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Expert Q&A

Ways to Encourage ELL Students to Read

I am curious if you have any suggestions for helping low SES and ESoL students to read when they have no books at home, and their parents don’t have time or don’t value the importance of practicing reading?

First, you should introduce your students to the school library. I suggest that you arrange a time with the librarian when you can bring your entire class to tour the library. The librarian can show them the resources that are available to ALL the students and you can give them time to find their first book to borrow. What is especially useful is to work with the librarian to select books that are appropriate for students’ reading levels and on topics of high interest.

The second idea is to incorporate reading into your lesson. Let students choose a book to read and spend time in class reading. To increase student buy-in, set up an accountability structure where students are graded in some way for their reading, i.e., students could write a book critique. Keep a class folder with all the critiques, so students can use the critiques when selecting their next books. Students might also present their critiques to the class. When I do this with my students, I usually bring some snacks and we turn it into a special affair.

A third idea is to start your own library in your classroom. Scholastic Books(opens in a new window) has many book club catalogs they send to teachers. Teachers can earn free books or take advantage of a special offer and buy 50 books for about $50. in a new window) is another free funding source where you can submit a grant proposal for books for your classroom.

Finally, I encourage you to remain nonjudgmental in this family’s situation. If libraries are not something with which they are familiar, they may not know that the books are free to borrow or that anyone in the community can avail themselves of these resources. Look at this as an opportunity to reach out to all your families and teach them the value of reading.