After many years of struggling with literacy in school settings, many students become reluctant readers by the time they are in high school.
Two of the most important factors in choosing a novel for these students are:
- Will the student be able to read the subject matter?
- How does the student learn best?
Visual learners generally do poorly with material read aloud only,” says Julie Terlep, a high school librarian in Orland Park, IL. “Students struggling with decoding may comprehend better if listening to the book while reading along.” There are those students who enjoy acting out chapters or scenes from books while the book is read by someone else, and in some cases, even music can be worked in as a reinforcement learning tool. Then there are the graphic novels available for readers at all ages, all the way into adulthood. These “picture books” hold interest longer and increase a student’s vocabulary without causing some of the frustrations struggling readers often experience.
With all of this in mind, here are some top book suggestions that will grab the attention of reluctant readers.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is especially good for teaching in the special education classroom setting as “its main character, Percy Jackson, learns that his own learning disabilities are what makes him different and powerful,” says Julie Terlep, literacy librarian at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, IL.
Piecing Me Together by acclaimed author Renee Watson offers a powerful story about Jade, a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it is trying to break her. Jade is tired of being singled out as someone who needs help, someone people want to fix. Jade wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her hope. Maybe there are some things she could show other women about understanding the world and finding ways to be real, to make a difference.
Same but Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express by Holly Robinson Peete, is a great nonfiction read about being a teen with a neurodiverse brain. Being a teen is hard enough. But when you have autism–or when your brother or sister is struggling with your neurodiversity–life can be challenging. This powerful book is based on the up-close-and-personal experiences of teenagers Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, Rodney, who has autism. The book explores the funny, painful and unexpected aspects of teen autism, while daring to address issues nobody talks about.
The Hate You Give is written by award-winning author Angie Thomas. This page-turner is action-packed and keeps any reader engaged. It is especially great as a read-aloud when incorporated into a class discussion. Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.