Author: Laura Robb

The Reading Teacher –  Bid Farewell to “I Hate Reading”


“Why do you read?” is a question I’ve asked countless students. Responses run the gamut from a third grader writing, “Because I live in the country and books are fun,” to a fifth grader noting, “Because I love to meet people,” to an eighth grader’s honest reply, “Can’t say. I don’t read.”

These student responses represent the range of attitudes toward reading teachers find in a heterogeneous class. When students tell you “I don’t read” or ‘I hate reading” or “No one can make me read.” Ask them why. Even though many will shrug their shoulders and say nothing, keep asking, as they know. Here are some reasons that students have shared with me:

“It takes too long to finish a book.”

“I can’t read a lot of the words.”

“I can’t find a book I like.”


“I say the words. I don’t get anything.”

“ Never passed a reading test.”

“ Hate the assigned book.”

“No choice.”

“ Do more worksheets than reading.”

        When students are honest, they show us why they have negative feelings toward reading. They also show us what they need to turn negative outlooks into positive ones.  It won’t happen in few weeks. You might not see the change over the year you work with them. One eighth-grade girl, Katy, taught me that changeovers take time. In her junior year of high school, she wrote to me: ”Remember, me. You try to influence me to read, but I hate reading. Now, I read all the time.” Forget about quick payoffs for your work, but believe it will happen.

Help students understand that the jobs available to them in the future require outstanding reading and writing ability. But even more important, help them experience the joy and power of a personal reading life.

Suggestions for Turning Students Into Readers

        The list of tips that follow can draw students into the world of books. In addition, you want to have continual conversations with them to assess their outlook and listen to and make use their comments to plan positive interventions. Avoid lecturing; always praise students for their honesty. Celebrate progress with meaningful comments. Occasionally, write a note to the student pointing out growth and progress.

Seven Tips for Building Students’ Love of Reading

Choice. Let students choose their reading materials. Let them abandon a book if it doesn’t resonate with them. I have a quick conference with students who abandon a book to find out why. The “why” offers insights into what they do and don’t enjoy.

Read aloud every day and introduce students to a wide-range of literary genres. Read those texts you love, as your passion will rub off on students. Reading aloud also builds students’ listening capacity, vocabulary, and their experiences with literary language.

Differentiation. For instructional reading, make sure students are in texts at their instructional reading level.

Independent reading should happen at school for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week. Doing this shows how much you value reading, but it also offers you opportunities to support reluctant readers. Encourage students to read at home by inviting them to read for 30 minutes each night. They can log the titles and authors of completed books on a simple form.

Class libraries. Build class libraries as access to books is key for inspiring students to read and love it!  Organize books by genre—suspense, mystery, realistic fiction, biography, etc.—and include a range of reading levels.

Book talk. When new additions arrive, share them with students by showing them the cover, reading the description on the back cover, or the first page. Doing this shows how much you value books and reading and also provides students with many choices.

All subjects. Every teacher needs a classroom library because students should have access to books in all subjects—even physical education!  When students observe that reading matters, that reading is important in all subjects, they can begin to view reading as an important and meaningful part of their lives.


Be persistent. Find out why a student hates reading. What they reveal will enable you to plan interventions that can bring them to the reading life.

Check out Teaching Reading in Middle School By Laura Robb- It’s an amazing book!

Assessing Independent Reading


A common question comes up when launching independent reading programs, how do we hold students accountable?  I asked Laura to share some thought about independent reading and how or if we should hold students accountable.  Her insights are excellent!

Studies have shown that students who receive rewards such as points and pizza parties in elementary and middle school, turn away from independent reading in high school when rewards stop. However, as much as possible, the reward for independent reading should not be extrinsic—it should be intrinsic—meaning the learning and enjoyment should be enough.  Teachers and parents can encourage independent reading by celebrating a book completed as well as asking the child to talk about the book and why it was a terrific read.

