Students need a reason to learn to read.

Learning to read is a challenge. For some students, it is a bigger challenge, regardless of the reason. It is hard work. Why should students work so hard at this skill? The number one reason anyone learns a new skill is because he or she is interested in the topic, the outcome, or the content. They work hard because they are interested in what they are learning. The learning has a purpose. We can use this concept to teach reading.

Is a student interested in baseball? Use texts about baseball. Is a student interested in horses? Use texts about horses. Etc. (You are reading this book because you are interested in teaching reading.) You get the point.

The actual content of the text, whether fiction or non-fiction, is not important. The important thing is for students to have a reason to read it. They will do the hard work if they want to know more about the topic or are interested in the content. We can use nearly any type of text to teach the skills necessary for reading. Later in this book, we will look at the six skills of reading. Those skills apply to any type of text, so you can use any texts that engage the students’ interests.

Yes, there is a time to read about subjects that are, to be honest, not very interesting. We do it to learn about various important topics. However, when we are teaching reading, as opposed to teaching history, math, science, or any other subject, there is no reason not to use texts about topics of interest to the student.

Sometimes, teachers select texts about topics they are interested in or books and stories that they enjoy. That is fine at times, but here we are teaching reading and helping students develop their reading skills. Give students a reason to do the hard work by giving them texts that will be interesting to them.

Here is a good idea: take the students to the library and let them select the books or magazines that are interesting to them. Some books will be too simple; some will be too hard. That is not the point. The point is to find out the topics that interest the students.

Once they have selected their books, have them explain to you and their peers why they choose those texts. You can incorporate the selected materials into your instruction, but, more importantly, you can then find other texts on those topics that are more useful for instruction.