Igniting a Passion for Reading: A Retro Review to Reignite the Flame by Mindy Reid



Two years ago, I purchased Steven L. Layne’s book, Igniting a Passion for Reading:  Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers at my school’s Scholastic Book Fair.  With my passion for promoting reading to my students and staff, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a book with a title like that!  I originally blogged my review of this book in November, 2012 and recall how Layne’s practical classroom experience, his unequivocal love of books, and his dry sense of humor shine through in this enjoyable and inspiring read.  I was also overjoyed to see that the two sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, had written the foreword which further solidified Layne’s credibility in my opinion.

Layne begins the book by outlining extensive research and reporting that…“as a nation, we have more readers who can read and don’t than we do readers who can’t read at all” (p. 8).  He strongly suggests that we need to start paying attention to the affective elements of reading instruction in order to boost the number of Americans who read on a regular basis.  He cites that in 2002, only about 52% of Americans ages 18-24 reported reading books for pleasure.  I’m sure those numbers are still pretty accurate in 2014, and the percentage of disengaged readers may actually be a bit higher by now.  This saddens me greatly, as I feel we have the power to turn this around if we make a concerted effort.

In today’s high-stakes environment, it is easy for educators to get wrapped up in the skill part of reading.  It’s true that this is a critical component.  We must teach the skills and strategies that readers need to navigate all types of text.  However, I believe we do our students a great disservice if we neglect to focus on what Layne states should be our true reading objective: fostering a lifetime love of reading in our students (p13).  So what can we, as educators, do to help ignite such a passion for reading that our students will read because they want to?

Some of the strategies Layne suggests for educators:

• Target alliterate readers and find books that interest them.  Layne maintains that you must know your students and put books into their hands that they are likely to connect with.  He includes several interest inventories in the book to assist educators in identifying what students are interested in.

• Read aloud to students on a regular basis.  One of my favorite quotes in the book comes on page 54–“Reading aloud–a good book read well–is the number-one way to positively impact the disengaged reader.”  Choosing high quality read-alouds from a wide variety of genres exposes students to a multitude of books in a powerful and exciting way.  These experiences allow students to make connections that can last a lifetime.

• Promote books through book chats.  As educators, it is our duty to be well-read and informed about books that may interest our students.  We must find time to do the “research” by reading many grade level appropriate books and also make time to advertise them to our students to help build interest and excitement.  Layne includes a book chat prep sheet that will assist teachers in preparing to advertise a book.

• Celebrate books and reading.  This can be done through book discussions, author visits, book advertisements, and in some cases schools have even created reading cafes or lounges that provide students with a comfortable place designated specifically for reading.

Thanks to wonderful educators and readers that make up my PLN, I have really grown in the area of “book awareness.” Media specialists, authors, and educators have helped me stay “in the know” with new titles and old favorites.  They share their excitement and passion for what they are reading and influence me in ways that I am truly grateful for.  Just as their shared excitement and recommendations influence me as a reader, I hope to do the same for my students and staff.  I hope that all educators will follow suit.

As Layne suggests—we must go the extra mile to ignite a passion for reading within our students.  If we don’t help light that fire, who will?

For more information about this book and the author, please visit Steven Layne’s website.

Mindy Reid is a PK-5 principal in Bethlehem, GA.  When she isn’t busy doing “principal stuff,” you can find her reading a book or learning new things alongside her incredible staff and her amazing PLN.  (You can follow her on Twitter @leaderandreader.) She is grateful to her parents who were her first teachers and gives them credit for igniting her passion for reading.  Thanks, Mom & Dad!