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Teacher's Top Tips For Encouraging Reluctant Readers to Love Books


The love of reading is one of the most valuable gifts we can offer one another, and reading with ease and delight adds a quality to our lives that is undeniable and lasting. A "reluctant reader" is a reader who does not love reading and instead perceives reading as a chore, task or sometimes exhausting challenge. Teaching a student to develop the skills and interests that transforms reading into a valuable and meaningful activity is a powerful experience.

Visualization Versus Decoding as Reading Experiences

Most often when students find reading "boring" or exhausting, they lack the skills needed to visualize the action and key characters of the text. For those who love reading, a book is often described as "better than a movie" because the reader can imagine and truly visualize the action taking place. Reluctant readers are often so busy decoding the text that they are unable to visualize what is happening, and they have difficulty remembering textbook passage details. They place so much cognitive focus on decoding the words and the sentence structure that they are left with a lack of information retention and a lack of meaning. Facility with decoding comes with practice and proper guidance in activities designed specifically to improve spelling and grammar.

Boost Student Engagement by Choosing the Right Books

For students to move past the struggle with decoding language, and instead visualize the action and meaning of a text, they need to be matched with the right books; the right books will help encourage a love for reading.

Regardless of the age or the grade of the student, the text must be at the appropriate reading level for that individual to make meaning of the words and sentences. Teachers administer reading and writing diagnostic activities regularly to determine where each student rests with reading ability.

Reluctant readers also need "high engagement" texts that might be a level or two below their age or grade. Many books are available that use simple vocabulary and sentence structure combined with more mature plot and character development. These books are ideal for young readers who are working toward reading at grade level.

Surveying students' interests and matching the texts to what they already find meaningful is highly crucial. Providing a variety of materials, and allowing students to choose their own books, works to improve reading skill and interest more effectively than assigned reading. Graphic novels are now widely available for readers of all ages, and the combination of graphics and text readily assist struggling readers to improve their skills.

Make Texts Meaningful Through Personal Connections

The ability to make personal connections with the text, and to make connections between one text and another, is an important cognitive skill. Practicing the critical thinking skill of "making connections" increases interest, improves memory and activates prior knowledge about the subject or topic of the book. Reluctant readers need guiding questions to help them make connections with the text. As they become adept at reading and increase their visualization skills, they will no longer find those guiding questions necessary.

With practice, students begin to ask those critical and creative questions about the text themselves. They internalize the process of reading, and they can focus on meaning and their own personal connections with what they read. They now read with purpose and understanding, and they delight in the discovery of each new book.

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