Helping Them WANT to Read

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Have you ever tried to teach someone to do something that you yourself didn’t like to do? It’s the motivated 4very hardest teaching because the primary thing that needs to be developed within every learner is a burning desire to learn whatever it is.

The easiest teaching in the world is to help children learn something they are begging to know. If we adults haven’t already conveyed to the child the positive potential of the lesson for them, we’re in a hole from the start. So the first sensible step for an educator (parent or teacher) is to show kids just how interesting any lesson topic will be and how powerful the new lesson will help them to become.

What about teaching reading?

Eager kids can easily pick up fascinating information or activities by merely watching more experienced others. However, when the parent or teacher isn’t captivated by the possibility of a lesson themselves, then children readily detect that negative value message. So, if adults don’t convey heartfelt delight in a reading lesson, it is likely that they must work doubly hard to make any progress with the kids.

Motivated 1Therefore, teaching children to love books and reading from birth is the essential goal for parents in supporting emergent readers. Creating an unmistakable reading-is-wonderful, books-are-terrific culture in the home and classroom, and focusing upon joyful reading and sharing around books will get the kids excited about its possibility for them. This is manifested as each child moves to self-directed reading.

Young children will become eager and ready to participate in lessons from experiences that focus on the power of literacy and of what it can do for them. Kindergarten children will orient to caring adults celebrating imaginative illustrations, lively songs and poetry. The higher grades have more complex and challenging issues, which call for deeper positive experiences with the WHYs and HOWs of reading for children. These critical reading concepts are best and most easily taught by those who can convey true love of words and language. Similarly, full comprehension of what an author or illustrator shares is most easily taught to children who yearn to deeply understand such language and artistic magic.

These lessons call for teachers and parents to express personal appreciation of what such talents do for them. Without this prefacing of lessons with positive emotional demonstrations by lovers of language and literature, kids are unlikely to decide to invest sufficient effort to fully build these personal capabilities in order to develop full literacy.Motivated 3

The challenge to adults is clear. Parents and teachers who don’t feel love for books and reading must be made aware of their unintended demotivational behavior that leaves scant hope that their kids will succeed in becoming lifelong successful readers. Leaders in universities, schools and other organizations have to step up to help teachers, parents, neighbors and others throughout the community to appreciate their pivotal roles in actively sharing the power of books and reading, as an opportunity for our children, not a chore. We all have to take on our roles in convincing other adults to express a love of books and reading in their own ways. Only then will we be able to persuade youngsters to seek out a literate future, by making literacy easier to teach and easier to learn.

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4 Responses to “Helping Them WANT to Read”

  1. Janet Ruth Heller August 13, 2017 at 10:58 pm #

    Dear Mark Condon,

    You are right that we adults need to model interest in reading and try to make books fun for children. My parents and teachers did this very well. I also think that peer culture can be a problem. If peers tell kids that reading is only for nerds, this bullying may lead some children to manifest disdain for books to be “cool.” Peer culture may not be easy to change.

    Peer culture in my high school was very anti-intellectual. But I found a group of friends who cared deeply about learning and books. They helped me to withstand the bullying that I suffered as a tall, nerdy girl. I remember how happy I was to arrive at Oberlin College as a freshman because everyone there was excited about learning and books and intellectual inquiry. I had a similar experience later in the Honors College and graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and at the University of Chicago for my doctorate.

    Best wishes!

    Janet Ruth Heller
    My website is

    • Mark Condon August 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

      Peer pressure is huge in our lives as we grow up. Strong reading culture in the home and in the classroom can only work its magic if in the end each child finds a book she really loves. Peers cannot deny the glow of joyful reading. Eventually lucky teens will find a place for both inspiring reading and good friends in their lives.

  2. Jennifer Young August 14, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    So, so true! I had a conversation about this with a group of district and school leaders today. I’m adding this post to read and talk about at our next meeting! Thanks always for your thoughtful posts!

  3. Mark Condon August 14, 2017 at 7:00 pm #

    Thanks for sharing that, Jennifer. Starting a conversation is my highest hope!