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What Strategies Can Teachers Use to Help Reluctant Readers?

I am in my second year of teaching elementary school. I have a few students in class who do not like to read at all. Parents of these students have asked for my advice on how to get their children to read more, but I have no idea what to say. Do you know any strategies that have worked with reluctant readers? Thanks! Catherine


Dear Catherine,
Thank you for your question-it certainly can be a hard one to tackle for teachers. But, reluctant readers can be challenging for both teachers and parents alike, actually. Is it even possible to try to convince someone to like something they have decided they don't like? Maybe. Read on.

Start by choosing books that coincide with the child's interests. Most children are enthusiastic about something, right? Maybe it's soccer or Barbies or Justin Bieber even something like Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes. Put a book about Michael Jordan in front of a basketball fanatic and chances are he will read it. He might not even realize it's reading because he's so into it.

Read outloud to the child. Sometimes a reluctant reader translates into a struggling reader. By reading aloud the teacher/parent models fluency. The more the child hears stories being read aloud out loud, with enthusiasm, intonation and smooth fluency,the more she becomes familiar with what a fluent reader should sound like. Along with this, you might consider trying books on CD. Children can follow along with the book as they listen to it being read aloud on the CD to help improve their reading.

Expose children to different genres. There are so many different genres of children's books, sometimes chidren just don't know what is out there or just haven't found the one that interests them the most. If they find something they want to try, let them. Some parents feel like a comic book or a sports magazine does not classify as reading. Wrong. Reading this material might help the child build their confidence as a reader and in turn, help them take the next step by trying something new. In general I have noticed that boys often enjoy graphic novels, historical fiction and non-fiction books while girls often select realistic fiction, modern fantasy, and poetry. Also try using Scholastic's book picks for reluctant readers.

Talk with children about books. This has a number of benefits. Talking with a child about a book may clue you in as to where his/her comprehension level is. You may find the child actually has little idea about what is happening in the story and, in this case, suggest the book level be adjusted. It's hard to enjoy something you don't understand. Talking about the story can also help the child with difficult or unfamiliar topics, help take his thinking to the next level or make a connection to his own life. For teachers, book discussions are part of a teaching job, but talking about books can be a nice bonding experience for parents and children, one that children can start to look forward to.

Find series books. Believe it or not, sometimes all it takes to change a reluctant reader's mind is to get them hooked on a series. After reading that first book, they can't wait to move on to the next in the series and before you know it, they have finished their tenth and final book of the series and are searching something new. Some popular series books include: Harry Potter, a Series of Unfortunate Events, the Percy Jackson Series, Judy Moody, Magic Tree House, and the Rainbow Fairies Series.

If nothing seems to work, try not to force it, as hard as that may be. You may find that the child just comes around on her own terms. Best of luck!

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