Classroom Reading
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From Kids' Mouths
Reluctant Readers
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For Struggling and Hesitant Readers

It is not always easy to motivate students to read independently when they have a difficult time understanding what they read.  How can you convince a student that reading is fun when they struggle so much?  Below are some suggestions that may work if you are faced with students who have the desire to read, but are held back by the effort it takes to do so or those kids who feel reading takes too much time to be worth the effort.  

  • Let students choose what they read.  So many students dislike reading because they have not read anything that interests them.  Although this cannot always be the case with required books on the curriculum, you can at least allow them to have the freedom of choice in their independent reading. 

  • Have a wide variety of books available to your students.  Not all your student will be reading on "grade level," but it is still important that you include books in your library that are appealing to all reading abilities. 

  • Graphic Novels!  Many teachers frown at these as "comic books" but graphic novels are truly a fantastic way to help struggling readers and are enjoyable even for the most capable.  Several classics (like Moby Dick and Don Quixote) are available in graphic novel form and can help to serve as a bridge for hesitant readers.  It gets them interested in more difficult texts without having them struggle through and eventually give up. 

  • Short Stories are a great way to get kids reading without overwhelming them.  These stories offer compelling plots and characters, a variety of important literary themes, and (most important to kids) deliver a great story in not a lot of words.  Short stories are great stepping stones for hesitant readers and it builds reading skills.

  • Comprehension Strategies
    Activating prior knowledge--and creating visual and tactile associations
         *Determining the most important ideas and themes in a text
          *Asking questions
          *Drawing inferences and conclusions
          *Retelling and synthesizing

  • Reading Activities (Follow the link for some ideas)

  • Remind students of the "tricks" of a good reader.  They can skim, skip, and put down books!  Encourage them to move on from books that bore them and opt for a more appealing on.  If the book must be read as a requirement for the class, show them how to get through it by skimming and summarizing. 

A list from Chris Crowe's son Jonathan (an admitted reluctant reader) helps to guide teachers on how to best instruct kids who just don't enjoy reading, and things to avoid as to not create any more reluctant readers in your classroom.

  1. Don't ask questions about stuff that has nothing to do with the story.

  2. Don't ask us to remember quotations.

  3. Don't ask essay questions that are vague.

  4. Don't make us take tests over the books we read.

  5. Don't make us write book reports or give oral book reports.  Just let us write somethign short about the book we read or let us talk to you about it.

  6. Don't talk too much.  Let the students talk about what they've read.

  7. Don't talk about what you think.  I don't care what the teacher thinks; I want to talk about what I think.

  8. Let students speak about what they don't understand; let them decide when it's time to stop reading in class so they can ask questions.

  9. Read aloud to your students but keep it short.

  10. Don't decide what students have to read.  Let them choose for themselves. (114-5)

This seems a pretty concise list of what reluctant readers want, and it is not difficult to follow, especially with the thought in mind that doing these things will help your students to enjoy reading more.