Reluctant Reader? Get ‘Em Hooked!

Reading is one of my favorite things to do. Life is busy, and I don’t always have time to read for pleasure, but I try to read a little bit before bed every night. I have lots of favorite books and remember reading experiences throughout my life fondly (Remember in 6th grade when Mrs. Collins read us The Witches and dyed her teeth blue?!? I do!).

Despite my affinity for reading and love of books, both of my children have many, many things they would rather do than read. In fact, getting them to read is pretty tough (disclaimer: both of them have language-based learning disabilities that make reading hard), but I have found a couple strategies that work to get them reading, even when they would rather play video games.

1. Let them read what they want – Interest and engagement are keys to reading motivation. I no longer try to control WHAT my kids read, I am just happy if they do it. Graphic novels provide support for reluctant and/or struggling readers because they have pictures which tell the story along with the text. If the book happens to be silly or gross (ahem, Captain Underpants), my boys will enjoy it even more! Many parents and teachers disapprove of books that seem inappropriate in our adult eyes (guilty as charged), but kids LOVE them. Drew’s (8 years old) current favorite: the Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey.

2. Don’t worry about “levels” – As a second grade teacher, I admit to being overly concerned about kids finding the “right fit” book at all times. The teacher in me knows how important it is for kids to read books that are not too easy and not too challenging so they can make the most reading growth; however, the mom in me knows that if kids are INTERESTED they will read. So, while Dog Man is technically too difficult for my younger son right now, he actually WANTS to read it. For a kid who doesn’t like to read, motivation is more important than level.

3. There are many things to read – Don’t forget that there are many kinds of text. Magazine subscriptions are often a great way to get kids reading. Both of my boys get excited when their Lego magazines come in the mail each month, and my older son loves reading Sports Illustrated for Kids. Does your child love Superheroes? Get him/her comic books! Love to cook? I love to read cookbooks. Start with your child’s passions and go from there.

4. Utilize assistive technology – While I do want my children to read print books as much as possible, there are many ways to enjoy books using assistive technology. Audiobooks and websites, such as BookFlix or Learning Ally, allow struggling readers to access text that they cannot decode, but they can understand if they hear it. This provides the opportunity to listen to a harder book than the child can actually read. Nate (10 years old) loves to listen to non-fiction books using BookFlix, which reads the book out loud to him while he follows along.

5. Read to them – Similar to audiobooks or websites, I can read a more challenging book to my children than they can decode independently. Unlike using the computer, though, reading aloud to my children provides us a time to cuddle up, put the technology away, and share something together that we enjoy. Drew, my younger son, and I have been reading the Little Legends series and we’re currently reading the fourth book. He reminds me every night that it’s time to read, and he is disappointed when we have to stop. For a kid who doesn’t like to read, this is HUGE! My older son, Nate, is a harder sell. He doesn’t like to sit still, especially when books are involved! He does not care to read fantasy books with us, but he is obsessed with all things sports. I read Magic Tree House: A Big Day for Baseball (about Jackie Robinson) to him, and he was totally captivated by it. When kids are INTERESTED, they will read (or listen, in this case).

I hope these tips and tricks will help you find something for your reluctant reader to enjoy! Have a tip? Leave it in the comments!


It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?


Happy Monday, Readers!

I’m joining Jen Vincent (@mentortexts) of and Kellee Moye (@kelleemoye) and Ricki Ginsberg (@readwithpassion) of on Mondays to round-up what I’ve been reading this week. I hope you’ll join me by adding to the comments!

Today I was supposed to be working on cleaning out my classroom closet at school, but plans changed when my youngest son got sick this morning. We came home instead, which gave me some extra time to do laundry, clean the kitchen, and read!

I’ve been flip-flopping between books this week, which I normally don’t like to do, but I couldn’t help myself.

The first book is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is a adult book that is highly recommended, and one of Oprah’s Book Club picks, but I am sort of struggling through it. Since I’m about 3/4 of the way through it, I am determined to finish it. I am not sure why I’m having trouble staying engaged and interested in the story, because it is very well-written.

When this happens to me, though, I always think about the I-PICK song (Boushey & Moser, 2006) and I start singing in my head, “Interest, interest, why am I reading it?”  It is so, so true that if you are not interested in the story, it is pretty hard to stay focused as a reader. I know I could abandon the book, but I think I will stick with it a little longer.

