Archive for the ‘reluctant readers’ Category

Why and How to Motivate a Reluctant Reader (2 of 2)

August 12, 2010

Today’s guest post is by Julie Niles Petersen of “TWRC” stands for Think, Wonder, Reflect, and Connect.  At Julie blogs about the intricacies of teaching reading.  Her blog is extremely informative and she provides a ton of resources that are helpful to educators and parents, alike.  After having only known Julie for several months on Twitter, I had the pleasure of meeting her IRL at the International Reading Association’s Annual Convention in Chicago this year.  What fun we had!  In addition to the TWRCtank, Julie can be found on Facebook and on Twitter (@twrctankcom), where she is a valuable source of reading information and part of my PLN (Personal Learning Network).  When I asked her to provide me with a guest post for The Literacy Toolbox this month, she came through in spades when she wrote this fantastic article, filled with numerous resources, explaining why and how to motivate readers.

I think children who do not struggle with decoding the words can find reading boring for many reasons. Here are three of them:

  1. They have not found the right book. The right book would be one that interests them for some reason. Some reasons may be they like the topic, author, genre, or need to find an answer to a problem. Reading about things of no interest is boring.
  2. Their limited word and world knowledge makes many texts too difficult to understand because they cannot connect the dots (i.e. the necessary inferences required to understand). Reading without comprehension is boring!
  3. They are so used to reading not making sense, that they do not put much energy into making it make sense. Without TWRCing (thinking, wondering, reflecting, and making connections) while you read, reading is boring.

Suggestions for Children Who Do Not Struggle with Decoding, But Think Reading Is Boring

  • Be sure to TWRC with your children as much as possible and not just when you are reading.(“TWRC” rhymes with “work” and stands for think, wonder, reflect, and connect.) The more you model good TWRCs, the more your child will see how dots are connected. Further, great TWRCs lead to great thinking and more engagement.
  • Help your children improve their vocabulary. This topic is beyond the scope of this blog. However, if you look on the right-hand side of my blog and scroll down, you will find the heading, “External Link Categories.” Then, you can find some more information about vocabulary under the subheading, “Vocabulary.” A sure way to help improve their vocabulary is by discussing the meanings of unfamiliar books while you read aloud to your child. As mentioned in part one of this post, be sure your children have student-friendly dictionaries close to them when they read.
  • Ask your children, “If you could be an expert at anything, what would it be?” I heard somewhere that if you study a topic for 10-15 minutes each day, it will help you become an expert. I have read about teaching reading for more than 10 – 15 minutes almost every day since I began the master’s program in reading. Although I wouldn’t really call myself an expert, I feel confident in talking with those who are (and I really enjoy it, too!)My point? The drive to become an expert on something is pure self-motivation. If your children want to be experts on dinosaurs, ask teachers, librarians, and those who work in bookstores to help you find a lot of reading material on dinosaurs. Look for great websites and blogs on the topic, too. Be sure to keep abreast with what your children learn and celebrate their new-found knowledge. Let them know when they start teaching you things, too! You may also want to introduce them to friends and family by something like, “This is my son, Bob. He is/is becoming an expert on dinosaurs.” That should invite conversation about what he reads, associating more positive feelings with reading.Here are two great quotations that are somewhat related to self-teaching:

    The true university these days is a collection of books. ~Thomas Carlyle

    If we encounter a man of great intellect, we should ask him what books he reads. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

    You may also want to check out these links: Self-Education Resource List and 100 Amazing How-To Sites to Teach Yourself Anything.

