Ah, the love of reading. Some of us have it, and others wish they did.
It’s not so much the act of reading itself that we love, but what we get out of it. Reading teaches us about new concepts and transports us to new worlds. It gives us insight into the struggles of others and develops deep empathy for our fellow humans. There’s also a whole reading culture that draws us in and adds tremendous value to the books we choose. What’s not to love?
Most people don’t go into reading with rejection on their minds. Yet, reading for pleasure is on the decline. Somewhere along the way, people read boring books, have trouble with vocabulary, or decide it is overly time consuming. Developing a reading habit later in life is possible but not probable. A strong love of reading usually begins in childhood, so that’s the ideal time to start building it.
Benefits Gained by a Love of Reading
Let’s start by looking at some of the great things we get out of reading books. We’ve touched on the fact that promoting a love of reading delivers a lifetime of ripple effects. But what are they? There are a number of benefits that go hand-in-hand with being well-read. Here are some of the ones that are most impactful.
Enhances your Knowledge Base
One side effect of reading is that you learn a lot. Each of those books is about something, and the more you read, the more knowledge you gain. If you read different kinds of books, you’ll likely develop a wide range of competencies. The more books you read on the same subject, the more well versed you become in that topic. Each is valuable.
Makes you a Better Communicator
Authors put a lot of words down on each page. To reduce redundancy, they like to include a variety of different words. This not only helps them make more precise points, but it colors the text and makes for a more compelling read. The more books you take in, the more your personal vocabulary will increase. A love of reading naturally improves both our written and verbal communication skill sets.
As we learn as children, every story has a moral. Stories introduce us to all kinds of characters who are just trying to get by in life. We see the way their struggles mirror our own and we gain empathy for them. This is a great skill to have in life. We are introduced to all kinds of people in our adult lives, and the ability to empathize sets us apart. A love of reading helps us develop empathy.
Reading is a very calming activity. Some would say meditative. Focusing on activities that fully engage your mind is a proven way to lower your heart rate and reduce stress. We’re not talking about scrolling through social media feeds, either. Books allow us to focus our imaginations for extended periods. That’s where we gain the benefits related to stress. Much of what we read online, however, is fragmented. We are constantly jumping from one thing to the next. It’s hardly relaxing, even though we may think it is.
Improves Brain Function
In the same way, push-ups develop your pecs, and reading develops your brain. By stretching and working out our muscles, they become stronger and function better. The same can be said about reading and the brain. When we read, we engage our brains in a number of different functions. These mental calisthenics increase mental stimulation and help our brains create new neurons. There are few better pathways to a stronger brain.
Makes you a More Interesting Person
All the benefits we’ve covered will actually make you a more interesting person. Who doesn’t love talking to a stress-free person with a wide array of knowledge? Who doesn’t love hanging out with someone who communicates effectively and has empathy for others? A love of reading has positive effects on both your personal and professional lives. Even if it’s only because it makes you someone people want to be around.
Promoting a Love of Reading
Like most things, a true love of reading is developed through spending quality time with reading. It’s developed through enjoyable experiences and shared connections with friends. The earlier we get started, the more time we have to develop that love. So, what is the best way to promote reading for pleasure?
Celebrate Great New Books
People used to get very excited about new books. In the days before movies and television, books were the best way to experience new worlds. New books were celebrated with the same fanfare as blockbuster movie trailers are today. Treating great new books on the horizon similarly is a great way to get ourselves pumped about picking them up.
Find Role Models who Read
When we have people to look up to, we also tend to look up to the things those people do. If our role models are avid readers, it can give us the nudge we need to read in our free time. They act as sort of motivational reading coaches. Finding the avid readers in our lives can give us a leg up in becoming lifelong readers.
Dive Deeper into Favorite Authors
When you identify your favorite books, dive deeper into the authors who wrote them. It’s a great way to encourage a love of reading. Our favorite books are our favorites for a reason. Maybe the author tackles subjects that are important to us. Perhaps we connect with their writing voices. Sometimes we flat out love the main character. Whatever draws us in, there’s a good chance we’ll like other books by the same author.
