5 ways to motivate reluctant readers

Simi Rai

Saturday, 15 December 2018

The practice of reading is diminishing, both in and out of the classroom. Despite its copious benefits including cognitive engagement, vocabulary expansion and improved concentration; pupils are more inclined to browse the internet.
Research suggests that about 20% of pupils have not yet read a single book in the past year (including eBooks and audio-books). A statistic that is unsurprising, but quite alarming. Educating pupils about the value of reading is the first step to break this barrier.

1. Give them a choice

Offer pupils a recommended reading list and divide them into beginner, intermediate and advanced. If time allows, offer a short synopsis or review and direct pupils to conduct some research of their own.

If possible, choose books that are relatable to your pupils as they will likely have some background knowledge. Like Dale Carnegie said, “bait the hook to suit the fish.” Not only will this encourage them to become more involved in the text, but it will also stimulate discussion between pupils.

2. Read aloud

It’s not just primary pupils who love to be read to. Reciprocal reading brings a novel to life in every classroom. Facilitate popcorn readings, partner readings, or small group readings.

Some teachers even prefer to play an audio-book and pause when necessary. This engages all readers all of the time and controls the pace, so no pupil is left behind.

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Set reading homework tasks

When studying a novel or play, an easy way to ensure that pupils are reading is to set specific comprehension tasks. Of course, some pupils will try to google the answers so keep them line and page specific.

For example, In Shakespeare’s, ‘Macbeth’ when does Lady Macbeth begin to sleepwalk? Ask pupils to make note of the act, scene and line.

4. Start a book club

Pupils love the opportunity to discuss their favourite books and critique them. Arrange a monthly club, allowing pupils sufficient time to read the novel around their studies. Discuss core themes and characters and allow students to lead the discussion. If it exists, watch the movie adaptations and compare!

5. Organise a book swap or book fair

Encourage pupils to bring in their used books and trade them in for a new one. World Book Day is also a fantastic time to get the whole school excited about reading, and schools usually receive book tokens for free.

Book cover illustration competitions are also very popular and book sets could be awarded to the winners. Pupils also love when teachers dress up as characters from storybooks!

Most importantly, share what you read. As leaders of the classroom and as their role models, we should be reading ourselves.

Pupils love learning about their teachers, so share what you are currently reading and why. As Neil Gaiman once said, “a book is a dream that you hold in your hand,” so live these dreams with them!


About our Community Expert


Simi Rai
Community Expert

Over 5 years of experience in educational settings throughout London, Madrid and Barcelona. Whilst studying English Literature and Language at King’s College London and the University of North Carolina, she fell in love with her subject - both the study of literature and craft of writing.

After graduating, she completed the Leadership Development Programme with Teach First, whose mission is to provide equality through education, and attained her PGCE in Secondary English at Canterbury Christ Church University. She was then appointed as Deputy Head of English at one of the highest performing schools in England in a London inner-city academy.

Following this, she completed her Leadership and Management MA at University College London (Institute of Education) and became the director of an English Language company based in Barcelona.

Simi is our English Literature and Language Expert.

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