  • Let your child watch book trailers and listen to booktalks in order to discover good books.Book trailers and booktalks are similar to movie trailers and friendly recommendations because they try to entice you to check out the product. Think about it. How do you decide what movie you want to see? Are you more likely to go to the movie theater without knowing what you want to watch, or knowing what you want to watch? I would guess most people go to the theater knowing exactly what they want to watch and that they learned about it from a movie trailer or a friend’s recommendation. Thinking about reluctant readers, I would guess that many who do not have difficulty reading, are reluctant simply because they are not aware of good books. I know I was saddened by how many great books were unfamiliar to the struggling readers with whom I worked. My point here? We need to be sure reluctant readers know about good books–especially those that would be of interest to them.I first discovered book trailers from @KeithSchoch on Twitter when he shared this great post,“Coming Attractions: Book Trailers.” Since he shares so many good resources, I will not share any more. Let me just say that after reading his post, I thought, “Wow! Whoever began creating book trailers was a genius! They should benefit reluctant readers tremendously!”M. Dahms, another person I follow on Twitter, is passionate about booktalks, as am I, and she shared this post full of booktalk resources, “Reader’s Workshop Links: Booktalks.” Again, since she shared so many links I will not share anymore.I first learned about booktalks by Linda Gambrell at an International Reading Association convention. I am not sure why I hadn’t thought about giving them before, but I hadn’t. Instead of calling them booktalks, she calls them, “book blessings.” She mentioned that once you “blessed” a book, it usually flew off the bookshelf before the end of the day. I returned to the classroom and tried it out. She was right–they flew off the shelves.

    If you are a teacher, I beg you to give booktalks in your classroom as often as possible. In addition, set aside some time for your students to give booktalks. The books my students “blessed” also became hot-ticket items.

  • Find some great book review blogs and read them thinking about your child’s abilities and interests. If you do a Google search of “book review blogs” or “children’s book review blogs,”you will find many from which you can choose.
  • Be sure to ask your librarian for recommendations. A knowledgeable librarian who knows your child’s interests and reading level is invaluable. (Teachers, this includes you, too!) I thought I knew a lot about what books were popular with students until I spoke with one librarian in particular, Barbara. Not only did she pay attention to what books were checked out the most frequently, but she considered it her mission to keep up with all the new books being published that she thought would be popular with our students. She was a real powerhouse of knowledge and the books she recommended for my struggling readers were always a big hit. I also really enjoyed reading what she recommended.
  • Here are some websites that should help you find great books your children will enjoy:
    1. This site also helped me learn about books that are popular with children. It is a fabulous website for students, parents, teachers, and librarians! Be sure to check out their about page which lists other websites in their network, such
    2. The Series Binder. According to the site, it was “Created by the Webster Public Library Children’s department staff members, and maintained by users from all over the globe in order to help librarians, teachers, parents, and kids find the chronological and publication order of series books. The Children’s Series Binder seeks to create a comprehensive listing of series books for children ranging from toddlers to tweens.”After going to the Webster Public Library, I went to the “Parent’s Corner” page and then to,the “Books, Books, Books” page and I found a book search tool called NoveList. Although the website says, “NoveList will let you search for books by subject, grade level, and even number of pages,” I found so much more. The website also says that NoveList can only be used from computers at the library. It seemed to work just fine for me.
    3. This website was created by the very funny author, Jon Scieszka.According to the website, its mission is “to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.” It is a great website with a great mission! Jon is on Twitter.
    4.’s Find a Book Feature. According to the website, you “Enter your Lexile measure, select your interests, and find books you’d like to read! Whether you’re reading for school or for pleasure, you can use this site to build a custom reading list on the subjects that interest you the most.” You actually do not need to know your child’ Lexile (a number that indicates an approximate reading level). You can search by your grade level (K-12). Even better, you can indicate whether your child finds grade level material, difficult, challenging, or easy.
    5. Reading Is Fundamental’s Book Search Feature. This is what the website says, “Whether you’re looking for a book for yourself or for children, you’ve come to the right place. Browse our booklists, or use the tool below to search our book database by title, author, category, age level, or keyword.”
    6. Mid-Continent Public Library’s Reading Advisory. Some of the things you can do on this website are: 1) Search their databases for movies based on books, 2) Search their databases for series books for kids and teens, 3) Read lists of award winning titles for kids, teens, and adults, 4) Read suggested reading lists for kids, teens, and adults, and 4) Discover useful links from other libraries.
    7. Scholastic’s Teacher Book Wizard Although this is designed for teachers, I think it could also be very helpful to parents. There is so much you can do here. Luckily, they have a video tour.
    8. The International Reading Associations’ Book Choices Lists According to the website, “Each year, thousands of children, young adults, teachers, and librarians around the United States select their favorite recently published books for the “Choices” reading lists.” The lists are annotated, meaning they give you a brief summary of the book. You can find the lists for the current year’s choices, as well as lists from previous years.
    9. StorySnoops. This website was recently started by four moms in California. Here is their description of how it works, “Created by moms, StorySnoops offers children’s book reviews from a parent’s perspective. Want to find fiction that interests your 9-18 year old? Curious about its content? Find it on our site and we’ll give you the scoop! We read it so you know what’s in it.” Some things I particularly like about this site are, 1) You can search by the gender of the main character–boys often do not like reading books where the main characters are girls, 2) You can search by suggested reading (ex. Books about Kids like Yours, Noteworthy Books, Our Absolute Faves, Thought-Provoking Books, etc.) and 3) Content Type (ex. Tolerance, Body Image, Teen Issues, Death, Race Ethnicity, and Prejudice, etc.)
    10. What Should I Read Next? According to the website, “Enter a book you like and the site will analyse our database of real readers’ favorite books (nearly 70,000 different titles so far, and more than a million reader recommendations) to suggest what you could read next. (You can register on the results page and build your own favorites list.)”
    11. The Book Seer. Enter the title and author of a book you liked and it will give you book recommendations from Amazon and LibraryThing.

