Developing a Love of Literature

My school has recently employed a mandatory reading block at the beginning of the day.  It started really well, but now we are fighting with the kids who would typically label themselves as “non-readers”.  I’ve watched as some of them sit and stare at their book for the entire 20 minutes….never once turning a page.

When we first discussed this as a school I threw out the possibility of having a room where kids could go to be read out loud to instead of reading their own book.  For the most part it was pretty much voted down.  The reason?  We want kids reading, not listening.  Besides, if I offered a read aloud room it would just develop into “the most popular club in the school” (according to one teacher).  I personally didn’t see a problem with that but ok, fair enough.

But what happens when they don’t read?

For the past two years I always started my Grade 8 day with 20 minutes of me reading out loud.  Last year I was only working 3 days a week and I still managed to get through Catching Fire (they had read Hunger Games the year before), Mockingjay, and the Maze Runner.  The kids really enjoyed it.  It gave them an opportunity to settle down and get ready for their day and most of them would listen avidly to the story.

This year I have a class of students twice a week who are in my room in the period after lunch because they didn’t want to take French.  You can imagine who they are.  Except for 2 or 3 fairly strong students, the rest are the weak ones with poor literacy skills who struggle with their own first language….never mind a second.  I get them for an hour twice a week and I start each class with 30 minutes of me reading out loud to them from “The Maze Runner” – a book that I’ve found snags boys and girls….but especially boys.

The result?  They love it.  One Tuesday, after having not seen these kids since the previous Wednesday, one of them came in and sat down and said very eagerly, “I’ve been waiting for this for days!”  I had left them at a bit of a cliff hanger and he came in totally ready to listen to the next part of the story.  Some might be interested to note that his reading level is incredibly low, he is a very strong discipline challenge during the school day, and when you ask him to read something himself he often responds by crumpling or tearing it to pieces.  

BUT…..I’ve got him.  I snagged him with a book he would never be able to read on his own and he LOVES IT!

He actually told another student (who was being a touch disruptive while I was reading) to quiet down because he was ruining the story.  When I finished (at yet another cliff hanger) he looked at me and said, “You can’t stop now!  You have to keep going!”


And the great thing is, the rest of the class has the same attitude.  In fact they told me I could just read for the entire hour and they’d be ok with that.  They laugh at the funny parts (so I know they are listening) and they will come in quite frequently and tell me they can’t wait to find out what happens next.

A well chosen book is very powerful.  And while these kids couldn’t read this book on their own, they love listening to it.

I’m a firm believer that if you want kids to read, you need to hook them into literature first.  Then, the desire to read these books themselves will be enough motivation to get them wanting to improve their reading skills all on their own.

But for now, I’m content to have them scurry into my classroom directly after lunch because they are terrified I’ll start the story without them and they’ll miss something.  They sure don’t drag their heels getting to my class after lunch on Tuesdays and Wednesdays…..

Good bye late slips.


About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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3 Responses to Developing a Love of Literature

  1. Great post! I believe strongly in read-aloud. Everybody likes listening to a good story, and I can see how students who struggle with reading would love listening to a good book. You’re also modeling to them what an accomplished reader does. In my class, I’m using Kindles with their text-to-speech function. The computerized voice is horrible compared with a human’s, but my students say they appreciate having help when they’re reading. Thank you again for sharing!

  2. Jess says:

    I used to teach in a junior high in which we had a mandatory reading period after lunch everyday and I would start each school year by reading a book a loud to them. They loved it! We were also fortunate enough to have a phenomenal librarian who, if we noticed a student who was staring at the page more than actually reading the book, would come pick up the student and take them to the library to help hand pick a book or graphic novel that would be at their reading level as well as hopefully peak their interest. Helping students pick the right book made a huge difference!

  3. Jaimelia says:

    Wow! I’ve used books on CD to capture my children’s attention on road trips and during the dinner prep hour when technology can be so tempting. Kids won’t love reading and thinking if we don’t give them a way in. Thousands of years oral story telling was our primary form of entertainment. I can get kids to retell, summarize, predict, connect ideas, infer, empathize and respond personally to text by reading aloud. Upper level skills are necessary for the future. Like you, I’m not saying stop reading. I am just pleased to hear that you are giving kids a way to enjoy literature.

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