worked: I make sure several of the books we read each year are read mostly for fun. The students have to put little work into the reading of these particular books – I always buy a CD recording of the book or, if no recording are on the market, I record one myself. The students follow along with the speaker as they are reading the book. I also have several personal CD players with headphones so that students can read independently with the speaker. With these books, I try to focus on high interest or highly debatable topics, so students will be encouraged to read further and discuss. Last year, we read books about drug users and their families, kids with despicable teachers, murders and unsolved crimes. Although other lessons and books are brought into the class to help the students further their reading skills, these lessons and books are brought into the class simply to teach kids that there are some intriguing books out there, and reading does not always have to be boring and difficult. In fact, most of these lesson plans are simply discussions or debates.

Of course, I have learned the hard way to discuss important elements of each book (especially fact or fiction), no matter what the intended purpose of reading the book actually is. After reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with the kids, which is a fantastical and thrilling book about magic, dwarfs, talking animals, and imaginary worlds, one Junior High student looked up from her book with a quizzical expression on her face and asked, “Is this a true story?”

Sometimes, as a teacher, you just have to do the best you can.