The other book I’m reading right now is one rising 3rd and 4th graders might enjoy. It is the first book in the Heroes In Training series by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams, called Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom. The series is an updated, kid-friendly version of classic Greek myths. This particular title tells the story of Zeus, Cronus, and the Olympians. The book is told from ten-year-old Zeus’s point of view, which helps young readers understand the story. It is full of action and adventure, as well as a lot of new vocabulary words if you are new to Greek myths! This series seems perfect for readers who like adventure, history, and stories… even if they are far-fetched!


This week, I’ve also been reading a lot of recipes. When it’s summer, I love to make dinner outside on the grill, so I get pretty excited when I get my Bon Appetit in the mail. June’s magazine is usually the grilling edition. I’m thinking about making these salmon burgers this week… what do you think?

If you don’t already get magazines in the mail, think about putting this on your birthday or holiday gift list. It’s fun to get something in the mail each month, and you can find a magazine for pretty much any topic that you are interested in learning more about!

I like cooking magazines best, like Bon Appetit


While Drew gets pretty excited when his new Lego Club magazine arrives…


…and Nate really enjoys his Sports Illustrated Kids magazine.


There’s also National Geographic Kids, Cricket magazine, Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick, Jr. magazine, and many more. Add a magazine to your reading list this week!

What are you reading? Please comment!

Summer Is Here!

Hi there, readers!

How’s your summer so far???

It seems like summer has its arms stretched open wide with possibilities.

I have a lot of lists for summer time:

  • Fun books to read
  • Books to read for learning
  • Things to do around the house
  • Things to do to get ready for my boys’ school next year
  • Things to do to get ready for my school year

But for the first week of summer, I just went to the pool, grilled out, ate watermelon, and relaxed.

How ’bout you? Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve been up to!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


Hi, friends! It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I think I got some insight into young readers this week. I have been trying to read a book for the past few weeks, but I’m just not making a lot of progress. I keep rereading the same chapter over and over. In the meantime, while I am not really reading this book, I find my attention wandering. I am thinking of lots of other things that are happening at home.

The biggest thing that is distracting me right now is that I *think* we are buying a new house (fingers crossed!). So, my reading this week has mostly been furniture catalogs, decorating magazines, and blog posts about the best paint colors to paint your house (who knew there are so many different shades of gray???). I found myself suddenly consumed with all things decorating this week, which is not usually an area of interest for me.

I realized that this is what happens often with kids and reading. When kids are really interested and motivated, they can get hooked on a book, series, or magazine. Often, when kids have a question or wonder, they can get excited about reading to find out the answers. A topic that interests kids can really motivate them to read more. This week I felt like I really understood the importance of interest first-hand!

What have you been reading this week?

Series Books for All!

I was scrolling through Twitter today, catching up on tweets from several education-related conferences this week.

One tweet caught my eye, proclaiming that series books were the perfect way to maximize summer reading. In second grade, series books are a powerful way to get students reading a lot, while improving their comprehension skills. This tweet reminded me of many of my students this year. One worked his way through The Magic Treehouse series all in order (yes, I’m looking at you, B). Another student was so enamored with Junie B. Jones, she read the whole series and then reread her favorites (yes, C, I’m talking about you). Others plowed through all of the Mercy Watson books. Once I brought in the Kingdom of Wrenly series, there was a wait in our classroom library to get these books in their book bins!


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While series books are perfect for younger readers, upon reflection, I realized that I often read series books as an adult reader. I read the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series and couldn’t wait for the next installment. I read all of the Hunger Games. While I didn’t make it through the whole series, I know Miss Leonard has read every Harry Potter, probably more than once.

In addition to reading series books as an adult, I often read books by the same authors. In fact, the Goodreads website sends me emails to let me know when a new book is out by one of my favorite authors, because it knows this tendency of mine. This strategy of picking books by the same author began for me in elementary school when I read all of the Nancy Drew books. In sixth grade, my teacher read The Egypt Game aloud, and I proceeded to read every Zilpha Keatley Snyder book I could get my hands on. Now, I am likely to pick up a new Emily Giffin or Lianne Moriarty book, because I know I’ll enjoy it. I anxiously await new books by Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, Jhumpa Lahiri, or Khaled Hosseini.

