How to engage with "aliterate" readers

Published on: 29 January 2018 Author: Anne Cassidy

Aliterate readers are students who CAN read but don’t want to. To them, reading is boring and something they associate with schoolwork – so how can you win them over? Try these top tips from author Anne Cassidy...

To some students, reading is too passive, with a book feeling like a long lecture. Teenagers want to do things, be part of conversations, to have some control, have a say. Sitting on your own, reading a book, is not usually the first thing these kids want to do.

There’s nothing wrong with studying books in class for exams; it’s necessary for the study of literature and about how language works. But private reading should be something different, and although it should be promoted by teachers and parents, it should never be likened to homework.

So, in order to get these students excited about reading, we have to promote it in a different way and make reading an active activity. Here's how parents and teachers can make this happen:

Reading: dos and don'ts

  • DO get kids talking about the books they’ve read: in registration, in small book groups, in pairs in English lessons. Lots of noisy talk; describing, evaluating, recommending, dissing.
  • DO have book groups within form classes: sharing books, swapping books, having mini book awards. February’s winner is [anything by Anne Cassidy!]...
  • DO have a class library. Let students handle and look at books, and try to guess what they’re about. Have a book SPEED DATING event where students explain a book in ONE minute. See who wants to read it.
  • DO get kids to do a book swap with a family member. Stress that it doesn’t matter if you give up on each other’s books. Discuss why.
  • DO have fun with books. Every term, ask kids to donate books they don’t want. Sell them for 10p each for charity. Make it a fun lunchtime activity.

  • DON’T associate reading for pleasure with schoolwork – no tests or forced book reviews. Imagine how many books adults would read if they HAD TO WRITE about it afterwards.
  • DON’T tell students that reading books is GOOD for them. Cabbage and prunes are good for them but you’ll never get students to eat them.

Finally – be upbeat about the books your students/children do read and not disappointed by the fact that they haven’t moved on to Dickens or Orwell.

I had a girl in one of my classes who read Bad Girls by Jacqueline Wilson over and over again. She was happy with it for a long time, until one day she asked me if there were any other books by that writer. 'Funny you should ask', I said…

Anne Cassidy is the author of over 40 novels for children and teenagers. 

Her latest novel No Shame (Hot Key Books) is out now.

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