Developing a love of reading in our students

February 1st, 2012

We continue our series with Teri Lesesne this month with ideas about how to inspire students to become lovers of books and reading. Teri says that teachers, librarians, and parents, need to start by showing kids that they themselves love to read. We are still offering a special package price on Teri’s two books, Naked Reading and Making the Match. Come back again in March for more tips from Teri!

The pink hearts and red candy boxes are everywhere in stores.  Flowers, candy, stuffed animals: they all serve as concrete representations of love.  I wonder, what symbols would we use for our love of books?  How could we surround our students with reminders of the importance of books and reading in their lives?

The most powerful image we can provide our students is ourselves as a model of reading.  How often do students see you engaged in a text?  Do they see you reading books or listening to an audiobook or reading a book on your e-reader?  I would often be sitting at my desk with a book open as students came into class.  I would purposefully select books whose titles might engage even reluctant readers:  WHEN DAD KILLED MOM, THE EARTH MY BUTT AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS, WHY WE BROKE UP, UNDER A METH MOON.  If I were listening to an audiobook, I would ensure it was an intense passage such as when the main characters of Kenneth Oppel’s THIS DARK ENDEAVOR are defending themselves against the barbed teeth of the coelacanth fish or one of the battle scenes from THE ASK AND THE ANSWER by Patrick Ness or perhaps the chapter from Jack Gantos’  DEAD END IN NORVELT when young Jack believes his neighbor is boiling the skin from her hands (trust me, this scene is actually hysterically funny).  If I am reading electronically, I always make certain that a copy of the actual book is displayed so students can see what I am reading.  Two of my colleagues have clear folders on their door with book covers from the books they are reading with their eyes and reading with their ears. John Schu, an elementary librarian in Illinois, surrounds his library with covers of the books he reads (he read 2011 last year).

So, students need to see us reading.  Preferably, the books they “catch” us reading should be books appropriate for their pleasure reading as well.  Students are more likely to come to us for book suggestions if they know we are familiar with contemporary books.  Surrounding them, then, with children’s and YA books, fiction and nonfiction, is also critical.  Walk into Donalyn Miller’s classroom (she is THE BOOK WHISPERER) and you cannot help but know how important books are to Donalyn.  Tub after tub, shelf after shelf, her books number in the thousands.  Is it any surprise that her students read dozens of books for pleasure each school year?  Classroom libraries are another essential way to surround students with concrete reminders about books and reading  (this does not mean that your students never visit the school library, though). Classroom libraries also eliminate the excuse of “I left my book at home or in my locker” as there are always some books they can pick up in its stead.

Finally, we need to talk about our reading, share it with others.  Now that my classroom is often online, I use a blog to let students know what I am reading right now. Other educators do the same.  Explore the blogs of  Kate Messner, educator and author ( or  John Schu, librarian ( or the hundreds of others out there who blog about books and reading.   Get the word out: you are a reader.  You want to share books with others.  You love reading.

Entry Filed under: Reading

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Linda Baie  |  February 1st, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Love your stance & wish every single teacher would embrace this. Those blogs & others are wonderful for finding and being inspired by books. Thank you!

  • 2. Maria Selke (@mselke01)  |  February 4th, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Love this! I do this all the time. I also have posted on the wall outside my room the information on my current yearly challenge (the number of books I want to read and my Nerdbery Challenge status).

    The funniest thing was the day when I had a “reading celebration” in the room. Each kid shared a book they thought the others would like. As I “oooo”ed and “aahhhh”ed over each choice, interjecting my love for their choices, one kid stared at me and said, “Have you read EVERY book EVER?” Umm…. no….. but I do read a lot. And they know it.

  • 3. Katie  |  February 4th, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I love this article. It’s so true. And my friends always wonder why I’m reading children’s books.

  • 4. maureen brigham  |  July 1st, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I visited Grasso Tech High School with my second graders for a science field trip. The teacher’s had posted on their classroom doors, what book they were reading, the author and the genre. I thought this was a great way to share with their students their love of reading !

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