Motivation is defined as the desire or willingness to complete a task or goal. For our most reluctant readers, motivation is essential when it comes to helping students achieve reading success. We want every child to get excited about reading, and that is where the motivational piece comes in. The question is how do we ensure that motivation is a part of daily reading instruction until students are independent readers and thinkers who love literacy? How do we create a routine or structure that encompasses motivation in the classroom or school?

Increasing Motivation Increases Engagement

Reluctant or struggling readers often do not enjoy reading because it is a difficult task for them. No one wants to do anything that is too hard or challenging. Reading is no easy feat. Therefore, we need to motivate readers. One way to do this is by matching each reader with the best book. Both teachers and classmates can serve as the best “book matchmakers” by making recommendations that match both student interest and reading level. When these two components are combined, the magic of reading begins. And once a child is hooked on books, their journey to reading success is underway.

Literacy events including book fairs, author events, or family reading nights are organized in schools throughout the academic year to increase motivation and support reading education. These motivational events also increase engagement. A wonderful example of this type of event is a book tasting. A book tasting is a creative, engaging idea that provides the opportunity for students to sample a variety of titles across genres in a structured setting. Students are given a set time of minutes to simply peruse the pages of a new book to determine their next book choice. Introducing students to poetry, graphic novels, mysteries, autobiographies, or new titles that they may have never seen before increases interest and intrigue. The students are able to get just a taste of a book and determine what title is a “just right” book for them. Books open new worlds for students. When students are excited about new stories or information, engagement levels increase, which also support an increase in fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

The Motivation Behind Goal Setting

Reading goals should not be tied to a class grade or parent signature. Students should be encouraged to create personalized individual reading goals and should be celebrated when met. Achieved reading goals signify growth and reading growth should always be celebrated. Depending on the students’ age or grade level, reading goals may include a certain number of minutes, pages, or chapters since the idea of a book may be daunting for a child. When children meet these individual goals, we should acknowledge their growth and cheer for them and alongside them. Rewards that support reading are a large source of motivation until reading is the intrinsic reward. Examples of these rewards may include a bookmark, extra trip to the library, or choosing the class read aloud. Once children become avid readers, the reward is simply achieving the goal or finishing a brand-new book. That is the ultimate goal of reading.

Bringing Books to Life

Another way to increase motivation and engagement in reading is to bring books to life for readers of all ages. A child’s background knowledge closely affects a child’s reading comprehension. A lack of background knowledge on a theme or subject matter decreases comprehension while prior life experiences and connections increase student comprehension. Since every child has a different background or life experiences, bringing books to life in the classroom create an experience that all of the students can enjoy together to support understanding of text. Teachers can take students on a virtual field trip to match the setting of a book to bring the book to life. A world map with push pins or stickers to denote settings in cities, countries, or continents around the world indicate the many locations the class traveled through the pages of the book. Classes can take either a virtual trip or a real field trip to a museum, zoo, aquarium, or historical landmark that matches the subject matter of a particular book. Even a book tasting can be extended beyond the book by making and/or eating a special snack that is related to the book.

Bringing books to life increases both motivation and engagement to students in any grade level in any content area. Creativity and resourcefulness are necessary traits that teachers must posses to help bring books to life. If the book is about a garden, consider planting a vegetable garden at school and visiting a local botanical or community garden. If the book is about dinosaurs, consider visiting a dinosaur exhibit. Scheduling a family movie night at school to bring the book to life on the big screen is another way to get children talking and thinking about books. Finally, novel studies, author studies, and book clubs can be used to increase conversation and critical thinking around a specific title. Bringing guest speakers into the classroom is yet another way to bring books to life. After reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we invited a chocolatier in to speak.

In order to support a child’s reading journey, we must learn the and capitalize on that. In addition, we should learn about the talents of our school community members to involve them in the process of bringing the books to life. The sky is the limit when it comes to implementing motivational tools and increasing engagement. When students are excited about reading, they are on the path to becoming successful life-long readers and learners. They just may need a little push!