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Turning Reluctant Readers Into Ready Readers

Found in: reluctant readers

Debra N. has lots of ideas to encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book:

Read aloud with a purpose. Reading aloud to the students works well. If you want the students to pick up books to read independently, though, then your read-aloud needs to serve a purpose, like teasing the students. Read a book that starts with action for a few days and then abruptly change to another book. When the students wonder why you're not continuing to read the first book, tell them that you were done with it, but you put it back on the shelf and left the bookmark in where the class left off, in case anyone wanted to pick up during their independent reading. It works for me all the time—someone always picks it up and finishes it.

Create Easy Access to Good Books. Lots of books about encouraging student readers (see below) suggest that matching the right book with the right kid is truly the key. That's where I put the majority of my time and preparation. The more books the students have to select from—books near-at-hand, mind you, not across campus in the school library—the more likely they will find The Book. I get books in the classroom on a regular basis by asking former students for donations when they clean their rooms, ordering books through Scholastic, asking for bookstore gift cards for Christmas, etc. Other friends have gotten new books for their classroom libraries through Donors Choose and grants from their PTSA.

Stay On Top of What’s Hot in Young Adult Lit. I read about one YA book per month, listen to another YA audiobook from the library during my commutes, and scan the book lists that YALSA publishes every year. I ask the librarian to come give book talks to the students every few months, when I know the library had gotten new books in, and that helps the library increase its circulation numbers, too.

Give Reluctant Readers One on One Time. Check up with students, ask them how the book is, read a page or two with them in the back corner of the room, tell them when you've finished a book that reminds you of them, etc. Using books as a conversation starter is a great way to get to know students and form a bond.

Treat Reluctant Readers Like Readers. I'm a HUGE proponent of treating reluctant readers like readers when I'm trying to get them there. Reading logs are conversation starters, not something that can affect their grade significantly. They can take a book home, if they ask me to. They can sit in someplace besides their desks, as long as they understand that I have a similar freedom... and it might be next to them and their friends. They don't have to finish a book they don't like, but they do have to talk through it with me first - just like I do with a friend when I'm annoyed by a bad book I've quit. (I tell the kids it helps me figure out if I should keep the book in my classroom, but I sometimes help fix the problem they're having with the book during these discussions, and they go on to finish and enjoy it.) Students write little recommendation tags for their favorite books, just like they see at Barnes & Noble. I give students time in class to talk to each other about their books, and if they go off-topic a little, I don't get angry; I just join the conversation and try to steer it back to the book.

Some of the books/authors I'd suggest you look into for more ideas about encouraging reluctant readers to read "for pleasure" include:

  • Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer
  • Nancy Atwell's The Reading Zone
  • Janice Pilgreen's The SSR Handbook
  • Marilyn Reynolds's I Won't Read and You Can't Make Me

Have an idea for encouraging reluctant readers to pick up a book? Or have another good classroom tip to share with other educators? Let us know.


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