Struggling and Reluctant readers

There are two main reasons that children don’t read books. Either a) They simply don’t want to read them: they’d rather do other things, or b) They can’t read them: their literacy skills aren’t developed enough.

And often they don’t want to read because they can’t, and they can’t because they won’t. It’s a vicious cycle.

As a librarian it is important that your library offers appropriate titles that can support the development of both of these categories. If they are a struggling reader, it’s all about giving them texts that helps them best progress. If they are a reluctant reader, it’s all about about giving them a book in their hands that they’ll want to actually read!

When trying to encourage these children to read, there are two things which it is vital to remind them of:

  • Reading can be fun

  • Good books do exist!

The next stage comes in finding the right books for these readers. When you find the right book, it will consist of three things:

  • It matches their specific interests.

  • It matches their reading age.

  • It’s appropriate for their actual age (i.e. it’s not patronising them by being too young for them, nor is it too old).

If kids want to read something, they really will try. If they don’t want to read it, they won’t. If you want children to choose to read stuff, it’s got to be about stuff that interests them: it sounds obvious – but it's often forgotten. So don’t choose for them, choose with them.

Often short books, those with lots of vivid illustrations, comic books and audiobooks are a good place to start to engage your child.

Here at Ransom, we work hard to produce content that is helpful for those who are struggling and reluctant readers. Most kids’ books are designed to match the interest age and the reading age; for example an interest age of nine and a reading age of nine. And most bookshops organise their shelves the same way – by age group – to match average interest and reading ages. That’s fine for the average reader: but counter-productive for the struggling or reluctant reader. For example, if a 12 year old boy has a reading age of 7, the problem is obvious: he can’t read books designed for a 12 year old, and he won’t read books designed for a 7 year old because they’re too babyish. We, and some other publishers, produce what are known as ‘High-Low’ titles; books with a higher interest age than their reading age. This ensures that readers can have books that cater to their age’s interests, but also caters to their reading age.

Finding the right book isn’t the end of the story however. Here are some tips to help you accompany library users on their reading journey.

  • Highlight the variety of books that exist. There are so many different genres, so many different themes and topics, so many different styles - your library should have something for everyone - and everyone should know that there is something for them!

  • Engage readers. Many of our books are AR levelled, which helps children to feel like they’ve achieved something if they are able to complete a quiz after. As well as this, we also offer worksheets for a number of our titles, as well as reader’s discussion questions for YA titles. This helps to perpetuate the idea that the book doesn’t finish when the last page ends.

  • Ask for their opinions. Ask them what they thought of the book they just read. Find out their interests outside of the library. Work out where they are at so you can better support them and recommend other relevant titles for them.

  • Make your library a fun place to be. Of course, libraries tend to be quiet places, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Make it visually loud- put up posters, decorate the space. Put in a comfy chair or two. If you can, experiment with the layout. Create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere among the staff and the readers. Basically, transform your library into somewhere that kids actually want to spend time.