There’s no denying the benefits of reading. Avid readers can gain new knowledge on a range of topics; expand their vocabulary; develop stronger analytical thinking skills; and even strengthen their writing skills. And while there are plenty of opportunities during school and afterschool for students to pick up a book, they will achieve the best outcomes when they spend time reading outside of the learning environment for their own enjoyment.
According to a Scholastic report, most kids enjoy reading books for fun. In fact, the report shows that more than half of the children surveyed (58%) reported they “love or like reading books for fun a lot”.
Unfortunately, the affinity for reading begins to decline around the age of nine. The same report found that children's frequency of reading books for fun begins to drop at this age: only 35% of nine-year-olds report reading 5–7 days a week compared to 57% of eight-year-olds. There is also a decline in their love of reading for enjoyment: from 40% to 28%. Contributing to this decline may be the other activities vying for their attention, such as TV, video games, digital technology and extracurricular activities.
In order for your students to experience the full benefits of reading throughout school and into adulthood, they must maintain their love of reading. And you can help by bringing the fun! Below we’ve shared a few tips and strategies to turn reluctant readers into bookworms while fostering a love for reading that will last a lifetime.
6 Strategies to Put the Fun in Reading
1. Practice ‘Wide Reading’
In order to develop a love for reading, students must have the time to actually read. With wide reading, the goal is to give them lots of time, opportunities, resources and encouragement to engage in the practice of daily reading. It also means there is no pressure on students to do so. They shouldn’t have to fill in a log, present on what they’ve read or be assigned certain books. Instead, reading should be purely for their own enjoyment.
2. Allow Them to Choose Their Books
Piggybacking off of the concept of ‘wide reading,’ it’s important for students to have the freedom to choose the books they want to read. This allows them to choose texts based on their own interests and inclinations, which will help to keep them engaged in reading.
However, don’t be afraid to offer suggestions. You can recommend the next story in a series or a book by the same author. Another option is to offer choices that explore their current interests, whether it be animals, mythical creatures, storms or food. The key is to give them ultimate control of their book selection.
3. Incorporate Digital Technology
Today’s students are digital natives. One way to further pique their interest in reading is to combine it with tech. You can do this with online libraries, interactive eBooks, voiceovers and even augmented reality (AR).
Online libraries like Reading Eggs, for example, can hold more than 2,500 eBooks and provide a broad selection of texts across a range of topics and genres. On the other hand, augmented reality brings the text to life and keeps students engaged in reading through digital images, videos and sound.
4. Create a Stress-Free Environment
Provide a space where students can read independently, at their own pace and with minimal adult intervention. You can do this by designating time each day (10-20 minutes) for everyone to grab a book and read for pleasure, yourself included. Students can choose their book, find a comfortable spot in the room and get lost in the text. A great idea is to furnish your room with big pillows, bean bag chairs and yoga mats so students won’t have to sit at a table or desk while reading.
5. Host Reading Contests
Do your students enjoy a little competition? If so, this is the perfect way to motivate them to read. Simply challenge them to read a select number of books and track their progress using a reading log. You can use a printable reading log or an online tool like Reading Rewards that’s easy to use for both you and your students. Whoever reads the most books by a certain date wins a reward!
6. Incorporate Post-Reading Activities
This last strategy is a great way to add an element of fun while improving students’ reading comprehension. Post-reading activities work best when the group is reading the same book so that everyone can participate. For example, you may ask students to write an alternate ending for the book and give out an award for the most creative or the silliest ending. They can also act out the storyline by creating a short skit. The possibilities are endless; however, the key is to have fun!
Reading provides a number of benefits for students. But unfortunately, not every kid loves to read. With these strategies, you can make reading more fun for students and develop lifelong readers. For more ideas for bringing reading into your afterschool program, read 7 Tips to Create an Awesome After-school Library.