by Todd Nesloney
I often reflect back on my own personal reading journey when talking to other educators about how to inspire kids (and even adults) to read more.
I hated reading anything until I was in the 5th grade. I still to this day remember perusing my school’s Scholastic Book Fair and coming across the very first book that ever truly captured my attention from the cover alone. As I picked it up, read the back cover, I was immediately hooked. That book was Animorphs by K.A. Applegate (who now goes by Katherine Applegate).
I devoured the book in one night and over the next few years read every single book (over 50) in that series. To this day I have a special bookshelf that houses the entire series and I still remember meeting Katherine Applegate in 2018 and crying as she signed my original #1 Animorphs.
I share this with you because I’m convinced that there’s no such thing as someone who doesn’t enjoy reading. There are only people who haven’t yet found the book that breaks their heart or speaks to them. The book they can’t put down. The book they have to immediately share with someone else because they were that moved.
But how do we get others to find THAT book for themselves? It all starts with what we’re reading in our lives that we can then book-talk to others. You see, we can’t help people fall in love with a book if we aren’t reading ourselves.
Now I know, we’re all incredibly busy. Maybe it’s 15 minutes before we go to bed each night. Maybe we listen to an audiobook while we work out or on our commute. Whatever it is we always have time for what we make time for.
Because when YOU are reading, you now have a wealth of first-hand experience with books that you can recommend to others. So as you get to know your students and learn their interests and passions, you can recommend books that already fall in line with who they are or what would hook them immediately.
When you connect them with that first book (the hardest part), they’ll crave more. And as they consume more and more books, you’ll find that you can grow and expand their literary diet beyond what they even imagined they were interested in.
It only takes one book. That one emotional experience that reaches deep into their hearts and begs them to read more. What was your one book?
Todd Nesloney is the Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership for the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA). He has also served as an award-winning principal of a Pre-K-5th Grade campus of over 775 students in a rural town in Texas. He has been recognized by the White House, John C. Maxwell, the Center for Digital Education, National School Board Association, the BAMMYS, and more for his work in education and with children. Todd has written four books, including Kids Deserve It, Stories From Webb, Sparks in the Dark, and his brand new book When Kids Lead. He also recently released his first children’s book, Spruce And Lucy. He hosts the podcast “Tell Your Story” and is very active on social media under the moniker Tech Ninja Todd.