Helping Kids Fall in Love with Reading
By Kevin Heffel, Chief Academic Officer at RePublic Schools
Every school strives for kids to read on grade level. At RePublic Schools, we strive for our scholars to fall in love with reading. Scholars who love reading are kids who look for any opportunity to read. And scholars who love reading become adults who love reading.
How do we get our scholars to love to read?
First, we put great books in front of our scholars. If you want kids to find reading a chore, give them some silly, trite, watered-down “story” from a reading textbook. If you want kids to love reading, give them great books that honor their intellects. Kids are smart. They know the difference. With access to great literature, our scholars realize that there is something here to love.
Second, our scholars get to talk and write about what they read every day. It’s not enough to put great books in front of kids. Kids need an opportunity to make meaning together. In our classrooms, our scholars uncover the deeper meaning of a challenging text through close analysis of the author’s craft and purpose, experience the joy that comes from “aha” moments when they can access a piece of literature independently, expand their lens of the world around them, and learn something new about themselves through wrestling with a character’s struggle and triumph. Scholars make those connections by engaging with one another and a deeply-prepared teacher about texts that are worth their time.
Third, we read, read, read. For many kids, reading is hard because they don’t do it nearly enough. In addition to reading books in class, RePublic scholars have time to read independently every day. Our scholars choose books from our classroom libraries that are both on their reading level and interesting to them. By choosing a book that is just right for them, our scholars are one step closer to finding a book that they fall in love with.
We hold the same expectations for scholars at home. To fall in love with reading, scholars need to read when they are outside of school. Parents have a critical role to play in developing a scholar’s love of reading.
How can you get your kid to love to read?
Read with your kid. No child is too old for it. It doesn’t have to be a bedtime story and it doesn’t have to be just you reading. Read a novel together by swapping off chapters. Books like the Harry Potter series is a godsend for this kind of reading. There is enough in there to entertain us as adult readers and to challenge our kids intellectually. Ask questions about the book. At the end of a chapter, ask:
“What just happened?”
“What do you think will happen next?”
“What makes you think so?”
By asking these big, open-ended questions, you are teaching important lessons: 1. Books are meant to be understood and pondered over, 2. It is fun to think about books, and 3. Kids have important things to say about what happens in books.
Read in front of your kid. I get it. They may be tweens or teenagers and they may not think you are cool anymore. But, they notice what you do. From your example, they learn what you value and how you expect them to behave when they are adults. When they see you reading, it teaches them that people they love and respect are readers too.
Go to the library. Just go. It both sends a message and serves a very practical purpose: you can stock up on books. Libraries are public monuments to reading. Give your kid the gift of picking out a book from the thousands on the shelves and then sitting in a hard wooden chair in a reading room like a grown-up. It is a memory they will cherish.
Visit a RePublic School. We are serious about your kid falling in love with reading. We haven’t met a kid yet that can’t love to read.
Kevin Heffel is the Chief Academic Officer of RePublic Schools. When not working hard to help all RePublic scholars fall in love with reading, he can be found reading The Monster at the End of this Book to his daughter Skye, who loves his Grover voice.