• Chantelle Vischer

Teacher's talk: Read, read and read some more

Hi there, it’s that time again… Teacher’s talk! Today’s post was written by Terry-Lee Lagerwall. Never have I ever met someone as enthusiastic about pretty much anything and everything she comes across in life. I can’t wait to learn from her. Have a read.

There are two things in life I am absolutely passionate about: Teaching and reading. Being an English teacher makes it very easy for me to combine my two passions, but there’s a catch, just because I’m passionate and excited about reading, it doesn’t mean the learners sitting in front of me are.

In my teaching career I’ve taught English to learners from grade 4 to 7, and a common challenge throughout is that, a great deal of children today don’t enjoy reading. Now reading isn’t for everyone and I understand that we all love different things, but the fact that children don’t want to read causes major problems with their academics for example children struggle to understand what they read when it comes to reading comprehensions in their language subjects or they struggle to understand questions in tests, assessments and classwork because they struggle to understand what they are reading.

Every term we have a parents evening and the main topic the parents want to discuss with me is: How can I get my child excited about reading?This question gets me excited every single time, so in light of that, here’s some of the advice I give:

1. Give them choices. Inmy classroom, I have a bookcase, there are about 100+ books in this bookcase. Learners are allowed to read any book from the bookcase when their classwork is done. These books range from: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dork Diaries, The Magic Faraway Tree, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Cool Science Facts and the list goes on. The purpose of this bookcase: give them choice.

2. Make sure the books are age appropriate. Now it’s impossible to read all the books your child wants to read to make sure it’s appropriate, but I use apps like GoodReads to read a synopsis and reviews by other readers to get an idea of what a book is like. Even doing a quick Google search will give you an idea of what the book is about. Please note, reading levels and age appropriateness are not the same. An eleven year old can have the reading level of a sixteen year old, but the content of a young adult book is not suitable, that’s where screening the books come in handy. Never limit a child, but do the research to make sure it is appropriate.

3. Kids need to read out loud in a safe environment. Allow children to read out loud. However, have some guidelines in place. In my classroom I’m the only one who is allowed to correct a learner when they read. I also tell them that when I correct them it’s because I want to help them. Don’t interrupt them in the middle of a sentence, instead discuss some difficult words after they have read a paragraph or a page. Even if a child mispronounces a word, praise them for trying. Children thrive on praise and being positively reinforced.

4. Let them tell you about the stories they are reading. By allowing them to retell the story we create an excitement within them. Ask them questions about which characters they like and why? What their favourite and least favourite parts were in the book? What their honest opinion is on the book? This helps them to remember what they read and it helps them to think about the book a bit more in depth.

5. Read to children. Children are never too old to be read to. How do children learn to do something? We teach them by showing them. It’s the exact same with reading. I get my learners excited about books and reading, because I show them my excitement. Whenever I get a new book for the bookcase I make a big deal out of it. Earlier this year I decided to try something new, once every few weeks, we’d pack away our things and I would read Timmy Failure to the kids. I’d overdramatize, make voices, pull faces and show them the pictures. I teach Grade 5 learners and they absolutely loved it. I showed them how to read, not by telling them, “do this and do that”, but by reading to them. They would rush to get the Timmy Failure books out of the bookcase because they wanted to know what happened next. The way we read to children models how they will read to us.

6. Take them to a bookshop and let them explore. I firmly believe that there is a book out there for everyone, from the sporty person to the tech person. Allow kids to discover books by looking at covers, reading the blurbs on the back and paging through to look if there are any pictures (picture books are amazing). Children won’t necessarily enjoy the books we read when we were young, so let's not force them. Let’s encourage them to explore and find something they would enjoy.

Reading is magical. It is something I have been excited and passionate about for years. I will forever continue to try and create moments for my learners to fall in love with books and reading.


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