It’s a classic conundrum. Children who don’t enjoy reading often resist books because reading is hard for them. Because reading is so hard for them, it becomes more difficult to make reading enjoyable and accessible. Hesitant readers can become eager participants with some of these strategies to inspire reluctant readers.
Start at their level or a little below.
Don’t make the text too simple, but start by providing reading that is accessible to your reluctant reader. Give them something that they’ll understand but is appropriate for their grade level. (You don’t want to give your fifth grade student The Hungry Caterpillar even if that is their reading level. Make sure the text appeals to their interests. Finding success in a simpler text is one way to make your reluctant reader more willing to keep picking up the book.
Slowly give them more challenging, high-interest texts.
It’s absolutely OK if a struggling reader doesn’t understand every word of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The act of reading, engaging, and building vocabulary far outweigh the struggles with some of the content and context. Choice is so important when encouraging your students that struggle with reading to read more complicated texts.
Talk about what they’re reading.
During free/silent reading time, walk around the room and engage with all your students. It’s OK to interrupt the silence to ask them about the conflict in their book, their favorite character, or to make a prediction as to what might happen next. When students are asked to talk about their reading in front of the whole class, they may be nervous to open up because of their reading level or lack of reading experience. Talking with your students one-on-one frequently will increase their comfort level when it comes to sharing what they read. These strategy posters always help my students with accountable talk and higher level thinking. It is important for them to understand how to think as a reader, you will love seeing them discuss books using these reading stems. Also, I noticed how much that helped my students I created these accountable independent reading logs to help them with their thinking and reflecting on their reading either at home, or at school.
Activities that motivate readers.
- As a teacher I was always looking for that one activity that would motivate and inspire my students to want to read. For my fourth graders their favorite was Book Clubs or what you will also call Literature Circles. My belief is that they love it because they receive accountability for their reading and get to work in groups. The activities I created were meaningful but fun! Kids would beg for their Book Club time! You can see some of my Favorite Book Club Activities here: Book Club Bundle, Higher Level Thinking Book Club Activities, see all the Book Club Activities.
- My favorite part of my day is reading to my own children or reading aloud to students. I love it because it provides me the time to teach those mini lessons [life lessons, reading skills, writing skills, or making connections]. Kids LOVE hearing adults read to them. They hear your voice, your thoughts, and it sticks with them. The best is when you hear your kids reading like you read, it is fun to imitate, and they learn how to use their voice when the see an example through you!
Make reading all about choice.
Let your reluctant readers choose the content, length, and format of the texts they read for free reading. Comic books, magazines, online articles, and even YouTube captions are still reading. There will be required texts in class, but let free reading be just that, free choice.
There is hope for even the most unenthusiastic readers in your classroom. Engaging reluctant readers by giving them easy to understand text before building up to more challenging work, talking about the text, and involving choice will help your students find more joy in reading. These strategies to inspire reluctant readers take time, but with your help and commitment, they’ll get there in no time.
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