These tips for encouraging students to read come from West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) second-grade teacher Amy Drake. This summer, she taught the WDMCS Community Education Summer Adventures in Learning Sports Spectacular class. Drake has always been a sports fan and knows how interested her students are in sports and athletics outside of school, so she decided to combine learning and sports for her fifth year teaching summer programming.

Six Tips for Encouraging Student Reading from Amy Drake

  1. Struggling readers are often discouraged by the lack of interesting text at their levels.  Get to know students and their interests and hobbies outside of school.  In my experience, reluctant readers are motivated by texts related to sports or other hobbies they participate in.
  2. Use the local or school libraries for texts on these topics. During SAIL, I checked out nearly 40 books about different sports and physical activities for my students to read throughout the week. Some higher level books contained the history of the sport, rules, professional leagues, skills, and more. Introductory texts for my younger students contained the basics, but great photos and diagrams to keep readers engaged.
  3. Remember to work on writing skills too. We tied in writing each day of Sports Spectacular by making connections to our knowledge of the sport discussed each day. Students who are reluctant to write due to a lack of ideas are much more willing to write about a topic they know. Encourage personal narratives about experiences playing a sport or participating in an activity.
  4. Ask media center staff for digital resources provided by our district. Epic is an iPad app that provides categories of books at all levels, lengths, and genres and has a search option. Reluctant readers enjoy searching for books about their favorite sports and hobbies. The iPad app Write About is a great tool for giving students a photo and a posed question as a writing prompt. The full version (purchased) has several sports-related prompts that could be used, and there is also a free version.
  5. Use Readers Theater related to sports and hobbies. Some buildings have subscriptions to Reading A-Z, where you can search for texts by topic. Readers Theater scripts can also be found on the site, as well as fluency practice passages.
  6. Encourage team work. Whether studying sports or any other topic, more can be achieved by working together.  The students in Sports Spectacular worked together throughout the week to learn to play the sports, stay safe while playing, partner read, and encourage each other in every activity.