Secondary English – Targeting Reluctant readers

With the renewed push on reading for pleasure in schools, come many exciting opportunities for enthusing our students about books. But what do we do with those really reluctant readers? You know- those ones who try to get away with only reading the Guinness Book of Records or with flipping through the first three paragraph of any novel you place in their hands. Unfortunately there is no easy answer but one thing that definitely seems to have an impact is creating Reading Role Models in the school.

I have seen this working in a variety of ways in several different schools. A ‘Get Caught Reading’ competition for staff and student, with a prominent display of photos showing everyone reading in unusual places, can help to raise the profile of reading. It is important to get staff involved in this too, to model to students that this is not an activity just forced onto students by teachers but something that we all do and enjoy. I also know of a school who enlisted staff to visit form groups and speak about their favourite books and reading habits. Choosing the right staff (not English teachers) is imperative. Getting popular, usually male, teachers on board can open the eyes of the most reluctant reader to the idea of reading as an ‘acceptable’ pastime.

Enlisting older students can also have a really positive impact. At my school, we have recently started a paired reading programme, in which sixth form students read for ten minutes a week with some of our unwilling readers in years 7 and 8. Their job is to help build their mentees confidence in reading aloud but also to take an interest in their reading by discussing their reading habits and recommending books.  Already we have had some very positive feedback about this programme from students, parents and form tutors who are pleased to see the positive influence the sixth form mentors can have on these students and their feelings about reading.

We all know that getting our disinclined readers to read is going to continue to be an uphill struggle. However, if we model our enjoyment of reading as a whole school, then we can help to create a culture in which it becomes the norm for our students rather than an activity for the few.

Naomi Hursthouse

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