How to Motivate Reluctant Readers

Reluctant reader staring out of a window

School can be extremely tough for students who have trouble reading. They want to be good readers, especially when they see their peers enjoying books. One common coping mechanism when reading is a struggle is to avoid it altogether, which can make students reluctant readers.

Teachers have a hard time knowing how to motivate reluctant readers, usually because they themselves love to read. It can be hard to put yourself in the place of a student who would rather do anything but read. There are some ways to get hesitant readers to buy in to the process.

How to Help Readers Blossom

No method will work to motivate every reluctant reader, but there are a few things to try that help. Remember, these steps will not make a student an avid reader overnight. You may be working on these things for the entire school year before you see any progress, so be patient and stay committed.

1. Help them read for themselves.

Self-efficacy goes a long way in enjoying a task. When you feel like you can do it, you will do it. This kind of persistence takes times to build and some students are easily frustrated. In some cases, they have had years of feeling like a failure because their teachers, parents and peers have expected more reading from them than they can or want to do. To help build self-efficacy in reading, invite reluctant readers to read very short texts with you. Maybe even just read the title of the book. Then dismiss them to do other things. Each day, have them read a little bit more until they see how much progress they have made.

2. Give as much choice as possible.

When you have a strict curriculum map to follow, this one can be tough. Nevertheless, when possible, allow students to read books of choice. By giving a reluctant reader a say in what they read, you are allowing them to take the power over their own reading progress. In addition, if they are reading about topics of interest, they may stay engaged for longer periods.

3. Read for a reason.

Some students do not enjoy reading for pleasure. Nor do many adults. When a student rejects spending free time reading, ensure that they read for a purpose. Maybe they need to complete a research project or maybe you want them to read the news to find out about current events. If a student is a reluctant reader, try setting them up with nonfiction and technical texts. The student could read about a process and then follow the directions.

4. Let them argue.

Debating and arguing are ways to get students engaged in class. Many students are argumentative by nature. They love to prove other people wrong. Set up debate or Socratic seminar experiences where reading a text is required. Students will easily take on the task in order to get to the discussion and conversation part of the lesson.

5. Read aloud.

When you read aloud, students allow themselves to get lost in the story. They do not have to do the work of reading the text, which allows them to enjoy the content and think about the story. Pick a book that has a sequel or is part of a series. If a reluctant reader loves what you have shared with the class, they may want to pick up the next installment to continue the story on their own.

If you are interested in working with students to develop a love of reading there are many degree programs at Grand Canyon University that may help you achieve your professional goals. To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Education provides teachers with the best ways to engage and motivate students, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.