    Finally, here are some books you might like to read to learn more about great read alouds and helping your children find books that will keep their interest:

    You can find part one of this post here.

    How do you encourage reluctant readers?

Parent Reading Resources: How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell

June 29, 2010

This month I plan to post resources to help parents as they try to raise a reader.  Perhaps through the resources I share, you’ll find something to help you engage your child in reading over the summer (and beyond!).

Written by an educator and librarian, How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike is a 500+ page guide for parents!  Codell provides activities, ideas, and inspiration for exploring everything in the world through books.  Codell, resists grouping books by age level.  Instead, she offers a simple method for determining whether a book is too difficult while pointing out that kids may listen on a much higher level than they read. She offers scores of thematic book lists parents can use to inspire young readers, ranging from topics as diverse as medieval England to dinosaurs or hiccups.

Inside this fantastic resource, you will find:

  • Over 3,000 hand-picked titles on every subject under the sun
  • Hundreds of child-tested, teacher-approved craft ideas, storytimes, book-based parties, mad-scientist experiments, cooking forays, web-site recommendations, and reading-club activities
  • Reassuring and simple approaches to reading aloud with children from birthday through eighth grade
  • Support for parents of reluctant readers and enriching ideas for eager readers
  • Extensive indexes for locating books by subject, author, and title
  • Suggestions for volunteer activities and for getting involved in your child’s school
  • Easy access to award-winning books
  • Exciting ways to reward reading progress

This book is an indispensable resource for all parents who want to engage their children in reading.  And like Jim Trelease before her, Codell also has her own website where she continues to share information on reading aloud for parents, educators, and librarians.

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Motivating Reluctant Readers with Informational Texts

May 27, 2010

When asked what motivates them to read expository (nonfiction) text, children placed emphasis on three areas:  knowledge gained, personal interests, and choice (Edmunds and Bauserman, 2006).

Informational texts tend to be a great motivator for reluctant readers for the three reasons found in the study above.  Children gain knowledge when they choose to read about topics that interest them. The following informational texts are great for reluctant readers:


Magazines are great for reluctant readers because they provide short articles that engage readers, but aren’t too long to intimidate readers.  Here are a few I would recommend:

Time for Kids

The children’s edition of Time Magazine, this periodical is bright and colorful and full of engaging current events for children.

