I often get asked to recommend a “good book” but whether or not a book is good depends on who is reading the book. Recommended reading lists and reviews can have some great book suggestions but to really hook students into reading, the book has to be right for them.
Most educators will agree that one of the greatest motivators for reading is student choice. Giving students the freedom to choose their own independent reading materials allows them to find books that they find truly interesting. The library gives free access to thousands of books, both print and electronic, so there is something for everyone.
But what about reading levels? Research shows the benefit of reading within a level of ability is beneficial to building strategies and understanding but this does not mean that level is the only criteria for choosing reading material. Readability is important, but it should not be used to limit student choice; student interest is just as important in building a true reader.
Early advice I received from fellow teacher-librarians is that the best skill students can learn in the library is how to self-select a book. We teach students how to read but we also need to teach them how to find a book. This can be intimidating in a large library full of resources. The library staff shows students how to narrow down their search using interest, reading experience, genre and recommendations as a guide. Sometimes students will choose a book that is too difficult or below their reading level but this is part of the process of discovering who they are as a reader. When students are able to discover books they enjoy, this is a strong indicator that they will continue to read into adulthood.
Tips on developing a lifelong reading habit:
choose books freely and independently
try different formats and genres
have a time and space for reading for pleasure
take out lots of books from the library!