How To Tackle the Dilemma: "I Don't Like Reading. Books are Boring."

Four questions for students to ponder in order to help them choose the "right book."

By Mollie Moore

young boy reading

"I hate reading," "Books are boring," "Can't we just watch the movie?" As teachers, we have heard these remarks, or some variation of them, every year we have been in the classroom. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way. In my experience, children who don't like independent reading fall into two categories. They are either trying to read a book that is too difficult for them to comprehend, or they are reading a book about a subject that doesn't interest them. As we seek to improve our students' reading levels, and to instill in them a the habit of daily reading, we will find the most success if they are reading a book that they can actually comprehend and enjoy. However, helping each individual in your class to find a book that falls into both of these categories can be challenging. One way to streamline the process of individual book selection is to ask each learner to spend some time thinking about the following four questions:

1. Am I Able to Read Most, if Not All, the Words?

One easy trick to teach pupils is the five-fingers test. He opens the selected book and reads for two minutes. As he reads, he raises a finger for each word that he doesn't know. If he raises four or more fingers, the book is too difficult for him. If he raises up zero or one finger, the book is too easy. If it's too easy, it does not necessarily mean that he should not read the book; however, reading books that merit zero or one finger should not be a continual practice.  

2. Can I Read it Fluently?

If pupils can read a book fluently, typically that means they can comprehend the book fairly well. When someone can read a book smoothly, he is more likely to enjoy the book, as well as comprehend it. Often, readers feel uncomfortable reading aloud. Even giving them this directive to test out a books suitability will provide a little more practice reading aloud. The more they practice, the more comfortable they become. If readers are in the library, encourage them to whisper as they try out their books.

3. Can I Comprehend this Book?

After they have done the five-finger test, and read the book aloud, they should have a fairly good idea as to the content of the book. The next question is, "Do I understand this book?" If during those two readings, the pupils did not get the gist of the story, the book may be too complex for him. This question can take a little longer to answer, but it is a vital question for them to answer before they progress too far into the book. If they aren't sure, have them reread a section, which should help clarify any confusion.

4. Am I Interested in this Book?

It is hard at times to answer this question. However, this question is essential to the current generation of children because their attention spans are shorter. The tend to give up on books more easily. Allowing readers to choose their own books helps with this issue. Encouraging them to read books written by an author that they have already enjoyed can be a good starting point. Looking over the cover, the title, and chapter titles to form a prediction can also be beneficial. For books that have pictures, ask them if the pictures capture their attention. I have also found success in guiding students to lists of award-winning books. These awards include the Newbery Medal, the Caldecott Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Theodor Seuss Giesel Award, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. Another good resource is AR Book Finder. It provides lists of award-winning books state-wide and nation-wide, as well as books that are popular with other kids. Their advance search also allows students to search for books by their reading range, their interest level, and categories of interest.

More Suggestions to Encourage Reading

  • Develop an incentive program. This program can be in your own classroom or with an organization. Either way, make sure that you celebrate their successes.
  • Have classmates share about the books they are reading. This allows others to hear about other books in which they might be interested. It also give them the opportunity to practice oral reports.
  • Allow pupils to see you, the teacher, reading. This shows that reading is important to you, and will likely motivate them to read.


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