Students Don’t Read at Home, So What Can I Do About It?

By: Lisa S. Bass, M.Ed, NBCT

Reading: What a wonderful way to open a world full of imagination, excitement, mystery, and fun! Reading is a favorite activity for me, but many students are not motivated to read at home. Many students decide that “reading is not for them” or that it is “not fun.” With so many distractions at home and outside school, motivating children to read outside the classroom is a huge task.

Research shows that the love of reading should be natural. This is not always the case for many students. They prefer listening to music, playing video games, texting, playing computer games, and interacting through social media.

I tried many solutions to help motivate my students to read at home. These young learners needed their intrinsic love for reading to be ignited! Hooking little readers into the creative world of reading was a challenge! I began my own research into why they weren’t as excited about reading as I was when I was their age.

First I realized they haven’t found the right book or type of book. I explain to my students that when I go to the library there are so many books that I am not interested in reading. They just aren’t my favorite genre or they are too long for my attention span. However, I explain that for every book I DON’T want to read, there may be a different book that I DO want to read. I am just pickier than some other readers. So, I encourage them to look at something new, different, exciting, and unique that they may not have considered reading. Suddenly there is a whole library full of books to be considered.

Next I examined students’ reading habits and thought about how I can “hook” students into realizing their own strengths in reading. I took pictures of them reading and guided them in examining their positive expressions on their faces. I Tweeted pictures of them reading various genres so their parents could see their reading success. I basically got them excited to see themselves reading and invited them to share this love of reading with their families.

Now finding the perfect place to read at home was the next challenge. I invited students to take pictures of comfy places at home: a quiet chair in the corner, a pillow and blanket curled up by the bed, grandma’s favorite rocking chair that is at home, the comfy couch by the lamp, the counter in the kitchen where dinner is being prepared, and any other creative location. Soon, students were sharing various locations and getting excited to read in the most creative, unique location in the house.

Students expressed a concern that they had “nobody to read with at home.” We solved this problem by lining up stuffed animals (We even asked for donations from others who had outgrown their stuffed animals.) and reading stories in the classroom to our new “reading buddy” animals. We practiced reading to the stuffed animals and taking them to our favorite reading spots in the classroom. The students’ love for reading aloud to the animals grew as they expanded their reading at home. They read to their stuffed animals before going to bed. They even recorded themselves reading to them and brought the recordings to school to play for the “class” stuffed animals. Suddenly those who had nobody to read to had a full audience!

Finally came the biggest challenge: “I don’t have time to read!” Creating a reading schedule with accountability (a reading calendar to be signed and returned for homework credit) helped solve this problem. This calendar was designed based on the student’s busy at-home life. Nights when soccer, dance, baseball, or other activities kept the students busy, reading in the car on the way to the events or on the bus after school was the solution for that day’s busy schedule. Other day, when time was more abundant, students made up the reading time they couldn’t get to on their busy nights. Somehow, with a more flexible schedule and unique accountability, more reading blossomed.

Be flexible, understanding, positive, and encouraging as motivating students to read at home. These solutions worked well for my students. Try some with yours, but remain understanding and creative when igniting the love for reading at home! Once the flame is lit, reading at home becomes a monumental moment that opens the doors for a lifetime of reading!