As teachers, we have used multiple incentives to get our children to read. Whether it be earning a prize, handing out certificates, giving students candy/pop, or a movie day- educators have often associated rewards with reading motivation. But those rewards are only short-term, and these incentives lose their appeal only after a few months of implementation. What can we do as reading teachers to foster a love of learning that is intrinsic and not motivated by extrinsic rewards?
Below is a short list of ideas that you can use to foster a love of reading in your classroom that will hopefully last a lifetime for your students (not just for the school year).
Reward reading with more reading!
Novel idea right? Not really. Kids love to read. And when given the opportunity to be rewarded with more reading time you will see smiles on your students’ faces. Surprise your students with an extra 15-30 minutes of reading for pleasure. They will love it and will immediately get a book out of their choice and dive right in!
Reward with read alouds!
Engagement and excitement increase when teachers read aloud to their students. Make sure to pick high quality literature to share with your students. This may mean that the vocabulary in the book may be a little higher than your students level, but the quality of the story outweighs this. After all, you are reading it! Here are some websites with great recommendations for read alouds:
50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know
Suggested Read Aloud Books with Summaries
Read Aloud Book Lists
100 Best Read-Aloud Books
Reward with book buddies!
Children love to read to one another! You can have book buddies in your classroom or pair up with a younger or older classroom in your building. Just take 30 minutes to do this and you will see students connect with text and have great conversations about what is happening in their stories.
Reward with flashlight reading!
Turn off the lights and turn on those flashlights! Students love to read in a setting like this. Make sure to give them about a minute to get their sillies out with those flashlights, then get down to reading. Allow the students to read somewhere in the room other than their desks if they choose. Watch them cozy up with a great book. For extra fun, play a burning campfire or fireplace in the background. You can find a video of this here or here.
Reward reading with an author visit!
Hopefully you live in a town or near a city where there is a local author. A great way for students to see someone’s passion for reading and writing would be to invite an author in to the school. Authors truly love to read and write, and their excitement and love for reading will wear off on your students!
Reward reading with reading games!
If you have just finished a read aloud or if your students have just finished a guided reading book or book of their choice, have them make up a game for others to play based on the book. It can be a game board, a trivia game, or even a fun project that others can marvel at. Let your students be creative and show you what they know!
Reward reading with reading elsewhere!
Sometimes it is fun just to move the location of where students can read. If it is a beautiful day, take them outside. If there is an empty room in the building take them there. Even the hallways can be a great place for them to stretch out and read. Just a change of scenery can make all the difference.
Reward reading with choice!
I have some fun books stowed away in a closet that I need to bring out more. There is my old Garfield collection from when I was a kid. Comic books are always a hit with students too. I also have old Scholastic News and Time for Kid magazines. But probably my students’ favorites are the class books that my previous students have assembled. Graphic novels can also be a part of this. I even bring in newspapers too. Having a wide variety to choose from that is “new” to the students brings excitement to another level!
Reward reading with a new class library!
No, it does not mean go out and buy tons of new books. It means letting your students take ownership in the classroom library by deciding how it should be organized. I bet you have it organized by genre or reading level. Which is more exciting, students seeing a book bin labeled “Fantasy”, or one labeled “Giants, Wizards and Elves”? I know it is hard to give up this control on something you probably spent years organizing, but give it a try, you might be surprised at the level of engagement that students will use when picking books from your class library after this is done! Here are some book bin labels that you may want to use!
Please try at least some of these intrinsic reading rewards in your classroom. They are sure to be a hit with your students!