5 Ways to Motivate Students to Read in Secondary ELA

Motivating some students to read at the middle and high school students can be a monumental task. How can you expect to compete with technology that delivers on-demand dopamine hits?

There’s no real tried and true answer to that question, but my best advice to just try a variety of strategies to reach as many students as you can. I’ve gotten even some of the most reluctant readers to read in my 8th grade classroom, but that doesn’t mean I’m successful 100% of the time. Still, with the practiced routines of the strategies I’ve outlined below, you might be surprised at the results.

1. Have a discussion about why reading is important

First, try explaining explicitly to students why reading is beneficial to them. Yes, you can give them the reasons outright, but have you ever gotten them involved in the conversation as well to ask their ideas? They probably have some you have never thought about!

This Reasons to Read Bulletin Board Kit resource provides 18 reasons that reading is important, but is also editable so that once your class has that important discussion, you can add customized reasons. It’s a great visual reminder that students can come back to every time they visit your classroom.

2. Try some reading challenges!

Have your students try some reading challenges! With TikTok challenges all the rage these days, and BookTok for GenZ more popular that ever before, this might be the solution.

With the Reading Bingo Challenge, student pick 5 challenges from the bingo game board horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Optionally, you can have students attempt blackout bingo to really make an impact on their reading game. It also includes an editable version so you can customize the challenges for your own class!

One of the best parts of this resource is that it also comes with a pre-challenge questionnaire and a post-challenge reflection to get students thinking and discussing during the whole process. Consider using this resource at the beginning of the school year. It can also be great during March (National Reading Month) or Read Across America week!

3. Try First Chapter Pages Friday

Ever heard of First Chapter Friday? I do First Pages Friday. What I do is I choose a different student every week to provide their three favorite books that they’ve read recently. They take a picture of the cover and the first page of all three books. Then I put these on a slideshow. As part of our warm-up/bell ringer for Friday, students pick their favorite book from the three and explain why. Then the whole class votes for their favorite! We do this throughout the school year so that most of my students have a chance to share their book picks – I often have students begging me to share their favorites more than once!

A sample slide from First Pages Friday

First Pages Friday is a quick 5-minute activity and you really get to see what students are reading lately. Students are often inspired to read by other students, more often than their teacher (sad realization, I know!) Using this fact to your advantage is crucial! In my class, students start borrowing books from each other and/or if they’re inspired enough, will go out and get it for themselves if I don’t have it in my classroom library. Spreading this love of reading – it’s a beautiful thing!

4. Offer Book Recommendations

Sometimes you just need to straight up offer book recommendations to students yourself. Here I’ve compiled a list of popular middle school books by genre. Notice that I’ve left out the reading level – here everything is organized by pure interest! You can grab this list in my Middle School Classroom Library Forms resource. It’s updated through Aug. 2022, but it will be updated for 2023 before next August!

I usually print this list double-sided so it’s on one sheet, and I have a stack of copies in my classroom library for anyone to grab. At the beginning of the school year, I also give these out to parents so they know what books to buy or check out for their kids.

5. Gamify Reading!

You mileage may vary on this one, but I’ve had great success with my program – an alternative to AR (Accelerated Reader). I go in depth with how I do it all in this blog post!

Try these methods and see if any of them work for you!

Happy reading,


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