How to we get students to read books for enjoyment? Three tips that worked for me as a teacher may be helpful for you as a parent or teacher.
#1 Find a series that the student will enjoy. No one spends free time doing something that is not interesting or entertaining. Books face strong competition from the Internet and Social Media. But I was surprised to learn from a woman who works in the children and teens section of Chapters that their biggest increase in sales has been in the teen section. She says it is because there are so many excellent new novels being written in the genre of fantasy, dragons and vampires, the favorite themes of movies for teens.
A good novel is like a soap opera; you can’t wait to find out how it all turns out. The book becomes a constant companion until it is finished. This is why I advise starting young people on the first book of a series. They will want to find out ‘What Next?’ and get hooked on reading the next book. So, begin by taking the student to a good bookstore or to the library where a knowledgeable staff member will help you to find just the right series.
#2 Read the first chapter aloud to your reluctant reader and discuss it. The first chapter sets up the characters and themes of the book and makes the reader curious to find out more. Familiarity with the setting makes reading faster and more enjoyable. It would be even more helpful to read the whole book yourself so that you can discuss it together. You will love the dialogue that will emerge as you view the characters and events through each others eyes.
A good novel allows us to step inside other minds and understand the world from different points of view. I shared Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut with my grandson, Sean, when he was in grade twelve. It is one of my most cherished memories. This was the first time we had important and interesting discussions around such topics as politics, societal issues, religion and death.
Another good practice is to talk to your family or students about the books you are reading. It is good modelling and helps to interest them in expanding their reading to new genres.
#3 Make sure that the student is able to read well and fairly quickly. Otherwise, he or she will be unable or unwilling to put in the effort to read a whole book. I meet adults who read so slowly that they never attempt a novel. How sad! The Making Sense Approach to Reading increases speed and comprehension for all readers. Many parents who have taken the Simply Read Course to help other children to improve their reading report that their own reading improves as they too begin to use the techniques they have learned.