Reading is a fundamental skill for students of all ages, from those who are just beginning to read in their early primary school years to those who are studying for advanced degrees. The primary purpose of reading is to comprehend or derive meaning from the text being read. This, in turn, will lead a reader to develop other core skills like language skills, the ability to demonstrate creativity, and the ability to think critically about a variety of issues.
In addition to the abovementioned benefits, reading can also serve other purposes beyond furthering academic achievement. It can help readers experience the joy of discovery, change the way they look at the world they know, and allow them empathize with people who are not unlike the characters they encounter in their favorite books.
Your students—whether you’re teaching in a local MOE school or in an international elementary school in Singapore—may not be initially predisposed to the habit of reading, but there are several things you can do as a teacher to get them to read more. Below are four approaches that you can incorporate into your teaching practice, all of which may make reading more enjoyable for your students.
Choose Topics That Resonate with Them
One thing you can do to heighten both your students’ enjoyment and learning potential from reading books is to assign texts on topics that are relevant to them. For example, if you’re teaching in an international school, it would be wise to look for books that resonate with third culture kids for their multicultural perspective, wealth of diverse characters, and storylines about building strong connections in unlikely places.
As the teacher, it is your prerogative to recommend texts that are age-appropriate and that match your students’ level of reading proficiency. Take these factors into account when choosing either required or supplementary readings for your class.
Give Your Students the Chance to Engage with Book Authors
Another effective way to make your elementary school students more enthusiastic about reading is to connect them to book authors who write for their level. See if it’s possible to hold a live meet-and-greet at your school, for example if an author will be in the country for a book tour. If not, try reaching out to an author and asking them if they could record a video message for your class. You may be able to contact either local or international authors through their official websites, or via your school’s network of educators.
Many authors are happy to promote their works directly to their audiences through events like meet-and-greets, book signings, and live storytelling sessions for kids. If an author agrees to partner with your school for such an event, it will be something for you and your students to look forward to. As a result of getting to know an author and seeing where they’re coming from, your students may end up seeing the text in a different light—and perhaps even grow hungry to read more books like the author’s.
Pair Reading with Other Fun Activities
Even if your primary goal is to get your students to read more, that doesn’t mean that your activities should be limited to reading alone. In fact, you might be able to motivate your students to get into what they’re reading by pairing the activity with something else.
Try starting a reading activity for beginner readers with a song or arts and crafts activity related to the story or poem you’re taking up in class. If you’re teaching middle schoolers, pair complex readings like novels with excerpts of their movie adaptations or essays with videos that explain part of the main issue in the text. Doing so may deepen your students’ understanding and appreciation of their readings even more. Again, it’s up to you to choose age-appropriate materials that fit your students’ grade level.
Encourage Students to Read from Non-Traditional Sources
Part of the joy of reading comes from the fact that literature and media are no longer limited to print forms. Though there’s nothing quite like the sensation of turning a page in a hardcover or softcover book, you and your students should pursue new reading experiences outside of the so-called “traditional” ones.
Invite your students to compare reading experiences when they have printed books in their hands versus when they read eBooks, listen to audiobooks, browse through web comics, or engage with other forms of text. Ask them what their takeaways are from reading written poetry versus listening to or watching spoken word poetry. Welcome their insights about both traditional and non-traditional literature and media and let them get to know their preferences. With the knowledge that they can enjoy and learn from different sources outside of printed books, your students may very well fall in love with reading.
Final Words: Learning New Things Page by Page
Not everyone is born a bookworm, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to inspire your elementary school students to strengthen their reading comprehension skills and derive more joy from the habit, try any of the suggestions listed above.
When students are provided with different avenues to explore a text and to take away something uniquely meaningful from it, reading will eventually become like second nature to them. In the meantime, allow them to take their time in their reading journey, and welcome the chance to seek out new reading experiences together!