How to Improve Reading Habits of Middle Schoolers
Tweens are going through a challenging growth period both physically and emotionally; sometimes there is no task more challenging than improving reading habits of middle schoolers. Reading proficiency is incredibly important, not only for a child’s schooling but for the quality of his or her life outside of school.
Unfortunately, not all children enter middle school with the same abilities, background or support structures, and it can be quite frustrating for teachers and parents when middle school students struggle with reading. However, the right combination of reading strategies and effort from both middle schoolers and their families can help them progress as readers.
Practice is vital for improved reading ability, and middle school readers who enjoy the process will continue to grow academically. Here are five helpful strategies for improving reading habits of middle schoolers.
1. Vocabulary development
Learning vocabulary is a necessary skill. A student will struggle to understand a text if they don’t know the meaning of the words. There are many ways to teach vocabulary to middle schoolers; educators can take their pick from teaching vocabulary through root words and context clues, using flashcards and games, engaging students in fill-in-the-blank activities, etc.
2. Ask parents to model reading for pleasure
Multiple studies suggest that children model their out-of-school reading habits on those of their parents. If parents read at home, discuss favorite books, and recommend books, children are much more likely to engage in similar behavior. Parents should be aware of this at home, and educators should make it a point to educate families about the importance of reading in the home. Parents may not choose to read for recreation. However, knowing the influence they have on their children’s reading habits, may motivate them to model reading for pleasure.
3. Free choice reading
Kids like to read when it is fun, not when it is mandatory. Allowing middle school readers to select their own books instead of assigning a specific text can do a lot to improve enthusiasm. Allowing middle schoolers to self-select from age-appropriate books will improve their enjoyment of the process. It’s also important to note the power of different types of texts such as graphic novels, which can promote students’ linguistic and critical thinking skills and are often popular amongst tweens and teens.
4. Shared reading
Reading out loud can improve confidence in young readers. Yes, they may experience a bit of anxiety, but that often disappears as they practice out loud. Children are less likely to read, even to themselves, if they are not confident in their reading ability.
Some great read-aloud books include:
- The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
- Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
- The Tell-tale Heart and Other Writings by Edgar Allen Poe
- The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
It’s also important to note the power of providing students with reading materials that offer windows and mirrors so that they see themselves and others reflected in what they read. Diverse books expand students’ minds and often motivates reluctant readers.
5. No-pressure reading practice
Allow middle school readers time to practice their reading without any pressure. Let them make mistakes! Correct them before they are required to do reading-based assignments or tests. Try to show them how fun it can be by using different voices when you read aloud, laughing when you make mistakes, and discussing characters and the plot excitedly, relating books to students’ lives and interests.Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- Maria Fusaro, "Building Vocabulary to Improve Reading in Middle School," Usable Knowledge - Harvard Graduate School of Education
- Sharon S. McKool, "Factors that Influence the Decision to Read: An Investigation of Fifth Grade Students' Out-of-School Reading Habits," Reading Improvement, Fall 2007
- "Word Generation," SERP
- Holly Korbey, "Why Reading Aloud to Older Children Is Valuable," KQED News
- "Popular Read Alouds Middle School Books," Goodreads