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The Best Ways to Support Your Reluctant Readers

Reluctant readers…we’ve all had them and we’re always looking for ideas to help them.  These are the readers who just haven’t learned to love reading…YET!  For whatever reason, reluctant readers don’t show any interest in reading, and often hide their feelings for reading and simply avoid reading at all costs.  In my first grade classroom, it’s acting out during reading time, always asking to use the bathroom or getting a drink (which I don’t let them do) and just doing whatever they can to not read.  Over the years, I’ve come up with some ways that I get my reluctant readers to at least LIKE reading.  I can’t promise a love of reading immediately, but these tips may help your reluctant students begin to enjoy reading at least a little bit. ????

When I first started teaching, reluctant readers frustrated me.  I was a reluctant reader because I wasn’t good at reading and as a new teacher, I really had no idea how to help them, even though I was one.  A master’s degree and years of practice and experience later, I finally feel like I have filled my bag with tricks and tips to try.

Here are some of my best tips and tricks for what you can do when you have a reluctant reader.

1. Read aloud all the time

It’s no surprise that this is my #1 way to support your reluctant readers.  Reading aloud is my favorite thing to do in my classroom and with my own sons.  When you show a love of reading to your readers, that love of reading is often contagious and your readers, whether they’re your students or your own children, will begin to love reading too.  The book choice is really important and you want to choose books you know your reader will love.

Here are some of my favorite books to read aloud throughout the year.  Click >>HERE<< or on the image below to get read aloud lesson plans and activities your students will love for all of these books.

Click >HERE<<to see them in my Amazon shop.

I’ve got a book for you to check out that your reluctant readers may just connect with.  When my Instagram friend (yes, that’s a thing, we met on IG) asked me to review her new book, I was excited to help her out.  Elle Montemayor wrote Books in the Park and I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Dawson is a boy who likes a lot of things, except reading.  One day he’s playing in the park when all of his friends come too but they go to listen to a teacher read a book instead of play.  Dawson joins them and learns how truly amazing books can be.  He realizes that books take you on adventures and is so disappointed when the teacher closes the book.  You’ll be surprised to see how this book ends.

If you have reluctant readers like the little boy, Dawson, this book would be a great starting point.

Whatever books you do pick to read aloud, make sure you love them so that enthusiasm can be contagious and they’ll start begging you to read more books.

2. Give them a choice

With most things, providing students with choice allows them to have a little more buy-in.  That’s no difference when we’re giving our students time to read.  Kylene Beers, author of When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do believes that choice in reading is a non-negotiable when we’re giving our students time to read.
Whether you’re allowing them to read their poem binders, comics or chapter books, giving kids some choice in what they read is vital, especially if they are reluctant readers.  I try to give them choice in picking their guided reading books, I also allow them choice in their book bags.  All of my students book shop once a week and pick 10-12 books OF THEIR CHOICE from our leveled library.  We have strategy groups and lessons about choosing books that are just right for them, but ultimately, if they want to read it, it will probably end up in their book bag.

3. Start them on a series

When you think of your favorite books from your childhood, it’s most likely a book series.  Any other Boxcar Children lovers out there? I was obsessed and truly have them to thank for becoming a reader.  I was NOT a fan of reading, as I said earlier, until about third grade when I finally got “hooked” on a series.
Series are a great way to get kids connected with a group of books they love that they want to keep reading.  I had one particular reluctant reader a couple of years ago.  She was a great reader, but just wanted nothing to do with ANY book I showed her. I mean ANY book.  I was chatting with my friend, Sarah from Mrs. B’s First Grade, and she suggested making a list of books in a series and having her cross them off as she read them.  She was a good reader so I wasn’t concerned really about what she was reading, I just had to get her reading.  Sarah shared a list of the Henry and Mudge books and we got started.  It was slow going at first, but by book 3 she was HOOKED!!!  I cannot tell you how excited I was and she was so excited too.  She couldn’t put them down.  While doing some comprehension checks and other strategy lessons with her, she just kept reading.  After those, we moved on to Mercy Watson.  She was on fire and now and to this day, she loves reading.  Now I know this won’t happen with every reader, but more often than not, once I get them hooked on a series, they at least like reading a little bit.
So, I’m still #IRL friends with Sarah and she has an awesome resource with Chapter Book Series Lists.  Check out her blog post about it, >>HERE<<.  You and your kids will be hooked.
And then grab this FREEBIE she so generously put on TpT for us.  Try it out with your kids.  I think they’ll love it.  Click >>HERE<< or on the image below.
She has some of our favorite series books in her resource.  Some other book series you might want to try include:
I especially love when books have a Spanish option and that is the case for Piggie & Elephant and the Who Would Win books.  (These Spanish series are not the BEST as they are mostly just translated, but kids know Piggie and Elephant so using these is a good place to start.)
Check out these series and others in my Amazon Store.

4. Support their reading

In first grade, a lot of times my students are reluctant readers during independent reading time because they really don’t have that many books they can read by themselves, especially at the beginning of the year.  When students are reading at levels A-D, there is just not a lot to those books.  It’s really important to get them past those early levels quickly while learning the vital skills needed to read harder books.  In these books, students need to know their sight words and have a few reading strategies like saying the sounds and looking at the picture.  So much of reading at this level is also just rereading for accuracy.
One way I like to support these low-level reluctant readers is to give them some “big kid” books they can learn to read through shared reading.  By doing small group shared reading, you can really push their learning up a few levels and provide them with books that may interest them more like Bella and Rosie and Gossie & Friends.
Check out my blog post about shared reading >>HERE<<.  Do you want easy lesson plans and activities for some of my favorite books perfect for shared reading?  Check >>THESE<< out or click on the images below.

5. Get parents to support you at home

Last but definitely not least, get support from your students’ parents.  We can only do so much at school.  Parents need to support at home too.  If you have a reluctant reader, their parents need to know about it.  And the parents should be involved in helping support that reader.  Now I know parent support is not always possible, but a lot of the time it is, and parents are a truly underutilized resource.

Reading at home should be something that is fun and encouraged.  While it is important for students to be reading books at their independent reading level at home, if you have a reluctant reader, getting them to like reading is the goal and encouraging parents to read aloud to their reader is what needs to happen right now.

One way I encourage reading at home is with my family read aloud books.  Through Donors Choose and collecting books from places like Goodwill and garage sales, I have grown my collection of family read aloud books.  These are books that are above my students reading level, but perfect as read aloud books.  At the beginning of the year, my students bring home one family read aloud book a night.  This is the only book they bring home.  Parents are encouraged to read aloud this book, or others if they prefer, and talk about the book.  At our first parent-teacher team conferences, we discuss and demonstrate how to read aloud these books.  Their homework every night is to be read to.  We talk a lot about when this can take place, who can read to them and what it looks like.  As the year goes on, they eventually take home independent reading books, but they continue to take a family read aloud book home each night as well.

Through the year I switch out the books in each bin so they get new books to share at home with their families.  Both my students and their parents have shared that they LOVE this homework and the time they spend together as a family reading.  I really need to write an entire blog post about this, but for now, it’s my last way to encourage reluctant readers.

I provide books in English and Spanish for all of my families.  I’m still working on growing my Spanish collection but I believe it is important to provide my students with books their parents can read to them.

So there you have it.  If I really think about it, if you have reluctant readers, I think the very best thing you can do is read to them in school and at home.  Growing those happy experiences around reading is so important and reading aloud will do just that.  The other strategies are great ones to try too.  I hope you found this helpful and found at least one thing you can try for your reluctant readers.


This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase.  This helps me continue writing this blog and providing you with teaching tips and ideas.  Thank you! 

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