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Strategies for Helping Readers
Being a Motivator
One of the most effective ways to develop, sustain, and increase reading motivation is to use a variety of ways for students to respond to text. Studies in the areas of multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1993), learning styles (Dunn, 1993), and reading motivation (Gambrell, 1996) provide evidence that students will vary greatly in the manner in which they prefer to respond to reading. Varying the response format not only accommodates these preferences but allows students to explore and develop a variety of expressive modes.
In an article that reviewed research on motivating students to read, Linda Gambrell (1996) cited six important areas.
- Being a role model
Students need to see teachers who communicate their love of books in a variety of ways; through enthusiasm, by reading to children and having children read to them, by doing book talks, and by providing daily opportunities to read and discuss good books.
- Creating a book-rich classroom environment
The classroom needs to be a repository of books of sufficient number and variety as to attract the reluctant and satisfy the frequent reader. Literature experts have suggested that a classroom have at least ten titles per child. These books must be displayed in a prominent place and be continually promoted by both teacher and student.
- Providing opportunities for choice
Several studies have provided compelling evidence of the power of choice in motivating students to read and read more frequently. Assigned readings receive much less favorable comments from students.
- Providing opportunities to interact socially with others
A broad collection of studies support the benefits of providing students with a variety of avenues for sharing, trading, recommending, and discussing books. Students are social by nature. They expend much of their school and home time discussing games, movies, television, as well as other topics. The role of instruction is to capitalize on this social nature and direct it into the area of reading.
- Providing opportunities to become familiar with lots of books
Having a lot of books in the home or school environment does not guarantee sustained use anymore than having a piano in the house guarantees that someone will become a pianist. Studies continue to document that children want to read books they know something about. This fact translates into both detecting and expanding students' knowledge bases and then connecting this knowledge with a variety of appropriate books.
- Providing appropriate reading-related incentives
Many teachers, schools, and school systems have created successful reading incentive programs. These programs fall into two major categories, extrinsic and intrinsic. With extrinsic programs students read books to receive some type of non-book award. The reward may be food, tickets, or a range of desirable prizes. The underlying belief of extrinsic motivators is that they lead to intrinsic motivation - reading for the pleasure of reading. Intrinsic motivators use books or other reading related incentives, such as: bookmarks, visits from an author, etc.
Gambrell concluded that, "If we are interested in developing an intrinsic desire to read, books are indeed the best reward." She goes on to say that, "extrinsic rewards that are strongly related to reading and reading behaviors...can be used effectively to increase intrinsic motivation, particularly for children who do not have a literacy rich background."
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