The Love of Reading

As a teacher of reading (whether you are a classroom teacher, home school parent, or reading interventionist), your job is to help students learn to read well. That is your entire job, and that is the point of this book. I sometimes make the controversial statement that it does not matter whether or not students enjoy reading. The only thing that matters is whether or not they can do it well.

From an instructional, academic perspective this is true. Students are not graded on their enjoyment of reading. They do not pass or fail their classes because they love reading. If they are required to read something as part of their job or their school work, if they need to read something to solve a problem or determine a solution, enjoyment is irrelevant. Can they do it or not?

But this perspective seems very shallow to me. Shouldn’t students also love reading, or at least enjoy it?

Three Types of Love of Reading

What is the “love of reading”? When people talk about loving reading, they are likely referring to one of three things.

Love of the content

The content means the subject matter and how it is presented.

Some people love reading about history because they are interested in history topics. Other people may love reading science fiction novels because they are interested in how stories occur in those contexts. Yet others love reading novels because they are interested in the experiences of other people. Some people love reading texts by certain authors because they trust that those authors will present new or different perspectives and different ways of considering topics. I have friends who love reading medical and scientific research journals because they are interested in new approaches and ideas about health and medicine.

Thus, some people love reading because they have a positive emotional or cognitive reaction to the content of the texts they read.

Love of the process of reading

The process of reading means the behaviors of reading and the environment in which reading occurs.

Some people love reading because they value the relaxation they experience when they read. Other people love reading because it distracts them from other difficulties they may be experiencing. Yet other people love reading because of the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment they experience when they finish with a text. Many people love reading because they associate it with other enjoyable experiences, such as sitting in an easy chair while drinking coffee.

Thus, some people love reading because they have positive emotional or cognitive reaction to the behaviors they engage in while reading, the effect of reading on their emotional or mental state, and environment in which they read.

Love of the text

The text is the words found in the text and how the author puts them together to make meaning.

Some people love reading poetry because they find the word choices, rhythms, and order aesthetically pleasing. Some people love reading particular authors because those authors use specific agreeable styles and approaches to presenting their ideas. Yet other people love reading because they like the sounds of words, the way grammar and meaning interact, and how a word choice or order affects the interpretation.

Thus, some people love reading because they have a positive emotional or cognitive reaction to the way words affect their interpretation and interaction with text.

Helping Students Love Reading

When you consider encouraging students to love reading, or at least enjoy it, you have to keep two principles in mind.

  1. You cannot make students love reading. Your enjoyment of reading may increase the likelihood that they will enjoy reading because they see that enjoyment is possible. But you cannot make them love it. You can neither require nor expect that students will have the same reaction to reading that you have.
  2. The reason why you love reading is personal to you. The reason you may have for loving reading may not align with the students’ interests, needs, or personalities. The same things that bring you pleasure when reading might have no appeal to students. You are not them, and they are not you.

On the other hand, you can increase the potential for students to love reading.

The most important thing you can do is teach students to read well. If students do not learn to read well, they will never find it enjoyable. Reading will always be an unpleasant chore. Help them learn to read, and help them find texts that are appropriate for their developing reading ability.

The second most important thing you can do is to help students identify and acquire texts that align with their interests. If they are not interested in what they are reading, they will have little reason to do it. “Love of the content” is only one type of loving reading, but nothing else will matter if they are disinterested or bored by the content. Conversely, if they have texts that are interesting, then they will have a reason to learn to read, and they will have interest in reading more.

The third most important thing you can do is to demonstrate your own enthusiasm for reading. Students need to see that reading can be enjoyable and satisfying. They need role models, people they respect or admire, who engage in reading. Your enthusiasm for reading can provoke their interest in reading, too.

Will these actions make students love reading? Not necessarily, although they will increase the chance that students will learn to love reading. Even if they never “love” reading, they will learn that reading—and learning to read—is valuable. And for many students, that will be enough.