Nothing compares to seeing a student’s eyes light up as they lose themselves in a good book and share in the journey of a hero or heroine. An adventurous hobbit, a boy who lived, or a girl who fell down a rabbit hole could be compelling them to read on, and as they turn the page to see what happens next, they’re developing literacy skills that’ll serve them throughout life.  

A student with such an affinity for reading would be considered an engaged reader: someone “motivated to read, strategic in their approaches to comprehending what they read, knowledgeable in their construction of meaning from text, and socially interactive while reading.” If you’re reading this, chances are you’re interested in helping your students become engaged readers who pursue reading not because they have to but because they want to.  

Below are several tips to help you share your love of reading in the classroom. Although these tips are geared more for elementary-aged students, some will undoubtedly benefit readers of all ages and reading levels.  

Encourage Discussion Through Shared Reading 

When story time rolls around, teachers often pick up a book and begin reading aloud, and that’s perfectly fine. Any amount of reading can spark a child’s imagination, and reading aloud is especially helpful in the early stages of literacy development. However, reading aloud doesn’t present many opportunities to demonstrate reading strategies, and elementary-aged students need an intermediate step between being read to and reading independently.  

Mimicking how parents and children share bedtime stories, shared reading involves having the entire class read along to enlarged text on a projector or big book. Here’s what it might look like in your classroom: After establishing where the class left off and explaining the purpose and goals of this particular reading, you’ll lead the reading and use prompts to encourage discussion (e.g., What’s going to happen next? What sound do these letters make? Is this word a noun, verb, or adjective?). Through shared reading, your students will improve their vocabulary, comprehension, and phonemic awareness and begin to understand how meaningful stories can be.  


How Fiction Captures the Imagination 

Reading in elementary school is one of the most important predictors of life success, especially when students read fiction. Around the age of four, children develop what is known as theory of mind: the ability to make mental models of others and consider different points of view. Works of fiction may not be real, but children can still develop a strong emotional connection with their favorite literary characters by empathizing with their hopes, dreams, trials, and tribulations. When stories come to life in a child’s mind, they’re engaging with theory of mind and developing social skills they can bring into the real world.  


Mix Things Up With Differentiated Instruction 

By now, you’ve probably identified some of your students’ reading strengths and areas for growth. Some students may be better readers, while others may struggle with listening. How can you make sure your entire class is on the same page? One way is with differentiated instruction: the process of adapting lessons to students’ individual strengths, needs, and interests. Giving each of your students the opportunity to discover the joys of reading means providing them with as many avenues to reading as possible.  


Restock the Classroom Bookshelf 

Part of the thrill of reading is feeling challenged, motivated by the understanding that you’re farther along today than you were the day before. If you have a classroom bookshelf, do your best to stock it with books of varying difficulty levels so that your students are always engaging with stories that excite and interest them. Schedule some independent reading time to give your students the freedom to choose what they want to read.  


Flip Open a Picture Book  

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is as true as ever. Picture books and chapter books are great for engaging young readers, especially those who may be struggling with text-based books, and graphic novels can be a go-to for older students. Illustrations add another layer to stories while being less intimidating than a long-winded passage, providing additional means for students to interpret a text. A picture can also transcend language and sociocultural barriers that might prevent a student from enjoying a book.  


Entertain With an Audiobook 

Research has shown that words activate the same regions of the brain regardless of the medium, suggesting that listening to stories is as memorable and impactful as reading them. Playing audiobooks in the classroom helps all students, including those with reading disabilities like dyslexia, develop their literacy skills. This may not seem all that different from reading aloud to your class. However, as enthralling as your performance may be, audiobooks are often narrated by actors and multiple readers who can better capture imaginations with their distinct voices, flawless delivery, and effortless pronunciation.  

Become a Reading Specialist Through UT Permian Basin 

Hopefully, we’ve given you a few ideas for sharing your love of reading with your classroom. As helpful as these tips may be, however, there’s always more that can be done to help students, especially at-risk students, develop their literacy skills. If you’re interested in going above and beyond to make reading an integral part of your students’ lives, The University of Texas Permian Basin offers a CAEP-accredited online Master of Arts in Literacy that’s right for you.   

Aligned with the Texas Education Agency (TEA)’s reading specialist certification, our MA in literacy program can help you advance your career and more effectively serve a broader range of students. Under the guidance of faculty with years of experience in Texas public education, you’ll learn to assess students’ reading strengths, create intervention plans, and assist administrators in improving literacy instruction.  

Reluctant to leave the classroom? Don’t be. Our online program will enable you to continue teaching while you pursue your degree and certification. Upon graduating, you’ll be awarded a master’s degree and meet the requirements for reading specialist certification in Texas. Apply to UT Permian Basin’s online MA in literacy program to gain the skills and credentials needed to share your love of reading in any classroom, with any student.