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How to Motivate Students By Letting Them Choose Books

Janelle Cox


Do you want your students to read more? Then let them choose what they want to read.

Research has shown that letting children choose their own books could in fact make them better readers. When you think back to your own classroom experience, being assigned one book to read as a class was often a dreadful experience. Teachers would assign students to read a classic like “Tom Sawyer” and, instead of being enamored with this classic tale, students were often less than thrilled.

Educators now believe that in order for students to be engaged in what they are reading, teachers must give them choices. A whole-class-assigned novel rarely has all students engaged at the same time. Educators know now that students learn best when their learning experience is tailored to their needs, wants and interests. It’s also another way of knowing how to motivate students. The goal is, and has always been, for students to be so involved in what they reading that they forget where they are, or that they even need to eat. We want children to have an amazing experience with books, and in order to do so we have to let them have a choice.

How to Motivate Students: Top Reasons for Letting Children Choose Books

1.Studies show it improves performance on standardized tests. Research conducted at the University of Maryland found that when students are given limited choices from a collection of books, it helped improve their performance on standardized tests, particularly the reading comprehension section.

2.Giving students a choice has been linked with scholastic achievement. Some researchers believe that when students (especially boys) are free to choose what they want to read, they will read for pleasure. Reading for pleasure has been linked with scholastic achievement in school.

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3.Students will want to read more when given a choice. Back when teachers made students read a novel together as a class, you would be lucky if you got them to read a few books a year. Luckily, today there are wonderful book series. When you give a child the choice to read what they desire, they will want to read more. The best way to get students to read more is to help them find one book in a series that they love, then they will want to continue to read each and every book in the series.

4.     When students choose what they want to read, they will become better writers. Studies have proven that when students read more they become better writers. The more they read and write, the better they become at it. When children choose what they want to read, they tend to want to write more too.

5.Students will read for pleasure and enjoy reading. When children can freely choose what they want to read, they will be reading for pleasure, not because there is an assignment due. A choice allows children to be enthusiastic about what they are reading, and in turn they will be engaged.

6.It allows educators to observe and see what students are gravitating towards. When children choose their own books it allows teachers to see what their students are into. Then, teachers can alter their lessons and activities to connect with the particular genres their students are interested in. Teachers can also examine why students are choosing the books they are. Children tend to read for a different purpose then adults. For instance, children may choose a book based on what their peers are reading, because they want to imagine themselves as the main character, or maybe because they are just interested in the topic. Teachers can use this information to help them structure their lessons.

7.Giving students a choice allows them to take risks they otherwise would not. Students tend to say that they “hate” certain genres of books, but if given the choice you will be surprised of the books they choose. Let’s say you told the students they had to choose a fantasy book, knowing that they dislike this type of genre. When a child is able to choose their own title, you are opening them up to options they may have never explored before.

Trust your students to take control of their own reading. Allow them to make their own choices and they will explore more genres. Expose your students to books they love and you see that they will not only read for pleasure, but enjoy what they are reading.

Do you let your students choose their own books to read? Why or why not? Please share with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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