Motivating Struggling Middle & High School Students to Read


The first step in helping struggling readers to read better is to get them to read more. Middle and high school readers often need an extra motivational push to get them to invest the time with books they need to improve their reading. With the right strategies, parents and teachers can motivate young people to read more and lead them to become strong, successful readers.


  • When teenagers can choose books they want to read, they are more likely to keep reading. A variety of genres, topics and popular writers, covering multiple reading levels in fiction and nonfiction can offer something for everyone. For example, sports books might include novels by Dan Gutman, Mike Lupica or John Feinstein, biographies of popular athletes and record books. Parents can show them sections of book stores and libraries where books their kids might want to choose are found.

Social Motivation

  • Teens like to fit in with their peers. Novels like the Harry Potter books, the Twilight series and the Hunger Games trilogy become popular when middle and high school students see other kids reading them. Adults can encourage students to recommend titles in whole class or small group discussions. Parents and teachers can keep an eye on current book trends for this age group and expose struggling readers to bestselling titles. For example, Jeff Kinney's humorous books about middle school might engage a struggling seventh grader.

Motivational Activities

  • To motivate students to read textbook material, teachers can structure reading activities to spark interest and encourage comprehension. Before the reading, teachers can engage students by calling on relevant background knowledge even struggling readers might possess. Using a KWL chart, students list what already know about a topic in the K column and what they want to learn in the W column. After reading, students add what they have learned under the L column. Teachers can also stimulate curiosity by previewing the text with the class, then asking students to write questions they expect the chapter will answer. Finding answers will give students a purpose for reading.

Motivation and Reading Skill

  • Middle and high school students may be more motivated to read if they get help breaking down the barriers to good comprehension. Struggling readers benefit most from one-on-one attention with adults at home and school. When an adult reads aloud to a teen and pauses to share her thinking as she reads, the young person gets a model for good readers' sense of text. Then, the adolescent can read aloud to the adult and share his thinking. The collaboration demystifies comprehension for the student and as reading skills improve, the motivational barriers start to melt away.


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