Here are seven strategies to engage reluctant readers.
Pick the best medium. Does the child prefer to use hard copies or e-readers? My daughter enjoys the physical contact, to thumb through the pages of an actual book, and only tolerates e-reading when we’re traveling. There’s no point forcing children who like actual books into e-readers or vice versa.
Find the right reading level. Here’s a tip: have the child read one page of the book. If the child knows all of the words on a page, find a harder book. If more than five words are unfamiliar, find an easier book. Anything in between is at the right reading level, but remain flexible. If children want to read easier books occasionally, let them. And if they want to reread the same books, that’s okay too. Rereading will help with retention and understanding.
Pictures attract. Picture books, comic books, and graphic novels pull reluctant readers into the story, and the art builds and expands on the narrative. In some books for middle-grade readers (such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick), pictures are an integral part of the story.
Let them choose. If they’re interested in the topic, reluctant readers are more likely to connect with the book. Even if it’s a book or series that makes you cringe (the Puppy Place series anyone?), let children read what they like, as long as it’s age-appropriate.
It’s okay not to finish a book. Urge children to give the book a fair chance to engage them (set a page limit), then let them put it down and try a new book.
You read too. A lot. Your reading sets a good example and helps with the next point.
Talk about what you read. Share why you like certain books and find out what engages your child. An ongoing conversation builds enthusiasm and helps children to articulate what they want to read and why.
To get you started, here’s a list of books for reluctant readers. The website A Mighty Girl is a good resource too.
These seven strategies can help change a reluctant reader into a lifelong lover of books.