Regardless of the reading program or strategies you use to encourage reading, I believe we can all agree that the best and most efficient way of improving reading ability is to read more. Like the old adage, practice makes perfect, this holds true with regard to sports as well as reading and other academic performances. Those of us, myself included, with little athletic prowess can attest to the fact that practicing something you are not good at isn’t much fun! Our students with learning disabilities often do not find reading to be much fun. Knowing that reading is fundamental to all that our students will accomplish in terms of education, how can we plant the seeds necessary this spring to assure that our students remain readers through the summer months—maintaining or improving their skills while school is out?
Key to assuring that students meet with success with reading, it is important to encourage what I call 'over and over' reading. This means to encourage students to read those things they are comfortable reading—over and over again. This increases fluency, and builds success with oral reading skills. As adults, we rarely read a textbook on the beach—but instead assure that we read something that we consider pleasurable and enjoyable reading, and we need to assure we do the same for our learners to motivate them to read more. Determine the interests of the student, and find as many ways as possible to encourage reading—in whatever format (print, online, or taped book format). Encourage them to read online articles, magazines, comic books, at or below their success level to assure that they are within a comfortable frustration level so as to encourage more reading. A general rule of thumb in selecting something to read is to assure that there are less than 5 errors in a passage of 100 words or more. This assures that the student will have success—and success is the key to wanting to do something more.
A quick Google search for library summer reading programs, or motivating reluctant readers will bring you to a plethora of information that will provide great ideas for motivating your reluctant reader. Libraries across the nation put together amazing incentive programs that may engage your student through interactive websites, opportunities to blog about reading for the summer, lists of the hottest books for students, and strategies to encourage summer reading. Ideas include but are not limited to conducting book clubs for students, entering contests that result in free books for students who read, and information and engaging ideas for vacation journals, and enhancing reading through writing by engaging your learners in helping with grocery lists, reading at the store, or reading signs as you travel on vacation. Family reading of novels, and discussion as a dinnertime activity (or before bedtime) can also foster a love of reading. Be careful not to make it a test on the book—but instead focus on predictions of what might happen next, or asking questions related to what students think as a result of the reading. If they are reluctant to answer, modeling through providing your own feelings will be helpful.
When looking to engage learners in summer reading, check with your school to see if a recommended list is available, that provides varied levels of reading materials perhaps along a theme. Check your local library system to see what they provide for young readers for the summer.
Motivate and inspire your students or children to read this summer! Get them engaged in a fun and interactive program with area friends, with their local school or library, or online with other students reading through the summer. Plant the seeds necessary to grow life-long passion and skill in your learners! Your child’s teacher or your local librarian can assist with finding ‘just right’ books for your child, and once you’ve selected how you’ll celebrate reading this summer—get a head start right away!
Lois R. Favre, Ed. D. is Assistant Superintendent for the Lakeland Central School District in Westchester County, New York. She is a national and international presenter and writer on leadership, differentiation, inclusion, co-teaching, and special education topics. She serves on the Executive Board of Directors of the International Learning Styles Network, and as an Associate Editor for Insights on Learning Disabilities.