As a teacher working with struggling readers, I often feel like a matchmaker trying to pair books and readers in as complementary a match as possible. When it works, the transformation is magical! I’ve had students who are convinced that reading is the most painful experience imaginable suddenly become eagerly engaged silent readers, or even better, sneak books out of my classroom to read at home! A lifelong love for reading can begin with that first perfect match.
We know that the more a student reads, the better he or she becomes at reading. Putting the right book into the hands of the right student can do more to increase their appetite for reading than anything else I’ve come across. While you may need to assist your students in the beginning, you can teach them techniques for selecting books wisely.
Choosing a book is like choosing a friend. Here are a few simple steps your students can follow to help them select a book they will be committed to reading:
1. Make sure you have something in common with your book.
Most people become friends because they share a common interest. Even if it seems like you met your best friend in a random way, you were probably at the same place at the same time because you have things in common. Think about things you like to do with your friends or on your own. Think about the types of places and people you gravitate toward. Look for books with settings, plots, or characters that match up with those things.
If you’re a gamer and find yourself at the video game store frequently, perhaps you would enjoy a book on science fiction or virtual reality. If you enjoy being outdoors and around nature, try a book on exploration or discovery. Be intentional when thinking about the subject of a book you would like—grabbing the first book you see may set you up for disappointment.
2. Do your research: First impressions aren’t everything!
Sometimes people seem so cool when you first meet them. However, after you’ve spent a little time together, you might find that person isn’t for you. It’s the same for books!
If you see an interesting book cover or title, don’t stop there and assume it’s the one for you! Inspect the book carefully. Read the front and back covers. Read reviews online, ask others how they liked the book, and go ahead and read the first several pages. Slow down and spend some time on this step—it is important!
When you select the right book for you, it becomes like a companion. Invest a little time in getting to know what you can expect from the experience you are about to embark on.
3. Stick it out and stay committed!
If you’ve put in the hard work from steps one and two, don’t leave your book at the first sign of trouble. Sometimes you might find yourself in a difficult chapter—or even one you find somewhat boring. This is common in friendships and in reading! When this happens, remember that you selected the book with care. See it through to the end, and you are likely to be glad you did!
4. Know what you like, and nurture the bond.
Once you’ve finished a book, reflect on what you liked or disliked about it. Look for other titles by the same author, or on the same subject. Ask your librarian to recommend authors from the same genre who write about similar topics or in a similar style. There are also many great online tools for recommending authors and titles based on your interests. When you’ve made your first “book best friend,” you have a great model to work from in selecting more books to enjoy.
Learn how our digital literacy platform can help open the door to engage your readers.
As educators, we can help students select the right books by giving them access to digital literacy tools like Fuel Education’s Big Universe that not only offers 24/7 online access to thousands of eBooks on their personal devices, but also includes a recommendation engine, fiction-nonfiction pairs, and personal bookshelves for students to save and share their favorite books.
Jessica Charlton has been teaching since 2007 and working with Fuel Education since 2012. As an educator, she has focused on helping reluctant readers, especially high school students, discover a love of reading and achieve success in Florida’s high stakes testing environment. In 2014, she was able to take her passion for reading from her classroom to the school level as an Academic Reading Coach for Fuel Education’s Florida District Partner schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in Literature from the University of North Florida with a minor in Anthropology and a Reading and English for Speakers of Other Languages endorsements from the state of Florida.