What Really Gets Kids Reading?

What Really Gets Kids Reading?
by Jen Boyle from the BEC PD Department


What really gets kids reading? To start, I’ll ask you: “What gets you reading?”

Choice Is Key

Just now, you chose to read this post. You saw relevance to your profession, your life, or yourself, and opened the link—the key word here is chose.

Students’ engagement and motivation to read skyrockets with choice and relevance. Research shows that when a self-selected text is above a student’s independent reading level, that student will struggle productively to understand it.

Classroom libraries offer choices, but the best online libraries can sort content and make it easy for kids to find books that match their interests—and eBooks are always available.

Perceived Relevance

Which topics are best? The answer is: as many as there are students in our classes. But kids are most interested in nonfiction titles with information about their own world. This concept of “perceived relevance” is essential to creating self-supported motivation.

Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm pinpointed two elements necessary for motivation:

  • Relevance to the student’s life and world
  • Belief that s/he can be successful

Integrate Technology & Collaboration into Reading Lessons

Let’s focus on our reluctant or struggling readers—those with special needs—and our English Learners. Text supports available in eBooks can really help these students—audio-synced highlighted text, virtual sticky notes, highlighter/pen tools, and space for close reading notes all contribute to engaged, successful reading.

Place related YouTube video clips or hyperlinks directly into your eBook and watch students’ interest grow exponentially! Try a “Hip-Hop Hughes” video to spark reading about the Constitution, or hyperlink to Storm Chaser Central in the eBook Extreme Weather.

Encourage students to carry their success into online spaces—they can chat about must-reads or review eBooks online via class wikis, websites, or other interfaces. Digital interaction is exciting and intuitive and will build the excitement that REALLY gets our kids reading.