Motivating struggling readers

What is a struggling reader

How do you motivate a struggling reader


ask for help

Teachers and their students benefit from additional support. Consultation and collaboration with the reading specialist, special education teacher, and speech and language pathologist can provide information and teaching strategies to differentiate instruction for students with varied reading skills


Support word recognition needs

Many students struggle with multisyllabic words. Instruction in word recognition may include teaching the six syllable types in the English language and the rules for syllabication to help students break unknown words into manageable parts.  For example, students can “attack” the word replace by dividing it into an open syllable (re), which keeps the long vowel sound, followed by a vowel-consonant-e syllable type (place).


Select appropriate materials

Teachers of struggling readers must take care to select materials that are age appropriate and that students can read fluently enough to comprehend. Unfortunately, many content area texts are written at reading levels above grade level. Because many students read below grade level, this is a significant problem.
Struggling readers need to feel good about their abilities not worse.  Selecting appropriate texts will improve struggling readers attitudes about reading.  


Embrace more flexible ideas about reading materials

Getting struggling readers to read is a challenge. Students value choice in their reading materials , so making preferred reading materials available will increase the amount of time and effort students are willing to spend engaged with text. Nontraditional and non-narrative texts, such as books based on movies or television shows, topical magazines, and comic books, all provide opportunities to read and learn.


embrase technology

Students also are highly motivated by opportunities to access and present content using technology. When reading isn’t perceived as fun, or it is too difficult, students read less, further widening the gap in learning


embrase the our social nature

Data consistently reveals that children place a high priority on reading books they hear about from others like friends, parents, and teachers. Social interaction is a primary factor in literacy development.  

Encouraging students engage socially around reading will create reading motivation.  


Prior experiences with books

Prior experiences with books is one of the most consistently mentioned factors related to motivation to read. Children described reading books that had been previously read aloud by parents or teachers, reading books they had seen on television and in the movies, and reading series books that provided a particular kind of repeated reading experience.

So start reading great books aloud.  

@ home

Research has shown that supportive home environments foster motivation for reading, which leads to more frequent voluntary reading, which improves reading achievement. Many collaborative interventions involving home and school have enhanced the reading motivation of struggling readers as they enhanced comprehension.


  • FACT: Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher.
  • FACT: Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.
  • FACT: By making 15 minutes of daily reading aloud the new parenting standard, it is possible change the face of education in this country.

learn more


  • Baker, L. (2003). The role of parents in motivating struggling readers. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 19(1), 87-106. doi:10.1080/10573560308207
  • Cathy Newman Thomas, & Jade Wexler. (2007). 10 ways to teach and support struggling adolescent readers. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 44(1), 22.
  • Codling, R. M., Gambrell, L. B., & Palmer, B. M. (1994). In their own words: what elementary students have to say about motivation to read. The Reading Teacher, 48(2), 176+. Retrieved from
  • Gambrell, L. B. (2011). Motivation. Reading Teacher, 64(6)
  • "Read Aloud - National 15 Minutes Movement." Read Aloud - National 15 Minutes Movement. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2013.