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Fostering a Love for Reading: Strategies for Engaging Reluctant Readers

Fostering a Love for Reading: Strategies for Engaging Reluctant Readers

One of the jobs of a teacher is to help reluctant readers find a passion for reading. This isn’t often easy! While a love for reading may come naturally to some students, it won’t happen for everyone and it’s even more difficult when you introduce literature into English class. Asking students to engage with complex ideas that they might not even be able to express in their native languages is a daunting task for most teachers and students. 

Promoting a love for reading therefore is more than just teaching reading strategies. You also need to tap into students’ emotional worlds. Finding the emotional triggers that sparks students’ enthusiasm for literature is often like prospecting for gold dust, but when you find it, the benefits for students in terms of their ability to learn independently and think critically are enormous. 

Every student will have their own preference as to how they read and what kind of literature they want to engage with, and you might only be able to find the most appropriate materials through a process of trial and error. Here are two things to bear in mind when you’re trying to get your students to read more.

You need to make it relevant. 

Literature is more than just classic works of fiction. For example, poetry has long been celebrated for its ability to distil complex emotions into concise and evocative language. Short stories offer glimpses into characters' lives and explore various themes within a limited space. Popular fiction can entertain and captivate readers while also addressing deeper societal issues. Even song lyrics can possess poetic qualities that resonate with listeners’ emotions. Connect literature to the students' lives by selecting materials that resonate with their interests, experiences, and cultural backgrounds. Incorporate topics and themes that reflect their realities. This approach helps students see the value and relevance of studying literature in their own lives.

You also need to make it irrelevant. 

Although this is exactly the opposite of the first point it’s just as important. There’s more to reading than seeing your own world reflected back to you, although this is important to motivate students. The true value of literature is when we get insights into lives and ways of thinking that are completely outside our own experience. In this way, we don’t just have our own biases confirmed to us, but instead learn that the way that we have been conditioned to think is just one possible option amongst thousands. The preface of Foucault’s The Order of Things is a classic demonstration of how something as simple as the different types of animals can be thought of in infinite ways.

As you can see, getting students reading is a complex balancing act of choosing materials that engage students while introducing new and challenging themes and topics. If you’d like some more practical reading tips, check out this post from Kate on kick-starting students’ reading. Whatever you try, just remember that even if students don’t engage with reading right now, they still have their whole lives ahead of them to find a passion for it. Don’t lose heart if you can’t get a student to read, but instead hope that one day they’ll reflect on your classes and see the value in them. 

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