Teaching Students To Love Reading

Today I tried hard to inspire my students to read books and stories in English. This task sounds so easy on paper but in reality it is plagued with difficulty.  What cannot be argued with is that students who improve their reading ability, will also improve many facets of overall English, including writing and speaking.

The obstacles that need to be overcome are not just English ability, comprehension and vocabulary. While most of us would think that reading is natural and common, depending on the country, this may not be so.

On a side note, one of my students told me about the huge library in his city that housed only about one hundred books, most of which had been scavenged of their pages to make “cigarette” rolling papers.

I had always assumed that reading was popular all over the world. It wasn’t until my students remarked on how often the see Torontonians reading on the subway that I started to reconsider this opinion.  Maybe reading is not as popular as I believe.


Other things my students have told me is that there book vending machines on subway platforms in their country. What an awesome idea.  This tells me that either reading is popular or there was some minor legal changes that required the placement of these machines.

I decided to quiz my students about visiting the libraries in the city. Not surprisingly, they all said that they wanted to (maybe they were trying to get on my good side) but hadn’t actually accomplished that goal yet.  I then taught them the word procrastination.  It was a surprisingly popular word.

Today’s reading and discussion went quite well and hopefully their confidence has improved and they will start picking some books to read.


About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
This entry was posted in Aspirations, Reflections, Perfection, books, ESL, reading, teaching, vending machines and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Teaching Students To Love Reading

  1. aloeffleresl says:

    Allowing students to choose a book for themselves is one of the best ways to get them interested in reading. Studies have shown that short, focused reading only targets certain skills; longer, extended reading is needed for students to truly develop their overall language skills. So if you can bring your class to the library to pick out books for themselves, it can lead to some exciting reading progress.

    One of the most important things for ESL learners to do in choosing a good book is to get one that is easy enough to enjoy, but also challenging enough to grow with. I use a technique called the “10 Finger Rule,” where students open a book they are interested in to a random page, and just start reading. Whenever they encounter a word that they do not know, they need to keep track of it with a finger. At the end of the page, students need to see how difficult it was.

    1-3 fingers means it was probably too easy, and will not be a challenge to them.
    3-5 fingers means it was about the right difficulty level
    6-10 fingers means it was too difficult, and will only frustrate them because they cannot understand it enough.

    • Anthony says:

      I definitely like the finger idea, and I would love to do longer pieces of reading, but the amount of time is somewhat limited.
      I am working within an imposed framework called “reading circle”. It involves students taking different roles from week to week and discussing the same short story or book. With class turnover being high, new starters are often at a loss as to how to get into the story–going back and reading everything seems to be too daunting.
      That being said, I will think about this a little more. Thanks so much for your input.

      • aloeffleresl says:

        I have actually used reading circles in my classes, too, and they are a wonderful way to encourage reading and discussion. If you have the right group of students, they help everyone grow in reading comprehension, and they provide a lot of satisfaction when students feel they succeeded in their roles. I had one student go from beginner-level reading ability to intermediate in one semester because she loved using the reading circle strategy so much that she was motivated to improve keep reading and improve her reading skills.

        Unfortunately, reading circles do come with the problem you pointed out that new students are lost, and everyone needs to keep up with their role in order for it to work. Maybe a bit of a compromise would work, having smaller reading circle groups of 3-5 students. Then, if a student leaves, it only affects one group. Likewise, if many new students enter, they can start their own group. In this sort of case, each group can be in charge of choosing their own books to read (assuming you have access to enough sets of books for each group…).

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