Reaching the reluctant readers

Alex Maher has some ideas for schools seeking to foster a love of books and encourage children to read

Teaching reluctant readers to read is one thing. Trying to foster a love of reading is another thing entirely. Yet studies show that pupils who regularly read for pleasure achieve better results in both primary and secondary school, as well as in later life. So what options are available to help create a passion for reading and encourage both pupils to make the most out of their reading time, both in and out of the classroom?

‘From Book to Film and Back Again’ is a guide which has been developed by FilmClub, NAPE and Scholastic Book Clubs and is designed to help encourage children and reluctant readers to read the original texts which films are based on, after having watched the film. Popular books such as ‘Stormbreaker’ and ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ are amongst the range included, aimed at engaging key stage 2 children and especially reluctant readers to spark discussion. These can be set up either as part of a guided reading session or as an extra-curricular activity, helping those reluctant readers to engage with storytelling in a fun and relatable way. Schools register for free as a ‘club’, then they can access a wide range of downloadable resources to help get the children talking and reading about the stories they love.

Rising Stars’ Space Hoppers books also aim to encourage a love of reading in school. Written by award-winning children’s author Tommy Donbavand, the series has been designed specifically to be engaging and amusing for students in order to appeal to those reluctant readers. The books are useful for one-to-one reading intervention and guided reading groups,; they are also available in ebook format, with a permanent and unlimited home and school licence. Making reading part of the digital fabric of the home and classroom can help to keep reading a fresh and interesting concept for children, as many are becoming increasingly used to associating technology with entertainment.

Fiction Express for Schools is an interactive platform for publishing fiction, which allows readers to determine the course of the plot. The Fiction Express -books are published in weekly episodes every Friday, with each episode ending with a cliffhanger and a number of plot options. The option with the most votes is then passed to the author who writes the next episode, live and in real time, for Friday publication. Louie Stowell, Fiction Express author, says: “The readers are fully along the journey with you, participating actively in the story. They’re not reading. They’re co-creating.” Enabling the children to become engaged with the creative process, the idea is that even the most unenthusiastic readers will be won over because they’re helping to create the story itself.

Rhythm for Reading, on the other hand, uses rhythm-based activities to enhance children’s reading skills. The service delivers sessions, which run for 10 minutes at a time and support children’s ability to tackle multi-syllabic words, phrases and sentences. Dr Marion Long came up with the idea during a teaching session with a particularly disinterested and unruly music class, when she discovered that attainment in reading had markedly improved among students participating in her music sessions. Rhythm for Reading also offers a student-led mentoring programme to complement the sessions, and this proved to further engage reluctant readers during a pilot scheme at a London-based primary school earlier this year.

The BookTrust’s bookfinder tool is a simple but effective way of finding books which are likely to capture the imagination of reluctant readers. With so many books on the market, sifting through to find the ones which will engage students can feel like you are trying to pull a needle from a haystack. This free online tool allows you to filter groups by age or year group, then select the genre you think would appeal to readers. It offers a means of selecting new books which will tap into reluctant readers’ interests, whatever their abilities.


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