We would all love our students to be intrinsically motivated to learn. However, it is a common human characteristic to try to avoid activities we find difficult. The problem is that reading is a critical life skill and until students are experiencing success in reading, we may need to provide some extrinsic motivation.
The earlier we address reading difficulties and put an effective intervention program in place the better. Learning is like an inverted triangle. The longer you wait before you address a student’s reading difficulties, the more information they will need to catch up on and the more likely it is that you will also need to overcome a range of negative behavioral issues. A student does NOT need a diagnosis before you can start intervention. The research consistently shows that all children who are struggling benefit most from a reading program that systematically and explicitly teaches phonics with a core underlying phonological awareness component.
Only one student can be the best decoder, the most prolific reader, the most expressive reader, the fastest reader, but everyone can improve and everyone can try.
Break goals into manageable steps and reward each step. The research shows that small rewards are better than large rewards. The small rewards could be as simple as a star. When a predetermined number of stars have been accumulated these can be swapped for a small prize. The prize does not need to be something physical. It could be spending time doing an activity with a teacher or parent.
It can also be rewarding if everyone in the class or family benefits. For example, every time a child obtains a predetermined number of stars the whole family goes to the zoo or the whole class can play a game.
Read Anywhere at Anytime
Reward reading that occurs outside designated reading times. In the classroom, students might be rewarded for reading during breaks or if they finish set work early. In the home, they could be rewarded for reading on the weekend or in the car.
Encourage students to ‘binge’ on books. Reward students for reading multiple books by the same author or on the same topic. Binging isn’t just for Netflix!
Promote Different Genres
Once students are reading, they can sometimes become ‘stuck’ on a particular author or genre. Reward students who move outside their ‘reading’ comfort zone.
Raise the Standard
Reluctant readers will often choose the easiest book available knowing they will be able to read it with less effort and therefore less stress. Sometimes, we need to encourage them to read more challenging books by rewarding students when they choose more difficult.
Promote a Love of Books
Build up enthusiasm around reading by having students talk about the books they love or by provoking a thoughtful exchange of opinions.
- Adults can read the first chapter or even several chapters of a book to engage students’ interest and then encourage them to continue reading the book independently.
- Alternatively, find an exciting snippet from a book, use this as a focus for some reading activities and have the book readily available.
- Most importantly, model reading and a love of books.
Over to You
I would be interested in any ideas you have for motivating readers.