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Teaching Strategies to Get Reluctant Kids to Read More

Nelma Lumme

We call them reluctant readers. These are the students who can read but who choose not to. There are just too many other things to do – video games, for instance. We want to remove their devices, and keep them until they read a certain number of pages from a real book. These teaching strategies rarely work. They will sit and pretend, or they will dig in their heels and just refuse. So, how do you motivate a kid to read? Here are some teaching strategies that may work.

1. Teaching Strategies: Don’t Make it a Negative

Probably the worst thing a parent or teacher can do is force the issue by threatening negative consequences if reading does not get done. We never want students to associate reading with drudgery or with punishment.

2. Give Options

As long as they are reading, how important is it to you what they are reading? Obviously, we don’t want them reading inappropriate materials, but does it really matter if they are reading an online comic book or a hardcover book? If a reader is really reluctant, let him/her choose that option, at least for now. You can graduate to other content later.

3. Honor Interests

Once you know what interests a reluctant reader, you can honor them in several ways. First, just buy or borrow books from the library that are on those topics. Leave them around.

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Download the Kindle app onto your kid’s phone or tablet. Let them search for books of interest on their own.  And if you download, your student doesn’t have to carry around another device to read: Anything that will make it more convenient.

4. Download Audio Book for Travels

Granted, your student is not reading, but listening to an audio book has the advantage of showing that there is good stuff in books. And if the point of reading is to provide kids with information and knowledge, then this is certainly a great method to do so. Having discussions about a book that has been heard by everyone is another key goal of reading. Everyone must remember that academic reading programs, once the early elementary basics of fluency are achieved, focus on critical thinking skills. These can be promoted whether a book is read or heard.

5. Those Pesky Book Reports

Book reports are a common and pervasive assignment throughout schooling, from upper elementary years through college. Now, kids must not only read a book, but respond to what they have read in writing. This can be difficult for older students who must engage in far more critical analyses. Those who struggle may be helped by reading reviews that others have written, in order to see solid examples. If kids know that they can review sample reports and reviews, they may be more willing to read the book in the first place.

6. An Environment of Books

Enough cannot be said about a household that has books and parents who are readers. Studies show that in homes with more than 150 books, children from the ages of 12 to 17 read about 40 books a year, on average.

Books should also be on gift lists for holidays and birthdays, and reading to kids into their tween years is actually valued by those kids.

Reluctant readers are a challenge. And it may take several prescriptions or combinations of them to find the right motivator(s). Reading is too important to ignore, however, so it is critical that parents and teachers both try any strategy that they can conjure up to stimulate interest in that printed word.