National Geographic Kids

The children’s edition of National Geographic, this periodical is also bright and colorful and full of engaging science and social studies topics.

Ranger Rick

Published by the National Wildlife Federation, this periodical provides informative articles about animals and nature.

Sports Illustrated Kids (1-year)

The children’s edition of Sports Illustrated, this periodical is perfect for the sports lover in your life!

Trade Books

Often short texts that concentrate on one topic.  Historically based picture books are great motivating informational texts for reluctant readers.

Jean Fritz books (great for older readers who want to learn about the period of The Revolutionary War)

Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?

Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?

Picture Books

Henry’s Freedom Box (Caldecott Honor Book)

A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus (Picture Book Biography)

Resource:  Edmunds, K.M., & Bauserman, K.L. (2006, February). What Teachers Can Learn About Reading Motivation Through Conversations With Children. The Reading Teacher, 59(5), 414–424

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliatelinks and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Parent Resources: Reaching the Reluctant Reader

May 25, 2010

Are you looking for ways to motivate your reluctant reader?  I want to provide parents with a list of resources they may turn to when they are looking to reach their reluctant readers.  Here are a few videos, online games, and websites to help you in your quest.


Awaken the Reader in Your Child

Donalyn Miller is a sixth grade teacher in Texas.  She is dubbed “The Book Whisperer” because she can get even the most reluctant reader to love reading.  Last summer she was interviewed by The View from the Bay.  She shares great tips on how parents can encourage their children to read.

Scholastic offers 65 book trailers (just like a movie trailer, but for a book).  Have your child watch the trailers to see what types of books interest him.


Reading Rockets – A fantastic resource for parents offering reading strategies, lessons, and activities designed to aid in helping children learn how to read and read better

ReadWriteThink – Looking for engaging ways to encourage your child to read?  The International Reading Association and the National Council for Teachers of English run this expansive website of resources for parents (and teachers).

ReadKiddoRead – A website created by the author James Patterson as a way to bring parents, teachers, and librarians together in a forum dedicated to make kids readers for life.


Kidsreads – A comprehensive website that offers games, book reviews, and contests all related to children’s books.

RIF Reading Planet – In conjunction with Reading is Fundamental (RIF), this website offers games, activities, animated stories and songs, author and illustrator Q&A, books lists and more!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Motivating Readers and Writers: Books About Reading and Writing

May 20, 2010

Sometimes all it takes is one book to engage a child who may be reluctant to read.  Though it’s the end of the school year (for most), it’s never too late to try to entice a new reader.  Here are a few books that explore reading and/or writing as a topic:

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner is a great book to show a child that not everyone enjoys reading, but there is a book in the library for everyone.  If your child is overwhelmed by the amount of books in the library or book store, read aloud this book.  Encourage him to choose books to read based on his interests.

The Jellybeans and the Big Book Bonanza by Laura Numeroff is another great book that demonstrates the power of  reading.  Similar to Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t), Anna and her friends must find a book about a thing they love in order to write a book report.  All of her friends find one, will Anna?

The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli is a great book to show children where ideas may come from for writing.  The narrator of the story wants to write the “best story” to win a prize with her favorite author.  She enlists the help of her family members for ideas, but nothing seems quite right.  Her mother reminds her that the best stories come from the heart.

Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk is an adorable book to read aloud to children.  Sam, the Mouse, lives in the Children’s Section of the library.  He loves to read and one day decides to write a book.  He places his book on the shelf for the children to find.  Will they find it?  What will they think?

For lessons related to these books, check out Picture This! Teaching with Picture Books.

