Engaging “High/Low” Readers with Online Resources

This post was originally published in Nick Glass’ monthly column for Curriculum Connections, an e-newsletter published by School Library Journal in partnership with TeachingBooks.net. Subscribe to this free newsletter here.

I was asked how online, multimedia resources about books and authors can engage students with reading challenges—specifically those students who are reading below grade level and crave high-interest, fast-paced titles. While there may be no one prescriptive answer to that question, educators have a variety of approaches at their disposal to interest these reluctant and struggling readers.

In this post I’ve selected a sampling of TeachingBooks.net materials on high-interest titles with low reading levels that students will find enjoyable and accessible. These multimedia resources will enliven book discussions as they honor students’ interests.

If you have experience using online materials to engage struggling readers, I’d love to hear about them. Email me at nick@teachingbooks.net.


1. In written and video interviews author Sharon M. Draper reveals her approach to captivating readers

Sharon M. Draper, the 1997 National Teacher of the Year and an award-winning author, clearly knows how to capture her readers’ interests—on the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

As the author and former teacher notes in this in-depth TeachingBooks.net written interview, “I used to have a big sign in my classroom that said, ‘The “B” word is not allowed in here. I will not allow you to be bored.’ Similarly, I won’t allow me to be boring. So there was always action and energy in my classroom, and I try to do that with my books.

“I decided to write Tears of a Tiger (S & S, 1994) in a multi-genre format—with diaries, letters, and conversations. That immediately erased the ‘B’ factor so that readers are involved in the story, the plot, and the characters from the first page to the end. If you don’t like letters, you can read essays. If you don’t like essays, you can read poems.”


2.  Book Guides designed to spark conversations about high-interest, low reading-level books

Orca Book Publishers of Canada specializes in well-written books for reluctant readers. Their collection of online book guides effectively supports discussions among older struggling readers and a deeper reading of text. Topics addressed in the guides include ethics, decision-making, and plot development. Click above to access 150-plus Orca Book Publishing discussion guides.


3.  Plan discussions about Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks

Seedfolks (HarperCollins, 1997) is included on numerous reading lists and has been selected for many middle school “One-Book” programs. The novel presents thirteen, first-person vignettes that describe the transformation of a vacant lot in a downtown Cleveland, OH neighborhood into a community garden. These novel units will assist readers as they anticipate plot advances and explore character development.


4.  Baseball resources for summer reading

As many educators can testify, sports titles have sparked the interest of many a non-reader. I know that if it wasn’t for books and magazine articles about baseball, I wouldn’t be a successful reader today.

In the spirit of summer and that great American pastime, baseball, this collection of online materials offers a variety of book-related resources on the sport for kindergarten through grade 12. Highlights include a video of Sharon Robinson reminiscing about her father, Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson, and discussing her award-winning baseball titles; a handful of guides to John Ritter’s The Boy Who Saved Baseball (Philomel, 2003); and an audio excerpt of Mike Lupica’s Heat (Philomel, 2006).


Posted by Nick Glass, Founder & Principal of TeachingBooks.net

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