Not everyone loves to read. Even in schools with strong reading cultures, some students just don’t feel the spark—yet.
Through helping reluctant readers find books that capture their imaginations, teachers and librarians can ignite a newfound enthusiasm for reading in students.
Here are six strategies for engaging hesitant students:
1. Hand it to them. Nothing beats putting books in the hands of reluctant readers—it’s the number one way to generate interest. But you must put the right books in the right hands. As part of our reader’s advisory services, we do lots of one-on-one conversations, learning what a student likes to do outside of school, or what movies, tv shows or video games they enjoy.
While some students love browsing the library for a great new read, others are intimidated by the sheer number of books and may be reluctant to ask for help. Those students likely won’t be motivated by learning how to use the catalog—and sometimes, it’s better to hand them a book by engaging authors like Nic Stone or Jason Reynolds.
2. Share your enthusiasm. An avid reader can sell a book to anybody. Encourage your own community of booklovers to share their reading finds with students. For example, create bulletin boards highlighting your students’ favorite books or even your own favorite reads. Doing so might help your students discover their next favorite book!
3. Teach them how to judge a book by its cover. Many students don’t know how to browse for books of interest. One of the most effective activities I do in my library is called “Five-Minute Mania”—a readers’ version of speed dating. I scatter brand-new books by diverse authors across the library tables and ask each student to pick up whatever one looks most interesting. They choose based solely on the cover—whether it’s the color, size, picture or typeface that attracts them. Students then spend one minute perusing the book’s front, spine and back cover. Next, they read the inside flaps of the dust jacket (including the author bio) and flip through pages. Finally, they take a test drive, reading as far as they can in three minutes. If that reading experience felt like the longest three minutes ever, the book’s a pass. If they hated to put it down, it’s a keeper.
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