8 Creative Ways to Get Reluctant Readers to Read

According to a study led by Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center, about 23% of 1005 participants (randomly called via landline and cell phone) had not read a book in the past year, including ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks. With the massive influx of information that students receive on a daily basis thanks to the Internet, it is not a surprising statistic. Not surprising, but quite alarming.


Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Julie Falk

The Benefits of Reading

Reading is known to have some obvious benefits, such as improving vocabulary and of course increasing the breadth of knowledge that one has. But recent studies have shown some other less known benefits of reading.

Reading improves your ability to step into another person’s shoes.

While it has been known that reading can put you figuratively in a character’s shoes, recent brain scans using MRI technology have shown that reading a book can “transport you into the body of the protagonist.” This ability to empathize with another person’s experiences is a powerful and important tool that students will use throughout their lives, whether in the professional setting or in their personal lives.

Reading improves your ability to visualize in the same way athletes do.

According to an article on Psychology Today, the act of reading (and more specifically, reading fiction) improves the reader’s proverbial imagination muscle, thus allowing them to create stronger visualizations that are similar to techniques used by athletes. This study conducted by a group from the Department of Biomedical Engineering of the Lerner Research Institute in Ohio shows that visualization can actually improve performance even without actual physical practice. This visualization process is beneficial to students, whether they’re training for athletics or for any other purpose

Reading improves creativity.

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by  Jeff Rhines

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Jeff Rhines

The byproducts of reading, which include using the imagination, learning new vocabulary, grasping new concepts, and exercising the mind, all lead to increased creativity. Understanding a variety of topics allows people to make connections between ideas that otherwise would not exist if it were not for the knowledge and mental strength gained through reading. Creativity leads to out-of-the-box thinking, which is highly valuable in any professional setting.

Reading improves society as a whole

Literacy Partners, a non-profit organization that provides literacy programs in New York, estimates that every dollar spent on improving literacy brings a return of $7.14. Reading increases worker productivity and financial literacy.

How to Get Students to Read

Understanding the value of reading and how it can drastically change a student’s writing skills, speech articulation, and worldly knowledge, we compiled the following list of ways to help overcome your students’ reluctance to reading.

1. Reading Break

Perhaps thanks to bland textbooks with no personality, students often associate reading with boredom and punishment (or maybe it’s just that books fail to win the attention wars with their flashy video game counterparts). That’s why it’s so important to turn reading into a fun activity. Set aside time during class to give students some  reading time as a break from the current lesson. If you allow them to choose any book they’d like, they’ll feel like reading is a source of fun, relaxation, and personal freedom.

2. Read Aloud With Your Students

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by chaim zvi

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by chaim zvi

Reading aloud to your class is a great way to give students a peek into the treasures that await within books. Stories are powerful and as Seth Godin says, great stories succeed because they are able to capture the imagination of large or important audiences. Just the act of introducing them to the story can pique their interest enough to make them want to read. Reading aloud to students also has the added benefit of showing them the relationship between print and speech, to improve student vocabulary, and to introduce them to different styles of writing.

3. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a great way of encouraging your students to read. This can be expressed verbally in the form of compliments or physically in the form of gold stars or prizes. If you are a brave parent, you can even substitute certain chores as a reward for reading. This takes some finessing though, but if done correctly, students will associate reading with pleasure.

4. Organize a School Book Fair

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Pratham Books

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Pratham Books

Book fairs are fun events that schools host in order to bring the bookstore to students. They are an awesome way to get students excited about reading by giving students the chance to shop for their own books in a store that is tailored to them. The most popular book fairs come from Scholastic, which has hand-selected book selections that include classic children’s stories and contemporary genres.  If your school does not have one, help organize one! Encourage parents to take their students. As a student, I always loved attending book fairs because they were full of books that were made for me. Parents can further help the cause by giving their students with a book allowance.

5. Play a Pre-Read Guessing Game

This is a technique that English teachers use to teach students in countries like Korea, Japan, and China to prepare them for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Before reading a single word, teachers can ask students questions about the book cover as well as any illustrations and photography provided, and have students guess what they think happens in the book. Encourage students to be imaginative — the more “far out” the better.  This incites enthusiasm and curiosity about the story, and gets students thinking critically. In general, observing graphics and photography as clues is useful in order to enhance student understanding of the reading topic. Use this correctly and students will beg you to read the book to find out what happens.

6. Reading Race

This is a fun game in which teachers divide the class into teams of 3 or 4. Challenge each student to read as many books as possible by the end of the term. Students should submit a proof of reading, such as a short book report or a signed slip from their parent. By the end of the term, the group with the most books read wins the prize. (More books, maybe?)

7. Read How-To Books

The best way to get students to read is to encourage them to read what they are already interested in. Like Dale Carnegie says, “Bait the hook to suit the fish.” One fantastic option is reading how-to books on a subject they want to know more about. Kids often want to help with cooking, learning magic tricks, or getting  upper hand on video games. In addition to teaching through intrinsic motivation, this technique also helps students become better self-learners, and even entrepreneurial in their approach to life. Have an interest or goal? Great! Go find a book and learn about it!

8. Write a Book Together

Having played basketball most of my life, I understand how difficult it is to do what most professional athletes do in the NBA, and thus have an elevated level of respect for them. In this same way, writing a book will help students understand the work that goes into creating stories and can enhance their level of appreciation for books. Students can express their creativity, learn new vocabulary, and design everything from the book cover, flaps, to the size.

Start a Reading Revolution!

Author Neil Gaiman once said that “A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” While he was likely talking about the remarkable and awesome way in which books put you in a different world while reading, there is a second interpretation. Reading is a way to reach goals and achieve transcendence. Reading is not only an important skill for students’ personal and professional success, but it is also a significant and impactful activity that elevates a whole society. Use these fun and creative tips to convince your students to read and change their lives.


  1. Lili Thomson

    March 30, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Excellent article. I can’t agree more. It is our responsibility to get children love books and read as much as possible.

  2. Sharon

    April 1, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Great article. I agree, as a teacher, I find it’s always a challenge to motivate my students to read. I am ever searching for new ways to spark their interest. That was my impetus in creating The Ultimate Reading Quest for my students. It teaches students about different reading genres, lets them connect with authors and find books that are perfectly suited to their reading taste. Check it out at : http://questteaching.com/wordpress/ultimate-reading-quest/ Let your students solve the mystery message and win books, too!

  3. Becky Villareal

    April 11, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    One thing I have done with my students is have them keep a journal. For social studies it was a civil war journal with them actually living during that time period. At the early childhood level, have an author’s chair where they write their own books and read them to the class. This all begins with reading to them each and every day and giving them the freedom to pick their own book to read.
    They’ll surprise you!

    • Leah Levy

      April 20, 2015 at 8:59 am

      Love this idea, Becky. Thanks for sharing!