When Kids Just Don’t Want to Read: One Teacher’s Approach to Engaging Readers

Daniel Mark Pedroza

“Read, read, and read more!” This is what students see and hear year after year. Some students even wonder why teachers, especially English as a second language (ESL) teachers, insist so much on reading. Year after year, I encounter the same attitude and the same struggle during conversations with my colleagues, “How do I engage students to read, especially those who have little or no desire to read?” Over the course of my career teaching dozens of different classes, I have had to motivate and encourage hundreds of thousands of struggling and reluctant readers to simply sit back and read. But how?

The 2019-2020 school year has been dynamic, in terms of my students’ range of English proficiency, strengths, and needs. I have had to adapt and refine my approach to motivating and engaging readers. After trying a variety of different strategies, I found success with introducing competition into my classroom.

Engaging Readers Requires Multiple Styles of Teaching

Let’s look at an example of how I go about engaging readers, especially the reluctant ones, in my classroom. I had a student with a below grade-level Lexile® level at the beginning of the year and an attitude that was not going to help him progress. “Achieve3000 is boring,” he told me.

I explained to him how the program was going to work throughout the year and how he could earn points by completing lessons—reading non-fiction articles, answering multiple-choice questions, and writing responses to text-based questions that require students to cite evidence from the text. Unfortunately, this gamification didn’t seem to be initiating any increased interest. But when I let him know about how he could win an actual prize every month, he quickly became engaged.

I explained how Achieve3000 Literacy delivered content at his specific reading level, and that he would be competing with other students on an even playing field. Every student was not judged by their score, but their amount of growth. Because the leveled content and lessons make the concepts and reading practice available to all students, everyone has the same opportunity to grow. And then, when he learned that he could win some school spirit wear, the race was on. He was eager to read and his grades. He would ask me about his gains weekly. At first, his gains were gradual and had only gone up 35 Lexile points, but after a few months, he had increased his Lexile level by 125 points. I explained to him that this was quite a bit of growth and that he was doing a fantastic job.

Progress Leads to Student Growth

This formerly struggling reader is now eager to read and is no longer asking the question, “why should I read?” Instead, he has a defined purpose and a goal. Even after his accomplishments, he continues to strive to excel and score his best. He still has a long road ahead, but he is armed with the motivation to persevere. Achieve3000 brings differentiated instruction to every teacher, so we can better serve every student. We can find new ways to encourage students in new ways. Ultimately, Achieve3000 Literacy brings success to so many who may not have imagined it.

To discover other ways of engaging readers in your classroom, check out our other literacy resources.