Engage in Discussions Around Exciting Elements
One of the great joys we get out of reading is the discussion afterward. It’s just like talking about our favorite scenes as we exit the movie theater. Talking about events and themes in books helps us absorb and connect with them. The more connected we feel, the more we will crave that same connection with other books.
How to Encourage Reading in the Classroom
Whether we come from a family of readers or not, the classroom can be the great equalizer. Providing an atmosphere that fosters a love of reading ensures all students are given the opportunity to become readers. Aside from simply teaching reading methods and vocabulary, school administrators can nudge the reading bug along. Here are some great classroom activities that do just that.
Get Students into Different Types of Reading
Variety is the spice of life. Keep reading the same types of texts, and you’ll find yourself bored fairly quickly. Giving students experience with multiple types of reading gives them an understanding of all that is out there to explore.
Try mixing articles and novellas in with longer novels. These short form texts are fantastic ways to get students into reading. They deliver the same types of colorful language and rich themes as books but are more accessible to some students. Each piece a young reader completes gives them a self esteem boost. Get them in the habit of finishing stories, no matter how long.
Celebrate Students’ Favorite Books
An easy way to generate excitement in your reading list is to incorporate local favorites. When our friends tell us how much they enjoy something, we naturally want to share their experiences. By sharing the books we love, we can encourage young people to experience it for themselves. If those books are part of a series, we’re in luck.
When we read a book we really like, most of us are eager to binge on the rest of the series. Much like binge watching television, each book gives us an episode that tells us a lot about the greater context.
Libraries Should Be Enticing
When we visit the school library, it’s important that we find it enticing. When we visit the movie theater, we see posters and displays for upcoming movies. They give us some idea about the cast and plot and get us excited to see something new. The same should be happening in our libraries.
By promoting new books and authors, we can get students excited about their next read. Kids remember that excitement, and it creates a good foundation for a lifetime love of reading.
Encouraging Students to Read at Home
If we are to develop a genuine love of reading, practice can’t end when the school bell rings. We don’t need to read 24/7, but we need to read somewhat regularly.
Getting students to enjoy their time reading at home can be tough, but it’s certainly doable. When thinking of ideas for encouraging kids to read, think about how to motivate yourself to read. What gets you excited about diving into another book? What kind of books do you like? Let’s look at some simple ways to encourage students to read for pleasure at home.
Make Sure Students Enjoy the Material
Completing a book can be tough when you don’t really like it. Whether it’s too dense or simply uninteresting subject matter, finishing books we don’t like can be a chore. In order to encourage students to read in their free time, it’s important that they like the books they’re reading. Take time to find out what they like. If they relate to the story, they are much more likely to have a positive experience with reading the book. They’re also more likely to have a positive experience with reading in general.
Make Sure Material is Accessible to All Students
Among students in any classroom, reading ability can vary wildly. There is no book that will interest and challenge all students. Additionally, students don’t have their teachers at home to help them through.
In order to keep them interested, make sure the material is accessible to all students. Also, make sure you are varying the material. Mixing light reads with more dense texts expose students to a wide range of books. It also improves the chances that they’ll find something they love. These are both crucial elements to developing a love of reading.
Motivating Ourselves to Read
All these techniques aside, there are two main takeaways that will help you develop a love of reading. Do these two things, and the rest will come naturally.
A love of reading isn’t something that happens by accident. We’ve got to work at it. One of the best ways to encourage reading is to simply do it often. By reading daily or weekly, new readers are much more likely to come across a number of books they love. The more of those we have in our lives, the more we look forward to consuming new books. Sharing great books is just the first step. If they don’t get read, then the love of reading gets lost.
Find Help Where You Need It
Not all of us know how to develop a love of reading. Whether we’re not big readers ourselves or we’re overwhelmed by the task, we all need help sometimes. Find that help. Enlisting the help of pros can give anyone the tools they need to develop a lifelong love of reading. Professional help is especially helpful in schools.
To boost reading support in schools, consider sponsoring an outreach program. Outreach professionals know the reading techniques that can help readers who have trouble. They also know the books kids love, meaning they aren’t wasting any time with unfavorable texts.
Learning how to encourage students to read more isn’t rocket science, but it does take some time and effort. By making informed decisions and gently encouraging students to read, we can turn the chore of reading into something exciting.