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Reading Motivation

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

During the months of June and July, especially July, I will be working on sharing what I know about this topic that generates the most questions from parents and teachers: motivating unmotivated readers. I asked a group of momma's from all walks of life, for questions they had about reading, writing, or curriculum. This topic generated the most! What I did was categorized each question into different groups:

  • Reading Motivation

  • Reading Readiness

  • Assessment

  • Curriculum

  • Reading Levels

  • Letter Reversals

  • Sight Words

  • Word Identification

  • The Reciprocal Relationship between Reading and Writing

  • Fluency

  • Comprehension

  • Phonics

  • And because there were random

I took this list and set aside a month per topic. The only reason this particular topic is getting June AND July is because we are working on closing our home and moving during the month of June. We've already experience one major hiccup, but if all goes well we should be closing in twenty-three days! Which feels a bit insane. With that background of our current life situation I figured this was the best set up.

Back to the topic of reading motivation: I wish I could say this is a "pop the pill" problem, but the answer depends largely on your reader, their age, their interests and their own personal "why" story. What I mean by that is this: most readers who do not want to read, have a pretty big reason why. Sometimes the answer may be laziness, but in my experience, most readers who have not picked up a book, but can with little effort, will read again with the right push, support, and incentives. However, readers who do not pick up a book and refuse to read it time and time again - this only becomes more and more difficult over time because they are struggling somewhere. I can typically pin-point that problem when I interview the parents and the student and then provide a personalized plan based on that "why" story. I have a few examples of what I mean by that and I'll share one....

Example of the "Why" Stories

Reading motivation was my #1 challenge as a junior high reading teacher because a high percentage of my students were coming to me reading at or below the 4th grade reading level (that percentage was over 60%). When I began to dive into why they weren't reading, it was because most of those student had spent the last six years struggling in the classroom. No wonder! The other thing I had to consider was their home life. I worked in a Title One school, which meant that many of those same students lived in poverty. I could spend yearS talking about this topic, but for the sake of time let's dive into the next issue that was my most challenging: personal diagnosis. Some students struggled with fluency, others word identification issues, most had a weak understanding of decoding, and the list of personal "why's" began to overwhelm me. What the majority of these students needed was a one-on-one personalized plan for 16-20 weeks where I could get them where they needed to be. Unfortunately, in a public school setting with 120 students total and an administration who hit a road block every time we discussed scheduling, this was nearly impossible. So I had to work with the masses.

Here's What I did:

I found a grant that would support my research for rewards and got it! I created a dollar system for each book, magazine, etc. that was read. Whatever students read meant they could earn "money" to purchase another reading item at this reading store (I had Kindles, popular book series, magazines, magazine subscriptions, comics, etc. anything that would encourage a junior high student to read more). It went off so well that I began to see unmotivated readers, reading.

But it didn't work for everyone.

My only problem was that I was still struggling to target those super low readers (what I mean by that is 7th and 8th graders reading between the 1st and 3rd grade). The reason they were reading at that level is because they needed specific reading instruction tailored to their specific and unique diagnosis.

Here's my specific example: One student did not visualize while he read. No wonder the words were boring for him! So we worked and worked and worked on this until one day he slapped his book on the table during personal reading time, jumped out of his seat and yelled, "MRS. LOWERY! I SAW THE DOG PUKE!" and everyone in the class began cheering for him. I could have cried right in that moment. I'll never, ever forget it. We had this huge celebration because he overcame his personal struggle. I have many stories like this, unfortunately I have failed stories as well because I was unable to give them the one-on-one pointed personalized education they so desperately needed.

BUT my point is, I know how to help, which is why this business began. Every struggle is different and unique because we are different and unique. The challenge that I love to uncover is the how. How am I going to reach this kid? Unpacking their "why" is the beginning of the end, making all those hours of work completely worth every painful second. I've probably cried a hundred tears of frustration and joy, but I love what I do and I cannot wait to talk to you about it.

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