Review: Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven L. Layne

 If you are looking for ways to increase student engagement with books and reading this is the book for you. It is full of amazing tips and ideas, not to mention feel good stories about amazing teachers and lives changed. This book is not about teaching your students how to read but rather how to make them want to read. Experienced teachers will know that this can be an incredible challenge. He calls these disengaged readers aliterate and I actually had a ‘thank goodness it’s not just me’ moment when I read the description.

I have had this book for nearly two years now and have used it with three different classes of children with very different backgrounds and abilities. This book hit the mark with all of them. Did I change all my ‘I don’t like reading’ students into voracious readers? Of course not. But using the tips in this book I was able to put better/ more appropriate books into the hands of kids who have little or no interest in choosing books on their own. This at the very least meant that at independent reading time, everyone had something they actually had a chance of enjoying in front of them and ended the dreadful ‘I have nothing to read’ cycle.

My two biggest takeaways from the book were these:

  1. Read when your students are reading. At least some of the time. I know that there are times when you have SO much to do and you’re trying to do an assessment and email back that irate parent at the same time. But, do your best to have a book at school and let them see you reading it. As teachers we have to remember to walk the walk. We can say reading is so great until we’re blue in the face but they won’t believe it until they see it.
  2. Know their interests and use them. Layne suggests having your kids do an interest survey right at the beginning of the year (survey is in the book and easily copied). This way you know what interests them and what they may want to read about. Then you can head to the library and pick out books you think will appeal. The comes the good part. You leave said books on their desk with a sticky note that reads ‘I found these books and thought of you.’ Holy cow guys does this ever WORK. Even your most hardened student will appreciate the idea of you caring enough about them to pick a book based on their interests and they will READ IT.

Honestly, I can think of about five Professional development books that I have read and really thought Woah! that’s a game changer, and this was one of them!  Highly recommend.

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