Motivating Struggling & 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 teacher it is important to establish which category your student falls into: this will help you know the appropriate way to support them. If they are a struggling reader, it’s all about giving them the learning support 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 your student. 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 your child on their reading journey.

  • Don’t make reading a chore. Of course, it’s part of your job to ensure that children do the required amount of reading, however, you can’t let them think that you’re only doing it as a job. If they the only reason to read is that they have to- they won’t. Remind them of the other reasons.

  • Be receptive to their interests. Listen to the things they talk about, look at the activities they enjoy; find books about these things.

  • Encourage them to ask questions! If they know they can come to you when they don’t understand, they will be more inclined to ask for help when they’re struggling.

  • See each child as an individual. Being a teacher, it can be so easy to get caught up in grades and numbers and stats, but children are not these things. Remember that every child is different and has different needs. Keep those in mind as you help them read.

  • Approach reading creatively! As helpful as reading programmes and the like are, putting a book in a child’s hand and pushing them to read isn’t the most exciting of teaching methods. Be artistic and creative in your approach. Think outside of the box- you are trying to reach children who aren’t necessarily the norm.


We also have a number of articles written by our in-house literary experts - you can take a look at them here.