Reading what they like: Encouraging student reading by focussing on enjoyment

Enjoyment of reading leads to a lifelong habit.
It makes sense, let them read what they enjoy.

It’s safe to say that most educators are keenly aware of the importance of reading in students’ education, not just for learning’s sake, but to help them function within the broader community throughout their lives.

A study by The Reading Agency, which summarised research findings from countries around the world including Australia, showed that reading for enjoyment not only boosts educational outcomes for children, but also enhances their emotional understanding.

While the benefits are clear, the question remains, how do we encourage more kids to read? The answer might lie not in curriculums and reading levels alone, but in something that motivates the rest of us to pick up a book: sheer enjoyment.

A child’s attitude towards reading can have a great impact on how often they pick up a book, how engaged they become in the story, and what level they can comfortably read at. For educators, the goal is to encourage a life-long enjoyment of reading, with educators providing an environment where reading is encouraged, nurtured, and developed. So how do we get there?

Catering for competency
In the classroom, teachers can encourage children to read by understanding how, what and why children are reading. The dilemma for teachers is knowing the level of reading and comprehension capability of each child in the class so that their specific requirements are being met and nurtured. Renaissance Learning Australia provides the tools for teachers to be able to alleviate this dilemma.

When children are reading at an ‘expected’ level for their grade or age, teachers are generally well equipped at knowing how to select appropriate texts for their age and abilities. However, for those children who are either reading well above their expected age competency or significantly below, the standard model needs a rethink.

In situations where reading competency is significantly higher or lower than average, teachers must instead use specific, personalised information about their students to design a reading program that is authentic, personal, and enjoyable.

If a child is reading at a below-average level, enjoyment of a particular topic or genre can help motivate them to engage with the text. And even if a child is reading with high levels of competency, this does not necessarily translate into self-motivated reading. It’s important to find texts that challenge the student and push their reading into new areas, in line with their ever-expanding reading abilities.

Renaissance has the tools to provide a differentiated approach to book selections for these students. Teachers are provided with these resources to encourage reluctant readers who may demonstrate the full range of reading capability, but lack enthusiasm.

Finding the right book
Finding the right book is an important factor in building kids’ enjoyment of reading. Access to a wide range of books from a variety of genres is the best way to help children find the most engaging and enjoyable text for them, and these books should be available at both school and home.

Hunting down the right reading material shouldn’t be the job of teachers alone, in fact, children should be encouraged to seek out their own books. With the right guidance, children can develop a greater sense of agency over their own reading journey, which in turn should provide a stronger engagement with the texts.

Renaissance’s ‘Accelerated Reader’ and ‘myON’ assist with selecting books for children to enjoy reading and help them feel confident with the reading process. AR is used by thousands of teachers across Australia and New Zealand because it saves time, motivates students to read and is more reliable and accurate than traditional methods of tracking pupil book reading.

We’ve found children who feel confident in their reading are more likely to select a book for enjoyment than those who have negative experiences or lack confidence. According to Renaissance’s What Kids Are Reading study, local authors including Aaron Blabey, Anh Do and Andry Griffiths were popular with students, as were UK authors including David Walliams, J.K. Rowling and Roald Dahl.

If equipped with this information and lists of books that fall within their capability range, children have the resources to self-select books that are attainable with less risk of failure. To do this, teachers and students need to be afforded the opportunity to continuously assess reading and comprehension in a non-threatening way.

As children begin to associate reading with greater success and enjoyment, the relationship with reading ability and confidence strengthens, promoting higher levels of self-efficacy, in turn promoting greater frequency of reading. Over time, children are more likely to develop self-regulating behaviours that lead to success throughout their lives.