No matter what age you teach, you'll find yourself faced with reluctant readers. These kids are incredibly frustrating, because they're not only the ones who struggle with reading, but the ones who actively hate it. They'll do anything other than read, whether that's creating a disruption, staring into space, or constantly heading to the bathroom.
While I'm not an expert at getting kids to read, I have found some helpful strategies over the year to encourage them to get reading. Here are ten strategies for reluctant readers.
1. Electronic books
For some kids, just putting an iPad in their hands makes the difference between boredom and engagement. It's not a hard thing to do, and the instant access to perks like dictionaries can be very helpful.
2. Use graphic novels
We're past the days where comics were considered for the illiterate. There are tons of excellent graphic novels full of interesting stories, deep themes, and intricate storytelling. Whether your kids are reading Amazing Spider Man, Bone, or something you consider more "literary," graphic novels can be brilliant for kids who don't like books.
3. Interactive fiction
Interactive fiction is the online equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It's like a puzzle wrapped in a story, and many kids who aren't interested in passive reading will find the added user engagement of IF extremely useful.
Everyone loves to laugh. Reluctant readers are often willing to engage in the effort of decoding text if there's enough of a payoff -- and in this case, that means a big laugh. I direct a lot of my kids to Gordon Korman's I Want To Go Home, which is full of sports and humor.
5. Target their intersts
If you can figure out what interests your kids, it's much easier to get them reading. Lots of reluctant readers will insist there aren't any books they like, so find out their favorite movie, video game, or sport instead. From there, try to find books that link to those topics.
6. Balance fiction with nonfiction
I read an article years ago (no idea of the source) that pointed out that most fiction is purchased by women, and most nonfiction by men. It then said that since most elementary teachers are women, there's a tendency to stock our classrooms with primarily fiction. Since reading that article, I've made a concentrated effort to have more nonfiction in my classroom -- especially books of funny facts and world records, which always seem to be a hit.
7. Don't level your classroom books
I know, I know -- leveling makes it easy for everyone to pick the book that's perfect for them. It also makes it really obvious which kids is always picking from the easy pile, and kids are really self-conscious about this. One of my students asked if he could make a construction paper cover for his book so no one knew that he was reading an "easy" book. The more you can remove that social pressure, the better.
8. Read out loud
When kids see you reading, and enjoying reading, it encourages them to do the same. My rule is, I never read the kids a book I don't love, and I try to vary genre as much as possible.
9. Stock your classroom with books
It seems obvious, but no classroom should be without books. Shelves and shelves of books, all kinds and types, and available to the kids whenever they want them.
10. Look for books with dynamic text
The Geronimo Stilton books are great for this: books full of bright colors, fancy writing, and interesting text. Online books often have this, too, especially when there's an augmented reality component (and there are some very cool books, such as Popar Princess).
Figuring out what is causing the reluctance is a key to engaging reluctant readers, but once you've done that, these are some great ways to encourage kids to keep reading!
Question of the Day:
How do you engage reluctant readers?
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