Igniting a Passion for Reading

by Steven Layne

It should be the teacher’s aim to give every child a love of reading, a hunger for it that will stay with him through all the years of his life.  If a child has that he will acquire the mechanical part without difficulty.  (Mayne 1915)

Well, maybe not without any difficulty.  

But, I know that if I want something badly enough, I will work at it.


This is one of the best professional books that I read this summer!

After making a great case for all the reasons that we should build a love of reading in each of our students (and we all know these), he ends the first chapter by saying,

“Together, let’s write (in ink) a new objective in our Reading Lesson Plan Book:  fostering a lifetime love of reading in our students.”  The rest of the book is filled with ideas on how to go about doing just that.  Here are just of few of my favorites.


(Chapter 2:  Coaches Who Know Their Players Win More Games: Igniting a Passion by Knowing Your Students)

When we know the interests of our students, we can use four important words that will get anyone’s attention – I thought of you …  

We (get your librarian involved) can pull together a stack of reading material based on the student’s interests and deliver the message in both word and deed – I thought of you.  Layne suggests using this process on 2 – 3 reluctant readers each quarter.  He includes  interest inventories for use with students of all ages.


While we assess skills, shouldn’t we also assess the elements of the affective domain to create a benchmark for reading interest, attitude, motivation, and engagement?  Then, we know where kids are beginning and can monitor their progress.  Layne includes a student self assessment for the beginning of the year as well as one for the end of the year.  He suggests asking the students to compare the two with questions that lead to a “changed reader” paper showing how the student has changed over the school year.  I LOVE this idea.  See the attachment for the self assessment.  Elementary teachers, you will need to make some adaptations for your students.


While student reading goals are not new, I liked the idea that the teacher is setting one as well and sharing it with the students.


Layne is passionate about book chats.

“On my list of all-time best ways to stimulate a positive attitude, interest, motivation, and engagement in text with readers, providing book chats is at the top.”  

This includes classroom teachers, reading specialists, librarians, and anyone else that you can wrangle into doing them.  Why?  They work.  Layne contends, and I agree, that when you advertise a book, children want to read it.  He has found that students giving book chats to the class are also successful.    


Besides all the benefits to the student’s reading skills, reading aloud also contributes to building lifetime readers.  “In terms of our disengaged readers, those who can read but don’t, being read to is one of the most seductive (yes, that is the work I intended to use) methods of bringing them to books.  To reach these kids, we’re going to have to impact the way they think about books and the way they feel about books.”  Layne believes that putting students in a situation where being with books is pleasurable can move them beyond thinking “Books – not for me.”  It will also broaden their interests and tastes.


This is another type of effective modeling when Layne makes it clear that he is reading by promoting what he is reading.  In other words, he posts the book he is currently reading (at the students’ reading level) on a book stand along with a sign that says – MR. LAYNE’S HOT READ.  He reads it during SSR and takes it home a couple of nights a week.  This promotes interest in the book.  Students will want to read it when the teacher finishes it and/or will look for it in the library to check out.  I can’t wait to try this out in my class!


Each month Layne posts a picture book with a sign – Picture Book of the Month.

Students can read the book during SSR, if they finished work early, or other appropriate times.  They can even check out the book to take home to read there or have someone read it to them, but only once each month.  If they read the book, they were invited to join Layne for lunch toward the end of the month.  (Everyone brought their own lunch – he provided brownies.)  At lunch, they talked about the book.  On the last day of each month, he would read the book aloud, explain why he selected it, and point out various features of the illustrations and the story line that he had hoped they had noticed.  He has used this in elementary as well as middle school and always with great success.


Layne fills a bulletin board with an enlarged copy of the reading log that he uses with his students.  Then, when the students are asked to update their reading logs, he does as well.  On his reading log, there is a place for a rating of the book (1-5 with 5 the best).  What student doesn’t want to read the book that the teacher has rated a 5????  Also, what a great way to start conversations about books!



1)  I would like to begin by building on a book from last month.

The book is Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven Layne.

One of the ideas for promoting reading to your students was to post a bulletin-board size poster of a reading log for the teacher to complete in order for students to see what she is reading.  Well, in my school, we took this a step further and decided to post these reading logs in areas where all could see and allow all adults in the building to contribute their reading to the log.  So, we have posted them in the library as well as the intermediate hallway.  See the attached for the reading log that we adapted for this purpose.  We even added a rating chart with fun notations for each of the five star ratings.

Submitted by Mary Jo Barker

MSC-IRA State Coordinator

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