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Motivating Students to Read

What motivates elementary students to read? That is the million dollar question. What can we do as educators to encourage the love of reading to our students? Show them how much we love to read and how much fun it can be!

gailThis is a picture of an amazing principal and friend that had a huge heart for kids. Gail loved going around and reading to the kids. The students loved her passion for reading. She was truly an awesome woman!

I went to an incredible workshop by Dr. Karen Gibson last week that dealt with how to motivate students to read. She shared her research that she did in our district several years ago with over 12,000 elementary students. One of the suggestions that Dr. Gibson had was for every teacher to do a reading interest inventory with the class at the beginning of the year. There are many on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. I have attached one that I have made for my students based on Dr. Gibson’s survey. You can do it with younger kids by reading the questions out loud to them. Please feel free to change it to fit your classroom needs. I made it on Powerpoint so it is easy to edit. Many thanks to Teaching With Style for her great emotion graphics. Click on the picture or here to download.

reading inventory

Dr. Gibson’s study found what the students’ favorite reading motivational activities were. The most important motivational activity for the students was being allowed to choose any book they want to read. I know I have been guilty of telling the students to get a book they can read. A lot of my 2nd grade boys wanted to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Many of the boys couldn’t read them yet and I discouraged them from checking the books out at the library.

Another idea to motivate elementary students to read is to provide a comfortable place in your classroom to read. The students could read on the floor, in a beanbag or carpet squares. Some teachers have the kids bring a pillow and let them put their chair upside down to read. I found this on Pinterest.

upside down chairssource:

Another way to motivate kids to read is to have a large classroom library. The students want books that they are interested in and can read. I have read to expect to have anywhere between 600-1000 books. Below is a picture of my classroom library. My kids loving going in there. It has taken me many years to build it up to over 1000 books. If you ask any of my kids they will say this their favorite place in my classroom.


Another motivational activity that the students said they enjoy was having the teacher take them to the library to help pick out books. The students also enjoy having the teacher recommend books that we are interested in. Dr. Gibson states, “it is important to know children’s literature in order to be able to help your students choose books they will enjoy”. There are several resources she suggests for doing this. Become friends with your school librarian. She will be able to tell you the newest and best in children’s literature. Also check out the Notable Books, Children’s Choices Lists, and Award Lists.

Dr. Gibson’s study also found that students are motivated by the teacher reading aloud to them daily. There are so many benefits to a read aloud. Studies have shown that the read aloud increases performance on standardized tests, helps in language development and vocabulary, improves reading comprehension, and affects students reading interest.  It is important for the teacher to get a ritual going in a class read aloud. Try to read daily for 15 minutes and read at the same time every day.

I really enjoyed Dr. Gibson’s worksop. She also discussed students’ favorite post-reading activities. I will have to share that part at another time. Do you already do any of these activities in your classroom?


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