How to spark the interest of that reluctant reader who’d sharpen every pencil in the school before they’d open a book? Well first, don’t make them read a demoralisingly long ‘chapter book’. And second, spellbind them with proper stories – ideally involving ancient magic, hideous monsters, dwarfs and giants. Not Harry Potter, but important old myths and legends. And explain that although we find these adventures in books, they came down through the generations orally, before print – or kindles. Everyone, whatever their age, listened to the storyteller. I’ve found some older struggling readers are embarrassed to be read to (and what a shame that is), but relax into the story if they see it as a respectable tradition. Soon they’re clamouring for another instalment of Rhiannon on her horse that no man can catch, one-eyed Odin, the trickster Loki, Sita and Rama, Theseus and Ariadne, Lancelot and Guinevere. Choose versions with evocative illustrations and muscular, direct language (try the Norse sagas for this – I like Kevin Crossley-Holland’s retellings), and dynamic tales with a touch of blood and gore, a clear message, a dash of humour, strong heroes and heroines (oh, that’s all of them…) and your reluctant readers might just want to take the book home. Then watch their imaginations soar.
Pic from Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love