A Taste of Honey and Other Ways to Encourage Recreational Reading in Reluctant Readers

April 10, 2015 Updated April 9, 2015

Motivating struggling reading is a daunting task, but if these students are to improve their reading skills, teachers need to go beyond the call of duty to make reading interesting and successful for them. Most schools strive to make students lifelong learners, but they also need to strive to make students lifelong readers. To do this, students must develop habits of reading recreationally. Below are some tried and tested methods that have proven successful with some students. Keep in mind each student is different, so no one method may work with any given student

Read Books With Your Students to Connect

Teachers are overworked with planning, correcting and a myriad of unrelated activities, but by reading books that might be of interest to your students, you're in a better position to recommend books to students or discuss books with student thus encouraging them to read independently. This is means that as a teacher, you need to read books beyond your interest and comfort zone. Read non-fiction and technical books because many teenage boys are especially interested in computers and cars. If a student recommends a book, read it.

For instance, I had a student whose mother had informed me was a slow reader and seldom remembered what he had read when he finished. This is a common problem with reluctant readers. I noticed the young man was reading Life of Pi by Yan Martel and asked him how he liked it. He enthusiastically raved about the book and offered to lend it to me when he finished. I thanked him and said I would get a copy and we could talk about it every day, so I did. Everyday, when I stood in the hall outside my classroom, I would stop him and we would chat about the plot or characters in the book. The young man became an avid reader anxious to discuss each book with me. His mother thanked me at the end of the year.

To be honest, the young man didn't lack reading skills. He needed an adult connection. Most of us are social readers and so are most students. I know you think that you don't have time because you have too many classes and too many students. I was a teacher with seven classes a day and one advisory period, all filled with 35 to 40 students. Obviously, you can't read 200 books at once, but some of your students who will recommend books are the kind of readers whose parents are prying the flashlight and the book from their fingers at four in the morning begging them to get some sleep. These students don't need any motivation to read independently. They are the racehorses of readers. Let them run, but the reluctant readers need your help.

Get the Help of Parents

In my classroom, I always provided my students with ten minutes each day of silent sustained reading and I told them each day that it is their favorite part of the day. Repeating this every day can help them really believe that reading is an enjoyable activity, but ten minutes a day isn't long enough to make much of difference in a child's reading skill. Since the Common Core Curriculum is packed with learning objectives, spending more class time seems unreasonable. Teaching a novel every quarter is also not enough reading to increase reading skills, so it is imperative to engage the help of parents.

What do you do about the student who comes to class unprepared every day? For those students who never bring a book to class, with my own money, I bought subscriptions to a variety of magazines that were both age appropriate and interesting. Because they arrived unprepared, I did not give them full credit for the activity. Soon all the students had a book to read in class.I required that my students read two hours a week or about 20 minutes a night. Some of my friends required one hour five nights a week. I encouraged my students to read longer by offering extra credit for reading four hours a week. Each student was given a reading chart that needed to be completed and signed by the parent or guardian and returned in one week. Honestly, I got this form from my daughter's 7th grade English teacher and adapted it for my classes. This is it:

Reading Record



Date Due:


Book Title:


Date, Min, Initial # of Pgs:
Fri 11/1:
Sat 11/2:
Sun 11/3:
Mon 11/4:
Tues 11/5:
Wed 11/6:
Thur 11/7:


*Note incomplete reading logs will not be accepted.

My son/daughter has read the book named above (not just watched the movie—if there is one).

Parent Signature

A Taste of Honey

Students often don't have any idea which book might be interesting to them. The library is overwhelming to them. One way to give them an idea is to read selected passages of the book giving students a taste of honey or a taste of each book. Select an assortment of books from the library and either ask the librarian to present these books to your class or discuss each book yourself with the students, so they have some idea which books might be fascinating to them.

Another method is called Speed Dating. Spread a variety of books across the room and give each student five minutes before you ring a bell and the students move to the next book. When they each have a chance to peruse the books in the room, let them discuss which books they found interesting and make suggestions to each other. Students helping students is a valuable resource.

Rewarding Success

When you complete a difficult task, you like your success to be noted, so do students. When students successfully complete a book, let them put their name and the title of the book on a piece of paper and hang it on the wall. I use little cut-outs of suns, clouds, trees and let the student select one. Each quarter I established reading goals for each student based on his/her ability to read. When a student reached whatever reading goal established for him or her, he or she gets his picture taken wearing a crown and has that picture displayed in the library under the title "Reading Royalty." To encourage reading, catch students reading and take their picture, take pictures of teachers, administrators and staff member reading and display these on your morning news or on a bulletin board. Most of my students loved seeing pictures of themselves, their friends and their teachers and it reinforced the value of reading.

Guided Reading and an Inundation of Genres

To prepare students for the future they need to be exposed to a myriad of different genres:

  • Magazine articles
  • Web sites
  • Short stories
  • Novels
  • Non-fiction
  • Technical reading
  • Poetry
  • Speeches
  • Charts and graphs
  • Train and bus schedules

Expose your students to as many genres as you can. The teacher needs to provide guided reading assignments for each genre demonstrating how to analyze including, but not limited to:

  • The organization of structure
  • How to find the main idea
  • How to find the supporting ideas
  • How to identify the supporting examples and evidence
  • How to evaluate the quality of the evidence and logic
  • How to identify the elements of literature
    • Plot
    • Setting
    • Characters
    • Themes
    • Literary Devices
  • How to Identify text features
  • In short, the teacher needs to model and guide students to do what good readers do when they read. Reluctant readers often do not have a clue what to after they decode the words. Some students even need help synthesizing the decoded words into basic ideas.

    Learning Journals

    Finally students need to write to remember. This means use journals for student to record what they have discussed. If you are teaching a novel or an article have the students discuss it and guide them through the analysis. Finally have them record it in their learning journal. If they are reading a book independently, have them read the same book as another student in class or ask the parent to read the book with the child. After the two read, give them discussion questions and finally have the students record their answer in their learning journal. You will be surprised how much their comprehension will improve after they write about it.

    Creative Projects

    Although all writing will improve student's retention, more creative forms will also pique their interest. Some that you could use to have students write summaries of what they have read include:

    This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

    Share This Story

    • email icon

    Filed Under

    • Literacy
    • English Language Arts

    Follow Edutopia

    • facebook icon
    • twitter icon
    • instagram icon
    • youtube icon
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    George Lucas Educational Foundation
    Edutopia is an initiative of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
    Edutopia®, the EDU Logo™ and Lucas Education Research Logo® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the U.S. and other countries.