Teenagers want to read…


According to Penny Kittle’s, Book Love, “Teenagers want to read-If we let them.”  While this may be a revelation to many in a time where people are seeing students read less.  Carol Gordon and Ya-Ling Lu, in thier article”I Hate to Read- Or Do I?” (2007)  state “There is a downward trend in voluntary reading by youth at middle and high school levels over the past two decades.”  With research showing this downward spiral, what are teachers to do about this continuing problem.  Do teenagers really want to read, if we let them?

Eric Reading

Students have a hard time finding books to read or knowing what they like to read.  Many students are reading below grade level and are embarrassed to look for books because they’re afraid of what their friends might say.  Other students are intimidated by the sheer volume of books in the library.  They may not know how the library is set up and are embarrassed to ask for assistance.  Or, in some schools, there might not be anyone to ask about the library.  These issues perpetuate a situation that will continue to have dire consequences for our youth.  Ultimately, the more students read, they better readers they become.  So, let’s get these students reading…. anything!

According to Dick Allington in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (2001), students who read a lot at their level in turn become better readers.  The difficult thing for teachers is to create a balance of pleasure with challenge.  In today’s environment, it seems teachers are focused on the challenge and have put pleasure to the side.  If we want to create readers, we need to focus on the pleasure side and then build the challenge.

A students willingess to read is related to his skill level and his skills.  According to Allington (2001), “Accuracy impacts comprehension.”  That makes sense if you think about it.  Students need to be able to understand what they are reading in order to enjoy it.

Reading the first two chapters of Penny Kittle’s Book Love,  inspired me to change the way I was doing things in my own classroom.  I have decided to give students ideas for books and more choices when selecting their books.  I’ve created a Book Challenge Bingo Board with nine different options for choosing books to read.  The instructions say “Read as many books from this card as you can this quarter.  Search online fo rtitles for each of these awards and then check them out in our libary or Overdrive to read.”  The students are also givben a list of sixteen different “activities” they can complete for each of the books they complete.  These “activities” can be as simple as a Tweet to an author, or as complex as creating a Book Trailer for the book.  I’ve spoken to a number of students in my classes today and they are all excited about the change.  I’m excited too!  I hope this creates an atomosphere where students are excited to read.




10 thoughts on “Teenagers want to read…

  1. Great information that you shared! When I read about students being embarrassed to read because many are reading below level, it reminded me of my last trip to the library a few days ago. I was browsing the Young Adult section and I was surprised how many books were actually marked with fourth-fifth-sixth grade reading level (using the accelerated reading scale) and these were popular-well-known books. There are so many options open to students! I also really like the bingo card idea. I would like to work together with my librarian to create one for my 4th grade students. I feel that sometimes my kids get stuck in a rut with their reading selections and this will encourage them to branch out of their safety zone and explore other areas (which they might love)! Making a game out of it will motivate students to participate!


  2. Great blog post! I agree, let’s encourage students to read anything! Who cares if it’s below grade level or has pictures? At least they have a book. Obviously we have a problem if students are simply not reading what is assigned or go through high school without reading a single book. So let’s get them to read anything at all and maybe they will learn to love it and can read the classics once they build their reading ability.


  3. Book Bingo and Responses sound a lot like YALit Class. Great ideas to bring them into your classroom! I know kids will love having choices!
    How are you going to help match your students to books they might love? Have you pulled together any resources other than the book award lists?
    I’m interested to see how it turns out for you this quarter.


    1. I’ve taught some of my classes how to search online for the award winners and then check out school library system for them. I’ve also told them we can get books even if we don’t have them in the library. Currently, I have a basket of books in my classroom that is filled with books that work for the different squares on the bingo card. I’m going to ask the school librarian to put out “boxes” with books that would work also, so the students aren’t so overwhelmed when they hit the library. Ten out of twelve of my students said they get overwhelmed when they go to the library because they don’t know what they are looking for or where to find it. Most head straight for the “new” books and don’t even look on the others shelves. I’m looking for ways to help “direct” them so they don’t feel so overwhelmed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Book talking is huge. I try to book talk titles every day in my classes. I read aloud a lot of excerpts from books I think will be popular. I really like a trick I learned from Donalyn Miller: choose read-aloud titles by prolific authors. Kids who like the read-aloud may feel motivated to read other books by that author. I think it’s important to read aloud whole books to students too, even in high school, and NOT the classics we typically teach. Book matchmaking is also so important, especially for kids who struggle to find books they want to read. I love what you say here about the balance of challenge and pleasure. I think we also lose sight of the different ways we challenge ourselves as readers. It’s not all about reading ever more difficult text. Challenges can come in many different forms, including reading outside our comfort zone or in different genres.


    1. I am trying to incorporate more book talks. I am also trying to share more about what I am reading to encourage them to pick up some different books. I am going to try to incorporate some read aloud in class too.


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