Finding the Book that’s Just Right
Reluctant readers are able to read, they may just have trouble settling in to a good book. Finding your child’s ‘just right’ book can sometimes be tricky. These common traits of books that appeal to all kinds of learners might help guide your young reader’s choices. One might just be the perfect book to hook your child into becoming a life long reader.
Novels with Cartoon Illustrations
Oh my, how students love those Wimpy Kid books. At our school these are in continuous circulation. The beleaguered Greg and his misadventures are made all the more approachable because of the many cartoons throughout the text. The handwritten font also makes the pages attractive. Other series that capitalize on this style are the Dork Diaries, Origami Yoda, Big Nate, The Popularity Papers, Cartboy, Dear Dumb Diary, Timmy Failure, My Life As…, Ellie McDoodle, Jedi Academy and Planet Tad.
The only thing to say here is that kids will not be hoodwinked and they are discerning. Graphics vary as much as any other novel. Some popular series in our library are Amulet, Baby Mouse, Bone, Nola’s Worlds, titles by Rick Riordan or Raina Telgemeier and Zita the Spacegirl as well as some non-fiction graphics such as Timeline.
Yes, young readers do judge a book by it’s cover. Unless the image or style of the cover appeals to them, it’s a tough sell. Conversely, a student may choose a book with a sparkly cover or metallic foil but may not actually read it. If I see a student with a book that they may have chosen based on the cover alone, I like to take a moment to read aloud the back of the book with them at the check out- to see if I can spark genuine interest in reading the contents.
Format and size
In our library, students will happily take out and devour a weighty hard cover non-fiction book, but generally, the paperback novels are more popular than the hard covers with reluctant readers. The books that are too thick may seem too daunting and somehow a hard cover even more so. Also, check the print size. Tiny print and long paragraphs may be discouraging.
Popular non-fiction has profuse, exuberant and lavish text features (i.e. lots of pictures, captions, charts, diagrams, text boxes). Reluctant readers love the bite size chunks of information presented in a variety of styles and formats. Children enjoy well presented non-fiction and will often choose it for recreational reading. Students are using non-fiction books less and less for research (they use online resources like the rest of us) and more for pursuing interests and reading for pleasure.
Just the Facts
A whole range of fact books that engage children are titles such as “5000 Awesome Facts About Everything”, “Top Ten Big Cats”, “Danger”, “100 Weirdest Facts” and so on. These check all the boxes: great pictures, text features, high interest, information in chunks. They can lead readers to seek out other non-fiction books that interest them.
Reluctant readers at our library also gravitate to the familiar images from their favourite movies. Children seem to approach these titles with some confidence as they may already be familiar with the story.
Books that appeal to the interest level of readers without slotting them into a reading proficiency are a great place for reluctant readers to find a perfect book. We have success with Ninja Meerkats, Kingdom of Wrenly, Mortimer Keene, Captain Awesome, Zac Power, Disaster Strikes, Critter Club, Haunted Library, Heidi Heckelbeck, Galaxy Zack and of course, the whole Geronimo Stilton empire. These books are visually appealing, have larger font, lots of images throughout and are small in size.
Revisiting Old Favourites
I also encourage my students to check out books they used to enjoy listening to. Many reluctant readers will happily read through any number of Mo Willems‘ ‘Pigeon’ or ‘Elephant and Piggie’ books, Pete the Cat, Berenstain Bears, Todd Parr or Robert Munsch titles.
Young Adults Only
Our library has a section that is ‘reserved’ for Grades 6 and 7. There’s nothing like telling a student a book isn’t really suitable for younger grades (and I assure all our books are entirely appropriate for an elementary library). Moths to a flame.
I encourage students take a look at recent book returns. Students are always interested in what their classmates are reading so this helps get popular books into their hands. I sometimes put books aside for students that I know are searching. Same goes for new books that I think might fit the bill. And I have re-arranged the library, similar to a book store to help readers more easily find books that appeal to them.
If your child is reluctant to get started on a book, try reading the first chapter aloud together. Set aside some time to share the story. Even older children enjoy being read to.
Sometimes all it takes it that one perfect book to hook a reader. And it’s in the library, waiting to be discovered.
Check out this list of newer titles for reluctant readers in the Vanier Learning Commons.