Thursday, 14 August 2014

Resources for reluctant readers

There are many reasons why children don’t read. One oft-cited reason is lack of interest. Some kids have never read a book they've enjoyed so shun all others. Others would much rather be doing something else, like watching TV.

Some children, generally those with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), struggle far too much with the process of reading to ever enjoy it.

The secret is finding the right book for each child – and it doesn't have to be a traditional book either. Graphic novels are a great way to appeal to visual learners, especially reluctant boys.

Audio stories are also a useful resource, as although they don't require any actual reading, they can help cultivate a love of stories and the desire to read. Kids can get access to renowned novels like Pride and Prejudice or The Great Gatsby as audio stories. Surely worth encouraging for older students who might struggle with these books in written form?

Whatever medium they come in, books and stories are vital for developing imagination, empathy and communication skills. The list featured below features some of the best books, graphic novels, websites and apps for use with struggling or reluctant readers. There's also a list of useful articles for teachers on encouraging kids to read more, which includes access to a free article by Anne Fine!

Just because a child struggles with words doesn't mean they have to miss out on the worlds of adventure, fantasy and wonder stories provide.


  • Moon Chase, Bridge Reader Edition by Cathy Farr – Fast-paced fantasy adventure in large print. Great for weaker readers. Accompanying workbook makes it ideal for classroom use.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series) by Jeff Kinney – Now also a series of films. Suitable for pre-teens/early teens.
  • I Survived… (series) by Lauren Tarshis – Each book tells a story from history through the eyes of a boy who lived to tell the tale. Series includes surviving the Nazi invasion, the Japanese tsunami, the sinking of the Titanic, shark attacks and more. 
  • Astrosaurs (series) by Steve Cole – Dinosaurs weren’t in fact wiped out by that wayward comet millions of years ago, they took off into space! Brilliant sci-fi series for both boys and girls. Easy to read too.
  • Jiggy McCue (series) by Michael Lawrence – Hilarious series, including The Killer Underpants and The Toilet of Doom. Great for early teens.
  • Dork Diaries (series) by Rachel Renee Russell – Fun series for girls. Title says it all.
  • What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones – A novel in verse, great for teenage girls, as are Sones’ other books, including What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know and One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies.

Graphic novels 

  • Bad Island by Doug TenNapel – A gripping graphic novel with a unique plot and cast of characters. Also see TenNapel’s other graphic novels, including Ghostopolis, Tommysaurus Rex and Cardboard.
  • Knights of the Lunch Table (series) by Frank Cammuso – New kid Arte King opens a locker no one else can - sound familiar? Three-part series packed with humour and clever references to Arthurian legend.
  • Graphic Guide Adventures (series) by Liam O'Donnell – These are especially interesting as they combine an action adventure story with real world facts about wilderness survival skills, democracy, corporate conspiracy, and more.
  • Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel (Alex Rider Adventures) by Anthony Horowitz – Great for reluctant boys.
  • The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel (Books of Ember), by Jeanne DuPrau – Boys and girls, young and older, will enjoy this (also available as a traditional book, and now a film too).
  • Discovery Channel’s Top 10 Deadliest Sharks and Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators – A one-of-its-kind non-fiction graphic novel.
  • Olympians (series) by George O’Connor – Vibrant retellings of Greek myths, focuses on various Olympian gods, including Zeus, Hera, Hades and more. Includes lots of monsters, romance and explosions!

Online resources

  • Funbrain has a great reading section, packed with word games and online versions of popular kids’ books (including Diary of a Wimpy Kid).
  • Storynory features a range of free audio stories, including fairytales, myths and legends, and more.
  • Scholastic provides a selection of non-fiction books and articles from Scholastic’s magazines. Offers audio narration and complex topics in kid-friendly terms.
  • The Lexile Framework for Reading helps children choose books according to their reading ability and interests.  You don’t need to know your Lexile levels – this tool calculates an approximate range for you.


  • Speak It! – A text-to-speech app. Great for students to get some help with reading when they need it.
  • Dragon Dictation – A speech-to-text app. Useful for help with spellings and for students who struggle with writing to jot down ideas.
  • Soundnote – Record drawings, notes and audio all at once.
  • Find the letters HD – Asks learners to find letters and numbers in a colouring grid.
  • Read & Write – Enables students to practice both skills – for example, tracing letters and learning letter sounds.
  • WordSort – Helps children identify parts of speech and improves grammar skills.
  • Read 2 Me – Includes a library of texts which can be read aloud.
  • Audiobooks – A collection of free audio books, offering access for struggling readers to complicated texts such as Romeo and Juliet.
  • Reading Trainer – Helps boost reading speed and ability.
  • Stories2Learn – Allows you to create your own text and audio stories.

Best practice articles from our archives

  • FREE ARTICLE! '50 books a year!' by author Anne Fine – A range of exciting ways to encourage children to read more and enjoy it.
  • 'Developing confident readers' by author Piers Torday – Strategies to help reluctant and challenged readers gain confidence in their own abilities.
  • 'Creating a whole-school reading ethos' by CILIP President Barbara Band – Ways of working with your school librarian to raise the profile of reading and provide opportunities for the whole school community to get involved.
  • 'Boys, books and Xbox' by Collette Higgins – Improving boys' reading and writing by tapping into what and how they read outside school.
  • 'The storytelling curriculum' by Sue Lyle – No phonics, no spoon-feeding of literacy sub-skills, yet astounding results… How would you explain it? A brilliant teacher? A freak year? Dr Sue Lyle reports on action research at one primary school that turned the entire approach to teaching literacy on its head.


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