Helping Reluctant Readers in a Common Core World

Young ReaderPlenty of research tells us that the key to getting reluctant readers to read is finding something that interests them. Graphic novels and other high-interest texts can help spark an interest for a reluctant reader. But how do you harness that interest in a Common Core world where kids are expected to read and write using complex texts? It will take targeted support, says reading specialist Beth Burke. In her LibrarySparks column, Burke spells out 4 ways to help reluctant readers reach Common Core objectives.

1. Balancing informational and literary texts.

With Common Core State Standards (CCSS), students will need to read a lot, and they are expected to read a balance of fiction and nonfiction materials. To turn reluctant readers into budding bookworms, offer a wide variety of materials at varying readability levels. Many reluctant readers, particularly boys, would prefer informational texts. Try historical fiction to capitalize on their interests. (CCSS RI.7, RL.7, RI.9, RL.9; AASL 4.1.2)

2. Climbing the staircase of complexity.

Under the CCSS, students should be reading materials on a variety of levels, from comfortable to complex. For reluctant readers, complex texts can be particularly intimidating. You can’t expect them to dive right in. Try selecting several texts on a topic at varying levels, and offer reluctant readers a choice. An easier text will help them build confidence and background knowledge that they can connect to new learning in the complex text. Once they have read and understood the easier text, challenge them to read something that is a bit more complicated. As students dig into the more complex texts (moving up the staircase of text complexity), they can use what they’ve already read for support. You can also scaffold instruction by offering more support (modeling or guidance) when students read more complex texts. (CCSS RI.10, RL.10; AASL 4.1.2)

3. Basing answers on the text.

When students answer questions about the topic of the text, they should use information from the text. To help the reluctant reader, encourage students to orally rehearse ideas about texts by talking to other students before committing ideas to writing. Research has shown that students who discuss their ideas first have much stronger, more organized writing. (CCSS RI.1, RL.1; AASL 3.1.2, 3.1.3, 4.1.3)

4. Analyzing and synthesizing information from multiple sources.

The CCSS expect that students use multiple sources, rather than relying on one single text to back up their claims. For the reluctant reader, this may be akin to torture. Have them use one text and another, more appealing source, such as a movie, website or graphic novel. (CCSS RI.7, RL.7, RI.9, RL.9; AASL 1.1.6)

Additional Resources

  • LibrarySparks provides engaging children’s activities, book recommendations and ready-to-use resources from top experts.


Liz Bowie

Liz Bowie

Marketing Content Manager at Demco, Inc.
Liz is the Marketing Content Manager for Demco. Her background includes editorial management and product development of innovative and time-saving tools for schools and libraries, with an emphasis on Common Core, literacy and math. The products she and her team have developed, including classroom games, learning centers and professional development resources, have garnered 46 industry awards for excellence in education. Liz is passionate about promoting literacy through her work and the work of others. If you are interested in sharing your ideas and programming tips on Demco’s Ideas and Inspiration blog or have ideas for topics you’d like to see covered, contact Liz at