So, why are series books so great?

  • We know the characters. They become our friends.
  • We can predict what the characters will do because we know them so well.
  • Series books tend to follow a similar plotline. We know how the book “works.”
  • We want to know what happens next!
  • We always have a new book to read when we’re hooked on a series!

Are you hooked on a series or a favorite author this summer? Why do you like reading these books? Please comment below!

Terrific series books for 2nd and 3rd graders:

  • Cam Jansen
  • Horrible Harry
  • Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot
  • Junie B. Jones
  • Stink
  • Judy Moody
  • Galaxy Zack
  • Black Lagoon
  • Magic Treehouse
  • Ballpark Mysteries
  • Calendar Mysteries
  • Capitol Mysteries
  • A-Z Mysteries
  • The Kingdom of Wrenly
  • The Lunch Lady
  • Dragonmasters
  • My Weird School
  • Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew
  • Ramona Quimby
  • Time Warp Trio
  • Geronimo Stilton
  • The Boxcar Children
  • Who Would Win?

Something Unexpected

When I go on vacation, I usually load up my Kindle with fiction books to read on the plane and while lying on a beach somewhere. Occasionally, I will also download a city guide or travel book to read up on the location we are visiting. This summer, we planned a big family trip to Hawaii. My husband and I went ten years ago on our honeymoon, and we decided to go back for our anniversary, plus our two boys. In preparation for the trip, I packed swimsuits and shorts, my hat and sunglasses, and downloaded several books from my “To Be Read” (TBR) list to enjoy on the very long plane ride.

Because our flight to Honolulu left out of Newark airport, we decided to spend the day in New York City first, since the boys had never been before. We had lunch at Katz’s Deli and dragged the boys all over the city. They deemed it loud, smelly, and hot. They were most impressed by Central Park, but overall, were not big fans of one of my favorite places. In the afternoon, they decided to check out the hotel pool with my husband, and I stayed in the room for some peace and quiet. Rather than pick up my Kindle to read, a travel magazine on the hotel night table caught my eye, and I picked it up for some light reading.

The magazine had several feature articles about exotic locations, but a short article profiling a Hawaiian chef named Ed Kenney caught my eye. I liked his story of working at some big name restaurants before deciding to open his own in a sleepy little town in Oahu where he lives with his family. Then, after the first restaurant became successful, adding two more.

Without really knowing where these places were in relation to where we were staying, I grabbed my phone and jotted down the names of his restaurants, as well as some of the other restaurants in the area Chef Kenney recommended. When we arrived in Hawaii, I looked up the restaurants again and figured out that the town was close to several sights we wanted to check out on our first day in Honolulu. After a beautiful early morning snorkeling at Hanuma Bay, we drove to Ed Kenney’s casual Kaimuki Superette for a terrific lunch.

“How did you find this place?” my husband asked, surprised at my knowledge of local restaurant gems.

“Oh, I read about it,” I happily replied.

Reading does take you places. I usually plan what I want to read next, but sometimes, reading something unexpected has delicious results.

What have you read lately that helped you, surprised you, or took you somewhere new?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. #IMWAYR

I recently went on vacation and finished two middle grade (4th-6th grade) novels that I had been very excited to read, and they did not disappoint. After I finished, I was unsure of what to read next. Looking at the list of books on my Kindle, nothing really jumped out at me. I had several choices and actually started a few different books before settling on one that hooked me.

The reason I ended up sticking with this book is because I recently read that it was going to be made into a movie. I always have to read the book before I see the movie! After reading a few children’s books recently, this one is a grown-up novel. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman is about a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make a choice that ends up having far-reaching effects. On my Kindle, I’m 90% through the story, having been glued to it for the past few days. The book definitely makes you think about the choices you make in life and how they affect others (and your own life, too). I’m pretty excited to see the movie now, which comes out in September.


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Another wonderful book which is coming to theaters very soon is Roald Dahl’s The BFG. My students know how much I love Roald Dahl. We have read Matilda and The Witches for read alouds, and the children always love them. I love them because Roald Dahl’s characters are wonderfully fun to read out loud.

The BFG comes out in theaters in July, and since the movie is never as good as the book (in my humble opinion), I think almost Third Graders and their parents may want to read this one together before seeing the movie. What do you think? Happy reading!


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It’s Monday! What are you reading today?