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Tips for helping a reluctant reader

Improve Literacy Newsletter

31 January 2011 -- Issue 29

Hi there!

For most of us, the period after the Christmas and New Year festivities tends to be a time for us all to re-group and get back into the routine of work and school. For both adults and kids it can be a struggle to get motivated, so this month we are going to look at strategies for encouraging reluctant readers to get immersed in books.

Let's get right into it!

In this issue:

1. What is a reluctant reader?
2. Tips for motivating a reluctant reader to get reading!
3. Resources for helping reluctant readers
4. The Improve Literacy website

1. What is a reluctant reader?

Reluctant readers are defined by the Young Adult Library Services Association as 'kids who for whatever reason do not like to read'.

According to the experts there are several different types of reluctant reader. There are children who are intelligent and interested in reading, but don't read well; children who seem to have no interest and, as a result of not reading regularly, fall behind; and children who are dealing with specific learning problems that impede their ability, and willingness, to read. Finally, there is the child who reads well but frustratingly isn't interest in it.

So what do you do if your child is, or shows signs of being, a reluctant reader? Below are a few hints and tips thart we hope will help you tackle the problem.

2. Tips for motivating a reluctant reader to get reading!

a. Focus on topics that interest your child. If your little boy loves football, get hold of a match program and read it together with him.

b. Be seen to read books, newspapers, magazines and any other reading material you can think of. Your child will naturally want to emulate you.

c. Rather than treating reading as 'homework' or something related to school, try to present it to your child as a treat for her. SO much of it is perception, so allow her to associate reading with fun and pleasure.

d. Don't be a 'snob' about what your child reads. Remember that anything is better than nothing, and it doesn't matter if he's captivated by a comic book rather than a work of literature - it's still beneficial.

e. Read your child a bedtime story each night. This is something that will become a 'ritual' for both you and your child, and a time that she will look forward to and cherish. Research suggests that being read to can help soothe a child's anxieties.

f. Take your child to see a movie based on a book, then buy the book and read it together. Your young reader will treat it as a pleasure rather than a chore, as he will be able to relate what happens back to the movie.

3. Resources for helping reluctant readers

a. Orca Book Publishers publishes fiction for the reluctant reader, with an emphasis on content that appeals to boys. Orca Currents is middle school fiction with an interest level of ages 10-14 years and a reading level of grades 2.5-4.0.

b. For children who prefer nonfiction, there is now a selection of DK (Dorling Kindersley) books available for young readers. These books are illustrated with photographs, and appeal to the child who doesn't want to read about animals that talk but instead is interested in how things work and in real life adventure.

c. 'Hi-Lo' stands for "high interest - low readability", and hi-lo books can be a good way to motivate reluctant readers to get into reading. They contain content that is focussed at the reader's interest level, but which is written at a lower reading level. The Monroe County Public Library in Indiana has a detailed annotated reading list which outlines reading level and interest level, and can be accessed at

d. Capstone Press specializes in high interest/low reading level nonfiction books, which are often used in classrooms. They do also produce fiction and early learning titles on their extensive website, which is well worth a look. The books are written for grades 2-3 and grades 3-4 reading levels.

e. Tea Leaf Press has a number of high interest, low reading level series aimned at upper elementary to middle school students. The Deer Lake series for students in grades 4-5 has a grade 3 reading level. The Bayview High series is for students in grades 7 and up who are reading at the grade 5 level. The Nate's Journal, series is for students in grades 4-6, with a grade 3 reading level.

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