Do you have innovative ways to encourage kids (specifically reluctant readers) to read?  I would love to hear them!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Book Buddies: Pairing Fiction and Informational Texts to Motivate Readers

May 19, 2010

One way to motivate readers is to provide children with informational texts that match a fiction book they may enjoy reading.  Or vice versa.  Mary Pope Osborne provides informational guides that correspond with her fiction books in her series of Magic Tree House Books (Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-4: Dinosaurs Before Dark, The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning, and Pirates Past Noon), perfect for early readers.  At the preschool age, especially, we tend to read more fiction to our children.  Yet, children tend to crave basic information about topics as well.  I like to pair fiction reading with informational reading.  By reading aloud a fiction book and following up with an informational read aloud, parents can meet both needs of their child.  Sometimes, you may want to read the informational text first to build background knowledge of the topic.  To extend the learning beyond reading, I often pair a craft or activity that complements the topic we are reading about.

“Book Buddies” with corresponding activities:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino

Activity:  Put plastic doll feet in black paint and place on white paper to make footprints in the snow

Smash! Crash! (Jon Scieszka’s Trucktown) by Jon Scieszka and Big Book of Trucks by Caroline Bingham

Activity: Take small toy trucks and run the wheels through paint.  Place the wheels all over a sheet of paper for a “Things that Go” piece of artwork.  Try to find cars and trucks with different treads.

My Garden by Kevin Henkes and Let’s Go Gardening: A Young Person’s Guide to the Garden by Ursula Kruger

Activity:  Place soil inside a large plastic, see through bag.  Place seeds in the soil and spray water inside the bag.  Tape the bag to a window that receives sun.  Monitor the new plant that grows.   

Would you like to purchase pre-made Book Buddy Bags?  Each bag comes with a fiction and nonfiction text, a hands-on activity and a resource guide for parents.  Book Buddy Bags are perfect for gifts, homeschool activities, and travel!

Do you have innovative ways to encourage kids (specifically reluctant readers) to read?  I would love to hear them!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Ways to Engage a Reluctant Reader

May 13, 2010

Parents are often at a loss as to how to entice and engage their reluctant readers.  Perhaps you are even wondering ifyour child may be reluctant to read.  Here are a few signs of a reluctant reader:

  • —May avoid reading
  • Negative attitude towards reading
  • Identifies him/herself as a poor reader
  • Fails to see value in reading
  • Difficulty with reading processes
  • Lacks encouragement
  • Lacks the ability to read strategically

But never fear!  There are a few ways I would recommend engaging your reader:

  • Provide many opportunities for your reader to attend the library and/or bookstores.  Allow time to browse and immerse himself in books.
  • Always, always, always provide your child with choice when choosing books.  Even if you think the book is not at his/her reading level.  Providing choice allows your child to feel in control of something and may provide a spark that ignites a love for reading!
  • Provide book talks for your child.  Find two books that you think he/she will like.  Read them and then talk them up to your child.  SELL them!  Then let him/her choose which one he/she would like to read.
  • Sneak strategy lessons into your read alouds.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to debrief after reading the book.  Discuss the book with your child.  Make sure you have read it first!  Provide opportunities for hands-on activities related to the book, nothing major, and certainly not book-report like, but a little project that can be completed after the book to extend understanding.
  • Ask your child to keep a journal of books he/she reads.  Your child should list the titles of the books and one or two things he liked or disliked about the book.  Encourage your child to understand that it’s ok if he/she abandons a book.  There are many times as adults that we abandon books without second thought.  There is a book out there for everyone, that particular one just might not be right for your child.
  • Most importantly, read to your child every day (even when they are in middle school!).  And make sure your child continues to see you and your family reading.

It is my hope that every child will grow up to be a reader and it hurts my heart when children struggle with reading.  I hope that one or two of these ideas may help your reluctant reader.

Do you have innovative ways to encourage kids (specifically reluctant readers) to read?  I would love to hear them!

©2010 by Dawn Little for Literacy Toolbox. All Rights Reserved.  All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.