How to persuade students to read for pleasure | 2018-09-06 |

How to persuade students to read for pleasure

Masum Billah     6 September, 2018 12:00 AM printer

How to persuade students to read for pleasure

There is a strong evidence linking between reading for pleasure and educational outcomes. We know that academic attainment is of vital importance, but the benefits of reading for pleasure go beyond this and stretch throughout a person's life. The joy of learning appears differently in every teacher’s classroom. There are many ways to establish a learning environment that enables students to experience the joy of learning. The most important thing for every teacher is to consider the joy of learning or lack of it in his/her classroom and to think of ways to provide his/her own group with opportunities to experience joy. Learning to read starts long before a child opens a book and reads the words. Understanding what it means to read and how books work begins in infancy when sharing books and being read. This important time introduces children to reading through sounds, rhymes, patterns and rhythms of speech, intonation of voice, even gestures and facial expressions as they hear and share a favourite book.

We should not feel we must stick to reading scheme books if that is all our children are bringing home from school. We must remember that ‘variety is the spice of life’. Scheme books are excellent for developing reading skills with high frequency words and phonetically decodable language that is often repetitive but there is an abundance of wonderful, high quality texts that will help develop our children’s enjoyment of reading. We should look at the text of our children and see whether it is too easy or too hard for them. If the children have to work hard at many of the words, they will become disengaged from it. They will not get the meaning and lose enjoyment as well. Likewise, if a book is too easy to read, children may become bored quickly. It is important to remember that children benefit from the sense of achievement and satisfaction when re-read a familiar text.

If we ask the children about their school holidays we will definitely get the answer ‘we love the school holidays’. When we analyse it, we will see out of many reasons, one of the biggest reason is they get free time to read not their textbook, but other books for pleasure. It raises questions to those who work in the school. Do you ensure that your students have time to read for pleasure, both in the classroom and at home? The answer is absolutely ‘not’. We must see that reading for pleasure seems to be happening less and less in our classrooms and institutions. Pupils remain under pressure to achieve results and parents squeeze for time or lack of necessary skills or confidence in literacy to pass on a love of reading to the children. Research has found that children who read for pleasure are not only more likely to be lifelong readers, but they are also more likely to succeed both academically and socially.

It is a known fact to all that parents and guardians usually want their children to make a better result by reading their textbooks only, not beyond that. So, parents should be convinced and made them understand why reading for pleasure is important. Let them know what they can do to support this by reading with their children at bedtime or taking them to the local library. We know that not all parents will have the time or skills to do this, but a teacher might reach out to some parents and make a difference to the lives of some of the children.

Teachers and other staff can promote reading for pleasure simply by having a copy of a book or magazine they are reading on their desk and by being ready to discuss it with the children if they ask what they are reading. And remember to discuss the books the children are reading with them in return. The big challenge for teachers is not simply getting students to read – it's getting them to enjoy it too. It's one thing for students to trudge through set texts in a lesson, but will they open another book when they get home at the end of the day? Research has repeatedly shown that motivation to read decreases with age, especially if pupils' attitudes towards reading become less positive. If children do not enjoy reading when they are young, then they are unlikely to do so when they get older. While reading challenges can give a sense of purpose, escaping the challenges of school is a crucial part of encouraging reading for pleasure. Children won't find reading pleasurable if there is too much pressure on them, so a relaxed atmosphere and a positive ethos around reading is really important. And teachers and guardians should ensure it.

A teacher should favour such teaching methods that enable the achievement of little intervening goals as part of a greater learning process. Smaller achievements function as catalysts towards greater overall goals. These small steps are important when it comes to the joy of learning. Although a child does not consider play as a tool for learning, play itself represents important and meaningful activity. Even if play does not produce anything significant or concrete from an adult’s point of view, a child structures his/her own environment through play.

Children’s free play should not be regarded only as side action that occurs when nothing important is happening and all the ‘real’ tasks are completed. Free play is relevant to a child and can be considered free, typical and valued child activity without any demands from adults or attempts to subordinate it as an instrument. A free student is inquisitive and creative. As the joy of learning is often connected with finishing a task or solving a problem, hurry does nothing to enhance the achievement of these goals. The activity itself can act as a significant source of pleasure and joy. The balance between a learner’s abilities and the task is crucial to the joy of learning. A learner has to consider the task meaningful to him/herself because true commitment to the task does not occur without considering the task valuable.

We should remember that children’s going off reading is not uncommon. Guardians and teachers should not panic because of this. It may happen to any child for a number of reasons. If children are reluctant to read a text or book, it may be because they are finding it hard work or they consider the books available to them are boring. It is the duty of the parents and teachers to explain to the children that reading is not a competition and that, with some enjoyable practice, they will soon manage similar texts. So, books should be chosen for them that match their interests. Books with funny poems, joke books should be chosen for them. When a child will be given a book, a teacher or guardian should choose the difficult and tricky words and share the meaning of those words with the children. This will give them confidence when they come across these words in the texts and realise that they know them, it is one kind of motivation to read more books. And certainly pleasure will be there as well.


The writer works for BRAC Education Program and formerly taught in Cadet Colleges and Rajuk College.