Digital Age Teaching and Learning

Give Me 3 Weeks and I’ll Give You a Room Filled with Obsessed Readers

Give Me 3 Weeks and I’ll Give You a Room Filled with Obsessed Readers

Struggling to motivate your students to read? I can help you transform your students into avid readers in just three weeks. Check out the tips below to motivate your students.

Know that Most of Us Have Been There

We have all had a few resistant readers, or more, during our teaching careers. The kids who tell us, “I hate reading.” Or declare that, “Reading isn’t important.” Or, worst of all, “The movie is always better, anyway.”
Whether or not you are a reading teacher, comments like these can be a stab to the heart. Especially that last one.


When I first encountered reading resistance, I wasn’t prepared. My initial reaction was to try to explain to the student why reading is so important and how enjoyable it can be. “When you find the right book, it is incredible. You cannot put it down; you feel sad when it is done.” It was a rookie mistake that made it easy for the student to dismiss me as out of touch.
But over the years, I have started to learn how to get my students excited about reading. Below are some strategies that I use every year to get students excited about reading within the first three weeks of school.

Step One: Know Their Lexile Levels

The very first step in getting started is knowing the numbers.
You will need to use their Lexile levels to determine the range of books they can comfortably read. The goal is to supply students with reading material that challenges them but does not frustrate them. At the same time, you must also make sure that the reading material does not insult them.

Finding the right books for high readers tends to be easier than locating the right books for students with low reading levels. However, there are books out there. Search for high-interest/low-level book lists online to guide you. This lexile leveled book search has proven particularly helpful for me.

Step Two: Know Their Interests

Providing students with books that are at the right Lexile and interest level is only a small part of the battle. Your next move is to find out what topics and genres interest them. Reading interest inventories can be an excellent way to do this. However, the main limitation I have discovered in certain RIIs is that they strictly focus the questions on reading; if you are dealing with a student who doesn’t enjoy reading, chances are he or she will not be as forthcoming as you need.

I have had better results with inventories that start off with general interest questions. For example, if the student tells me he or she loves playing racing games, a non-fiction book about gaming, cars, or racing would be excellent choices.

Step Three: Supply Them with Options

Now you take those Lexile numbers and interests and combine them to start stocking your classroom library. This part is fun, but it can also get pretty costly. To keep costs down, I assemble a list of the books I want and search around to find the best price. This might mean digging around in used bookstores or looking for deals on Amazon. Personally, I use since their prices are low and they ship internationally free of charge.

And when I say supply them with options, I also mean that you must give them choice. To help my students, I use colored stickers on my books to show different levels of difficulty, making it easier for them to pick the right level of books for them. But when it comes to selecting a book, it is always their choice, and they are welcome to switch to a new book at any time.

Step Four: Give Them Time (and Read with Them)

This one was a big struggle for me. My classes are only 45 minutes; how could I possibly spare time just for reading? I made a plan. I start every class with 10 minutes of silent reading and also take one period every other week just to relax and read. Giving the students this time makes an incredible difference in their motivation and their behavior in general.
And remember to read with them! Yes, you need to monitor them and make sure they are on task, but modeling the process for them is incredibly powerful.

Step Five: Make it Feel Special

To help get kids excited about reading, find something you can do to make it feel special to them. I have seen teachers who keep pillows in the room so the kids can flip their chairs and lounge against them in the floor. I have seen reading nooks with beanbags and couches. Since my room is shared and too small for storing anything, I make it special by taking the kids outside so they can lay on the grass and enjoy their book. It is an easy way to get them into reading without resorting to a rewards system.

Get Started

You may be thinking that it is too late to get started, but the holiday break gives you the perfect moment to try something new. Get your classroom library into shape and take those first three weeks once classes resume to get your kids obsessed with reading.

Have other tricks that have worked for you?  Take some time to share them in the comments.