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Why Reading Motivation Does Not Have a One-Size-Fits-All Program

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

The desire to read is directly related to the ability to read. For example, if a student struggles to comprehend they have no will whatsoever to pick up a book and read it. And the issue becomes more and more complicated with each year they continue to struggle. The issue of motivation is at the heart of what teachers face in the classroom and what parents face at home! And when I asked mothers to write a list of questions they had in regards to their little readers, reading motivation was the most common topic that came up. I was not surprised, because it was an issue I thoroughly researched while I taught struggling junior high students to read. I went to reading conferences to listen to experts like Timothy Rasinski, I read published research in journals, books like When Kids Can't Read What Teachers Can Do by Kyleene Beers, I picked electives that had to do with reading while completing my graduate studies and because of what I learned I created reward programs, provided ample opportunity to read what they chose, read together, did weekly book talks, and worked on specific reading skills. But I still had readers who didn't want to read. Why? Because I could book talk a book all day, but if a kid doesn't have the tools to overcome the struggle then there is no point to all of that!

The reason why there isn't one program that works for every single student is because every single student is unique, with their own set of problems, experience, background knowledge, likes and dislikes. The only way to create a program that will be successful is by knowing your student.

These are a few questions I ask myself in regards to an individual students reading motivation:

  • Why don't they want to read?

  • What is keeping them from picking up a book?

  • What do they like? Enjoy? Spend their free time doing?

  • What do they not like?

  • Do they visualize while they read?

  • Can they easily identify words?

  • Are they confident reading the text aloud?

Most of the time the answers to these questions come from talking with them, observing them, listening to them. It takes time, but in my experience this is the only way I've been successful with students who fight tooth and nail about reading.

However, there is evidence that suggests specific strategies to implement in order to increase reading motivation. And that is what I will be talking about for the months of June and July. For now, I'll give you a little nugget: create an environment that encourages a reader to read. Give them a reading space, provide a bookshelf full of books they'd be interested in picking up, create goals and rewards for reaching that goal (not just any reward, the only rewards proven to be successful are rewards that encourage the behavior you're attempting to attain, therefore, reward reading with reading). Most importantly, read to and with and by your student. Finally, talk to them about it because half the fun with reading is being able to talk to someone.

I look forward to chatting with you more about this vitally important and difficult topic. If you ever have any specific questions about your own reader - or even about yourself - please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to helping you solve the riddle to your own unmotivated reader!

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