Reluctant Readers–Improving Reading Motivation

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Sometimes children possess the ability to choose good-fit books, but they aren't hooked on books enough to put effort into choosing them independently. We meet them everywhere we go. Unfortunately, it is a condition in many adults as well.

Aliteracy is an interesting and frightening phenomenon in our society. Those of us who love to read cannot imagine life without one or more books, magazines, and newspapers on our bedside table, littering our homes, and loaded onto our e-readers. So how can we inspire these students to be readers, helping them to fall in love with books, authors, and genres?

Here are some strategies that have worked in our own classrooms to spark a passion for reading.

  • Provide time each week for yourself and your students to feature books via book talks. Share favorite books, new books, and content-and-theme-oriented books. Place those books in a specific location with a sticky note on the front of each one indicating who recommended it. Invite other teachers, parents, and community members to do the same.
  • Work with the school librarian to feature student recommendations in the library. Have students use a sticky note to write just a line or two about why they love a book. Attach the recommendation to the cover, title page, or display shelf beneath the book. Students will often select titles recommended by their peers.
  • Help students get hooked on a series, genre, or beloved author. Simply reading the first chapter aloud can often propel them forward. One of my reluctant readers was a perfect candidate for this type of support. A month before the end of school, I read him the first chapter of Dinosaurs Before Darkby Mary Pope Osborne. He finished it on his own. Then I read him the first chapter of The Night at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne. He finished it on his own. I repeated the strategy with the third book in the Magic Treehouse Series, and he had time to finish it before school was out. To my surprise and delight he returned at the end of the summer break having read every book in the series and was eager to get hooked on another series. Best of all?not only had he not lost ground over the summer, but he had made progress and turned into what he called "a real live reader!"
  • Hang a blank sheet of butcher paper on the door titled "Books You'll Want to Read!" Anyone can stop and place the title of a book and their name there. Students from other rooms include their room number. Many of my students would visit other classes to borrow a book they read about on this sheet.

There is something contagious about passionate readers. Once we get the conversations going and create a climate where book talk is part of our everyday life, the passion in others will undoubtedly be ignited.

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