For independent reading to flourish in schools, administrators, teachers, and parents need to recognize its importance and understand that extrinsic rewards can ultimately result in negative returns.  However, there are authentic assessments teachers can use that advertise beloved books within and beyond the walls of a classroom.

Four Authentic Ways of Assessing Independent Reading

The suggestions that follow are top notch ways for your students to advertise books they enjoyed reading.  Always allow students to choose their independent reading materials.

Book Logs. Tape these in the back of readers’ notebooks. Keep the format simple and have students write the title, author, and the date completed or abandoned. Every six weeks or so, set aside twenty to thirty minutes and invite students to select a favorite book from their log to share with their group. Now, students have opportunities to talk about a book but also give group members ideas for books they want to read.

Book Talks. Reserve two consecutive days during the last week of a month for students to present a book talk. I recommend that the teacher selects the book for the first round of talks, then turn choice over to students. If you do a book talk a month for the ten months of school and you have twenty-five students in your class, students will hear about 250 books! And, it’s their peers who are doing the recommending!

Written Book Reviews. The book report is a school-invented assignment. Book reviews are authentic: The first paragraph is a short summary and the second paragraph is the reader’s opinion. Have students study sample book reviews as mentor texts—reviews from journals such as The Horn Book and School Library Journal. Post students’ reviews on a class and school website so others can learn about books they might enjoy reading.

Literary Conversations. Literature circles, book clubs, and partner discussions all encourage students to talk about books. You can organize these discussions by genre. It doesn’t matter that students have different books because their discussions can focus on genres structures, literary elements, and themes.

Lingering Thoughts

It’s impossible to assess every book a student reads. Nor should you consider this for even a fleeting moment. It’s a matter of trusting that students are reading. Moreover, continual assessment discourages students who read voraciously, for they have to do much more work than students who read less. Most important, let students choose books, share some with classmates, and eventually, they will develop literary tastes and build a personal reading life that lasts a lifetime!

For further understanding, I suggest Laura’s book Differentiated Instruction

Fostering a Personal Reading Life

Laura reminds us all of a simple concept if you want to get good at anything practice is essential!

Some days I feel discouraged about the state of reading in schools today. These feelings come from, the number of worksheets or novel packets students have to complete while reading a book. These feelings intensify when I see children reading far below grade level completing phonics and syllabication worksheets. Boring! Useless! No room for books in that data collection diet!

All children deserve a rich, personal reading life. And many teachers are working toward that goal. However, that’s not good enough. I want every teacher and every school to make that goal a priority.

Developing a Personal Reading Life

Children who have a personal reading life choose to read during choice time at school. Equally important, they read voraciously at home. Books call to them. Stories grip their hearts and minds. These children can’t wait to have time to read. I recall my grandson complaining that lights out on school nights were 8:00 pm. “I don’t want to stop reading,” he’d tell me. So, I purchased a small flashlight and encouraged him to become a “flashlight reader.” However, I told him that if he was caught, he had to tell his parents the truth: His grandmother gave him the flashlight so he could read under his quilt!

Practice Reading Like an Athlete

It’s weird that everyone accepts that athletes need practice to improve muscle memory and automaticity with moves and plays. No coach would let a team compete without practice. Like athletes, readers need daily practice at school. That’s how children become ‘flashlight’ readers who develop personal reading lives.


Choice in reading is key. Choice motivates and engages readers. Choice enables them to explore genres, authors, and topics they love. Choice enables them to develop literary tastes because they are discovering what they enjoy and what they don’t want to presently read. What follows are ways teachers can showcase independent reading to help students develop a personal reading life.

Access to books is key. Make enlarging your classroom library an important goal. Aim for 500 to 1500 books.

Classroom libraries. Organize books by genre. Feature books by placing them on a shelf with the cover facing outward. Change these displays every two weeks. Spotlight authors and genres by placing books on windowsills or lean them against the wall under the chalkboard. Leave a trail of books for students to notice and browse though.

