Saturday, April 1, 2017

Creating High Interest Reading Programs on a Budget

Creating High Interest Reading Using Magazines

I am that one Language Arts teacher that does not assign a reading list over breaks.  I think that students need to sharpen their saws over break just as much as I need to (Coveny, 2005).  I firmly believe that winter, spring and summer breaks should truly be breaks from school.  However, there are always parents who are asking what should their child be reading over the summer and how many books should they be reading over the summer.  I give the statistic “it is critical to include 20 minutes of reading in your child’s daily schedule” (   I tell them to let the child pick the book, even if it seems to easy or if he/she has already read it. I usually get that weird look - you know the one from those parents - let my child do something on his/her own?  Surely you jest!!  But I also get one of the two follow up question “But Sally doesn’t like to read books.  What should I do?” or “Brendan isn’t interesting in anything.  What should I do?”  I identify with these parents more because my youngest was a reluctant reader who refused to read any fiction from kindergarten until middle school.  My answer to these parents - find a magazine.

How many of us have googled “High Interest Low Vocabulary” and gotten lists of books to buy? Who has that kind of time to shift through all of that information to figure out which are the best books to buy? Who has that kind of money? Magazines are a cheaper option.  Many public libraries have a healthy selection of magazines. Anyone can go in and see what he/she find interesting.   My daughter was fascinated with dogs and cats. She loved Dog Fancy and Cat Fancy. So my mother-in-law, who is a reading expert, bought my daughter subscriptions to both magazines. Even though these magazines were of a much higher reading level, we couldn’t get her to put them down.  My daughter would look forward to the arrival of the magazines, which is the first key to a successful reader - motivation.  Even if the kids just flip through and look at the pictures at first, they are still using great pre-reading strategies - looking at the titles and examining the graphics.  They are making inferences and drawing conclusions - mostly answering the question do I want to read this?  Also, by having the option to not read something, they are learning that their opinions matter.  

There are two other advantages that magazines have over novels are that magazines have short articles packed with jargon.  The short articles are ideal for students with difficulties in reading and keeping  their attention focused. According to Read Write Act, a student coalition for action in literacy education, “By nature children are wiggly and fidgety and have difficulties in sustaining attention for long periods of time.” (2014).  Because magazine articles are shorter than novels, we teachers and parents can capitalize on the impact of reading and still not horribly exceed the average attention span of the student that a novel does.  Also, students are more willing to read magazine article because of that high interest.

Because magazines are content based reading, students can work on building their ability to understand jargon.  “Jargon is a type of language that is used in a particular context and may not be well understood outside of it” (  Think back to your content area classes from high school.  How many of us still use all of the terms from biology (with the exception of biology teachers!!).  But we had to have the skills to understand that jargon to understand the concepts of the class.  Magazine articles help to teach these content area reading skills - understanding jargon, reading to learn, and using graphics while reading- without over taxing the attention span and still tapping into the high interest reading.  

We all know the importance of reading. “There is a strong correlation between a child’s ability to read and her academic performance. Because so much of our schooling relies on our abilities to read, children must have strong reading skills to succeed and thrive in school.” ( And novels are a vital part of reading.  We also know that for students to want to read, they need to be interested in the material presented, which is not always possible in school.  Magazines will not replace the textbooks at school or the novels for literature.  However, they can be another tool in toolbox of reading materials.  

"Behavior Management Important Facts." Attention Span for Learning = Chronological Age + 1
(2014): n. pag. Behavior Management Important Facts. Read Write Teach, July 2004.
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Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. London: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Covey, Stephen R. The Leader in Me: How Extraordinary, Everyday Schools Are Inspiring
Greatness, One Child at a Time. New York: Free, 2008. Print

"Jargon." Jargon. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2017. <>.

"Why Read 20 Minutes a Day?" K12 Reader: Reading Instruction
Resources, n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

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