As teachers, reading is one of our main focuses with our students. Whether we teach littles or middles, our students are always reading! All of our core curriculum, Math to Science to History and English, expects our students to read a lot and read well. One of the best ways for students to become better readers overall is for them to read independently. But not all kids like to read. So how do we encourage independent reading especially with our middles who dislike reading? Thankfully there are some great tried and true methods that work to encourage reading for most students!
1. Get to Know Your Students
This one may seem like a no brainer, but truly the first step to any success with our middles is to get to know them! Relationships are everything at this age. When you know your students and have a relationship with them, they are WAY more likely to actually listen to what you teach. It also allows you to get to know what kind of books your students may like. I have found a lot of success with my resistant readers simply by getting to know them. As I got to know their likes and dislikes and personalities, I was able to recommend books that they ended up really loving. I am a firm believer that those that don’t like to read, just haven’t found the right books yet. So take the extra time to really get to know your students. I promise it will make all the difference!
2.Get Them to Buy In
Buy in is essential with our middles when it comes to reading. We need them to want to read or likely, it just won’t happen. There are lots of ways to get students to buy in to reading but here are a few of my favorites.
Read the first chapter of a novel together.
This is a great way to get middles engaged in a story and wanting more. Just make sure to read from a book with an engaging first chapter!
Another great way to increase buy in is to have a visible classroom library. I am always adding new books to my classroom library and signing books out from our school library that I know my students will enjoy. If you feel like you don’t have enough books for a classroom library, remember it’s ok to start small. See if anyone has books they would be willing to donate. Try to get books through Donors Choose or buy used books that are in good condition.
Read aloud is another great way to get your middles excited about books. I love to pick really engaging and exciting books that I know my students will read aloud. One of my favorite tricks with read aloud is to give my students doodle bookmarks to color while they listen. I have found my students generally listen better when they have something to do with their hands. If you love the idea of doodle bookmarks you can grab them in my store!
The last thing I do for buy in is let my students know what I am currently reading! They love to know what I am reading and I love adding to my repertoire of great student books. I have a visual in my classroom that says Mrs. Xerri’s Current Read that I update regularly. I also love the conversation and questions it fosters with my students!
3. Set Reading Goals
Goals are a great way to help students get motivated about reading. I like to talk to my students at the beginning of the year and set classroom reading goals with rewards spread out as they reach certain milestones. We generally set goals in how many minutes we read per week. I think it can also be really powerful to set individual goals with students. This allows them to feel in control while also giving you the opportunity to push them in their reading. It can also be fun to set a goal for how many books you want to read as a class or even for each student.
4. Provide Time to Read Independently
This one is tricky I know, but it’s so important. A lot of our middles struggle to find time outside of school to read independently. Their lives are busy with family and extracurriculars and reading takes a back burner. So when we give time in class for students to read, this may be all the time that some students get. This is also really important for our reluctant readers as they may actively avoid independent reading outside the classroom. The more we can give students time to read in class, the more likely they will read outside of the class. Also, use this time to read independently yourself. This allows you to set a great example for your students and to foster more reading conversations with them. Also, encourage students to read at home and get parents involved too! Any reading done at home is amazing for our students.
5. Allow Reading Choices
Possibly, this could be one of the most important things you do to encourage your students’ independent reading. Every person is unique and that includes in their reading preferences. While we may be tempted to assign reading of great books, independent reading needs to be student choice. There is a time and place to assign books to our students, but if we never allow them to choose their own books we may just squelch any love of reading they already have. Our middles do plenty of reading for academics. So make sure that independent reading is for student enjoyment.
6. Book Lists
My last recommendation is to send home book lists. This is great both for your avid and reluctant readers because it gives them a good place to start. Sometimes the key to getting our middles to read is just giving them a good place to start! I would also suggest continually building your own personal list of great books for your students. This gives you the opportunity to suggest great books whenever your students may need some suggestions.
If you aren’t sure of where to start with a list, some of my favourite books for middles are listed below.
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
- The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- Ghost by Jason Reynolds
- Tangerine by Edward Bloor
- Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
I will also be adding a list of great books for middles to my freebie library this month so be on the lookout for that! If you’d like access to my freebie library, just subscribe to my monthly newsletter and I include access to all my freebies as well as new monthly freebies.
Read, Read, Read
Encouraging our middles to read independently doesn’t need to be as daunting as it seems! These simple ideas will get you started in no time and you’ll be surprised at just how much your students can and will increase their independent reading! Remember, the more YOU read the more likely your students are to read! So read some great books this month and encourage your middles to do the same. You won’t be disappointed!