Prince of Pirates
by Philip Caveney

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The introduction by Alec Williams provides lots of handy tips on getting everyone reading!


15. Ideas for struggling readers

  • The books in this list don’t have to be read independently. Many titles in this list lend themselves to reading aloud and sharing, so that struggling readers still have the experience of stories. Although 70% of primary teachers in the Teachers as Readers study [Word document] said that they had read aloud to children during the last month, does this happen enough at secondary level?
  • Be careful to distinguish between so-called ‘reluctant readers’ and those with genuine reading difficulties. Students may not use your library for both reasons, and although the situations sometimes overlap (and some materials may be useful for both) it’s important to identify individual circumstances.
  • Poetry is a good way to give readers confidence. Short, lighter poems can be quick to read and memorise, and many students enjoy reciting.
  • Look at Dyslexia Action’s criteria for ‘dyslexia-friendly books’. Many of these qualities are useful for struggling readers in general, for instance:
    • The story is of interest to the reader and relevant to his/her age
    • Short sentences and paragraphs, which help to maintain interest and encourage a feeling of progress
    • Wide margins and plenty of white space, to encourage good reading flow and pace
    • Right margins unjustified, making it easier to distinguish between those lines read and those yet to be read
    • Books that have pictures or headings and other signpostings where appropriate as this helps navigation, and to break up text into manageable chunks
    • Books that are printed in a clear font that is kerned so that the letters are easily distinguishable, and in a print size of 11pt
    • Books that are well-structured and easy to follow.
  • Involve struggling readers in book-related activities where reading is not as critical - helping make short radio programmes about reading, to podcast in and beyond school, compiling PowerPoint presentations about the library, or providing illustrations for displays.
  • Encourage poorer readers to be involved in using video cameras (filming dramatised versions of books, readers talking about books, author visits, adverts for the library, etc.), and using still digital cameras to photograph ‘readers with their favourite books’.
  • Remember to include everyone’s reading choices at assemblies or tutor time, including the shorter or simpler choices of some readers. These could be anonymous, if students feel embarrassed, but should still be there, to make others realise the range of reading.
  • Involve SEN students as ‘Book Consultants’ in the scheme run by Barrington Stoke, which uses students to test new manuscripts, and offers books and incentives. (See Barrington Stoke’s new ‘Solo’ and ‘Go’ series, too.)
  • Don’t forget storytelling, either by guests or school staff. Traditional tales often address powerful issues that contemporary fiction would shy away from, and there are some great ghost stories which will appeal to the horror story fans.
  • Start a Storytelling Club - they can often appeal to less able readers, and give them confidence. Jane Hislam’s ‘Storytelling Clubs in Schools’, published by the Society for Storytelling has ideas, and recent SLN posts have described personal experiences of this.

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Department for Children, Schools and FamiliesSchool Library AssociationReading for Life

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