Hooking Disengaged Readers

June 6, 2024
This week I wanted to chat about engaging disengaged readers. Those kids that stare out the window during free reading time, the ones who play up during DEAR time, the students who fiddle on the shared reading mat, the ones who never fill out their home readers. The children who don’t have strong literacy skills, or who haven’t yet found their type of book to get them hooked. The child with short attention spans, or the child who are more interested in something else than reading.
I’m sure I don’t have to sell the importance of reading to you. As a passionate reader, or a teacher, or an outback educator, as a librarian or parent, or bookstagrammer. The development of vocabulary, language skills, attachment to care-giver, positive association with books, school outcomes, life outcomes, empathy, knowledge.
So how do you hook disengaged readers?
  • Get to know your child/student: play ‘getting to know you games’ like ‘Would you rather?’ or ‘Stand up if…’. Those two examples have been trialed in primary AND secondary school with success… the big kids are still just kids at heart no matter how many layers of ‘cool’ they smother on or trauma they’ve endured.
  • Provide a range of texts so that students can see themselves mirrored, see pathways through their challenges, and see into the window of other’s lives and experiences. Texts could include phonics readers, graphic novels, comics, middle readers (like Black Cockatoo– an easy to access book with more mature themes), picture books, poems etc.
  • Provide texts with protagonists who face similar issues as your reader.
  • Take the pressure off- give students the chance to ‘opt out’ of whole class read alouds, highlight sections you you want your child to read to, provide audio or large print options.
  • Make reading fun. Point out the funny stuff, stop to ask students if they’ve ever done or felt the same way as a character, play a game of Kahoot based on the book.
  • Model good reading practices- let students/children ‘catch’ you reading. Talk about an amazing book you just read. Go to the library with your child or class.
  • Reduce screen time- is there a time that is your tech go-to? Like after lunch calm down time with Cosmic Yoga… could that be a shared reading one day a week? Or maybe at home you resort to afternoon telly on a Friday after school that could be family reading time. Aim to cut out just one tech heavy time in your week to swap with a book.
  • Check where the resistance lies… maybe your disengaged reader can’t actually see the words (glasses or dyslexia check), maybe they missed out on some specific phonics instructions due to COVID or floods or family issues and just need some gaps filled in their knowledge, maybe they associate reading with a negative memory of being singled out at school and avoid trying to show they are ‘dumb’ so avoid reading all together, maybe they enjoy other things and need books on those things to make them prioritise reading at all. Ask them, observe them, support them.



This year I also have two books coming out that might be the perfect books to hook your disengaged readers: 
🎾Backyard Tennis (Lothian)
Tennis looks a little different for kids in the outback: the red dirt, the animals in the bushes and trees, the courts and net and grandstand. As the children hit around the ball, more and more neighbours pop their heads over to see what all the excitement is about, before taking the game to the whole community. This book shows the importance of friendship, community and sports. And serves as a great opportunity for young readers to learn about diversity, difference and First Nations lived experience. Each of the characters is a real life person from the outback- and one of my little relatives. This book can be read as a stand-alone text, or as the sequel to Backyard Footy. It is available for pre-order now for release in July. AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER at your local bookstore (I always advocate to support local or Blak first) or HERE.
🏉Kimberley Kickers: Jy goes for gold (Harper Collins)
This is the first middle reader book in the Kimberley Kickers series with Harper Collins that showcases the real-life outback First Nations AFL and AFLW talent from Kimberley Western Australia. Best bit? This book is perfect for those who love AFL and those who don’t! The books are fun biographies of life growing up in the Kimberley: the bull-rides, camping trips, bush walks, swimming in ancient waterholes, hunting, fishing, rodeos, mustering and more. We get an insight into where these deadly players got their skills and edge. But also the challenges they had to overcome to play AFL and AFLW at an elite level. This book will be perfect for bookshelves in homes with readers aged 7-12, as well as primary libraries and classrooms.  The first book follows Gold Coast Suns star Jy Farrar and is available for pre-order and is released in September. AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER at your local bookstore (always support local first) or HERE.

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