Teacher Book Talks. Take a few minutes to book talk new arrivals. Read the back cover matter or the first two pages to raise students’ interest and awareness of new books.

Independent reading. If you value independent reading, then set aside fifteen to twenty-five minutes for students to read choice books at school at least two to three times a week.  

Comfortable places. Think about where you sit and read. Most likely, it’s not at a desk, but in a comfortable chair. Let students sit on a rug or on pillows and help them move into a different zone while reading.

Homework. The most important homework is 30 minutes of independent reading each night. Avoid having parents sign a paper that guarantees their child read—trust your students and look at the glass half-full. Avoid having students write a nightly summary of the reading. Do you summarize books you read? If the answer is “No,” then don’t ask students to do it. Keep reading a real world, authentic experience.

Closing Thoughts

When you set aside time for independent reading at school, you let students know reading is important!  Choosing books for independent reading is students’ pathway to developing a rich personal reading life. It’s also the best way to enlarge students’ vocabulary and ramp up their reading achievement!

Look for my next blog; I’ll be discussing assessing independent reading!

 For more in independent reading, check  Teaching Reading in Middle School 

Teachers Coaching Students


Laura recently explained to me how we all are somewhat familiar with athletic coaches. Their job is to train athletes so they experience success in their sport. In the classroom, when teachers wear the mantle of coach, they are also involved in helping students experience success in an area of learning that students find challenging.  An important aim of teacher-coaches is to move students to self-directed learning. To accomplish this, the teacher taps into the concept of efficacy: the belief that all students can learn and be productive members of their education community.


Teacher As Coach

You can improve students’ performance, achievement, self-confidence, and self-efficacy when you start thinking like a coach. Through his research, John Hattie discovered that feedback on student work had the most effect on learning. Therefore, thinking like a coach means that you offer students feedback on written work, collaborative and individual projects, literary conversations, and teamwork. Here’s the rub! For feedback to be meaningful to students, coaching should occur soon after students’ work has been completed or in the midst of a long-term project. I prefer a tight timeframe—preferably within two days or the next time the class meets.

Seven Tips That Support Coaching Students

Mull over these seven tips that can enable you to successfully coach students in any discipline. It’s not about choosing two or three. All seven work in concert to develop your coaching strength. It won’t be perfect the first few times you don the mantle of coach. However, take the time to reflect, self-evaluate and learn from mistakes.

Toss red pens & listen. Let students do most of the talking. Sit on your hands if you’re tempted to mark up a student’s paper. Invite the student to jot feedback on a sticky note. You can do the writing for young children as long as they tell you what to write. The more responsibility students have, the more self-directed they become.

Sit side-by-side. This enables you to listen, to observe what students write on sticky notes, and it also advances the trusting relationship between teacher-coach and student.

Negotiate needs & priorities. Find out what the student thinks he or she needs. Then negotiate, share the process of focusing needs and prioritizing them so you both know what to discuss first.

Think aloud and model. Develop a student’s mental model of a task such as brainstorming or what strong verbs look like. Thinking aloud and modeling are two coaching tools you’ll repeatedly use.

Provide feedback. Always start with what’s working, what the student does well. Remember, learning foundations are built on positive feedback. Then ask a question—How does paragraphing help the reading of dialogue?– that gets the student thinking about a need.

Negotiate goals. First see if the student can set a reasonable, achievable goal. If the child seems reluctant, share a few possibilities and let the student choose. Make sure you ask the student to discuss and then jot what has to be done to reach the goal and how much time will be needed.

Gradually release responsibility. The goal of coaching is for the student to experience and understand the process so he or she can become self-directed learners in the area being coached.

Take the Plunge

Set a goal for the upcoming school year and try coaching students. You might have to adjust your thinking and stop seeing work in terms of a grade. Instead, view student’s work as an opportunity for you to offer feedback that can help each one move forward. Keep in mind that it’s the student’s learning and progress that trumps giving a grade!

I suggest Laura’s new book Read Talk Write