Sketch 2011-12-01 14_52_29 November 08


Top 10 Ways to Get a Middle School Student to Want to Read by Meredith Daniels

Middle school students are known for being picky.  Along with being picky, this age group very rarely wants to read “assigned books.”  Here are the Top 10 ways to get your middle school students to read.


  1. CHOICE – This is probably one of the most important things you can do for your MS students. Give them a choice for independent reading; teach them how to choose a book.
  2. VARIETY – Push students to read in different genres. I’ve had so many students with a solid opinion only to change with the right book.  So, a little push will never hurt anyone…promise!
  3. SET A CHALLENGE – Guess what?! MS students love a challenge!  I chose to employ Donalyn Miller‘s “40 Book Challenge” and students have been reading more now than ever before (parents tell me this).  We just went on an overnight trip, and many chaperones were complaining because the kids wouldn’t go to sleep…they were reading.  Score one for the English teacher!
  4. MAKE INDEPENDENT READING A VITAL PART OF THE CLASS CURRICULUM– I have students for only 50 minutes per day. There is an incredible amount to do in a very short period of time.  Yet, students still partake in independent reading 15 minutes per day.  I consider it the cornerstone of success.  Without the independent reading period, my students could not gain insight into how to improve their writing!
  5. FIND SOME GREAT MENTORS – Neal Shusterman came to our school and made quite an impact on our students. I have also found that Skype visits can be just as valuable if they are planned properly.  We’ll be having a session with Marie Lu and students are over the hill on this one.  They’ve read all of her books (including the ARC—The Young Elites) that was sent to us, and are excited to speak with her.  Anytime the message can be given by someone else, let them.  We don’t want to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher…do we?
  6. SPEAKING OF ARCS – This is a great “pull” for students. If you tell them that the book isn’t out yet and they can really have an impact on student views, students LOVE to read the books.  Go to the BEA Expo in New York—it has been a great place to find ARCs that kids will LOVE!
  7. READ THE BOOKS – You, as the teacher, have to be reading these books. I’ve had many students pick up a book simply based off of a conversation that they heard.  We, as teachers, have a great impact on students.  When they hear us talk about books, interest sparks.
  8. BRING IN THE CLASSICS – OK. I know what you’re thinking.  Class novel, annotation, BORING.  NO WAY!  How about introducing Poe during October.  I’ve had great success with Gothic horror.  What about Dickens in December—a little Gothic fairy tale?  Better yet, ask students to translate using modern day language.  They’ll be begging to stay with the classics.
  9. DON’T FORGET THE GRAPHIC NOVELS – Growing up, I knew these beauties as “comic books.” Yet, today’s graphic novels are amazing and kids love them.  Want to stick with the classics?  Gareth Hinds has taken the classics and put them in a graphic format.  How about some relatable stories?  Raina Telmeiger has some wonderful novels that kids love.  Have you ever read Diary of a Wimpy Kid?  I’m a huge Roderick fan and really enjoy speaking to students about the characters.  Don’t forget to put these in your classroom library as they really are worthy of the small space.
  10. JUST HAVE FUN – Share your joy, enjoy the process and just have fun. I think sometimes we forget how much fun a good novel is.  If we can just relay that to our students, think how many lives we will touch and how many kids will be reading!


Meredith Daniels is a 6th grade English teacher in Naples, FL.  She has been teaching for too many years than she’s willing to admit.  When she leaves her fantastic journey through a book, she’s at home with Camy and Brando—twins in 8th grade, and her exceedingly patient husband Stephen.