Engagement as a Reading Intervention

What would happen if, rather than focusing on teaching reading strategies, we focused instead on getting students engaged?

Peter Johnston provides this lead to one of the best blog posts I have read. Titled Reducing Instruction, Increasing Engagement, he describes a group of 8th graders who were given edgy fiction to read and discuss with peers during school. It seemed more like a book club instead of 7th Hour English. At the end of the year, assessments revealed that these students, with only one to three copies of each text, scored very well on achievement tests. At least as important, student behaviors decreased, trust among peers increased, and they reported being more happy.

Shortly after discovering this post on Stenhouse’s blog, I found out that my school could not host our computer-based after school reading intervention program for 4th and 5th grade students this year. Instead of canceling it all together, we are attempting to simulate the same set up that Peter describes. We are going to purchase limited copies of age-appropriate, high interest books. The only expectation we have for students is they show up, they read, and they share what they are reading with their peers in a way they prefer most. No tests. No book reports. Just lots of reading and enjoyment.

The adults must also think this looks like fun, as several staff members have already signed up to facilitate this reading intervention/book club. My reading resource teacher and ELL aide are waiting patiently for their purchase order to arrive so they can go to our favorite book store, Book Look in Plover, WI, to pick out the reading materials.

My question to you is, what books would you recommend for 4th and 5th grade reluctant readers?

Please share your suggestions in the comments. My interventionists look forward to your recommendations!

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

12 thoughts on “Engagement as a Reading Intervention”

  1. Here are some books my 4th graders love:

    The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Fake Mustache by Tom Angelberger
    Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
    The Underland Chronicles series by Suzanne Collins (more age appropriate than The Hunger Games
    All of Roald Dahl’s books
    Wonder by RJ Palascio

    Good Luck!


  2. Here are some suggestions of series my reluctant 4th grade readers love: Babymouse, Weirder School, Stink, Judy Moody, Junie B, Black Lagoon ch. books, Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot, Smile, the Lunch Lady series, and Origami Yoda.


  3. Love the idea and the leadership role you are taking in building a passion for literacy…keep up the great work!

    There were some great suggestions in previous replies. Here are a few more….

    Sidekicks (graphic novel) by Dan Santat
    The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
    The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
    Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
    Amulet (graphic novel) by Kazu Kibuishi
    The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook (graphic novel) by Eleanor Davis


  4. I love all the books Andrea recommended for reluctant 4th grade readers. I’d add…
    The Bone graphic novels
    Roscoe Riley series
    Zapato Power series
    Marvin Redpost series
    Mijos series
    Stone Rabbit graphic novels
    Horrid Henry series
    Melvin Beederman Series
    Ivy + Bean
    Mallory series
    Sophie the Awesome series
    Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing, Superfudge, etc.
    Freckle Juice
    Diary of a Wimpy kid (technically 5th grade level, but very accessible, even to kids reading at third grade level)


  5. I know I commented already, but this post his inspired me to take on a project like this in my classroom as well, part way as a needed reading intervention for some of my students and partially to fulfill a graduate-course required action research project. I’m a fourth grade teacher and a educational leadership student (will be done in May with my master’s degree). I’d love to collaborate via email if you’d be interested. I’ll be keeping a watchful eye on your blog in the meantime. Have a great Wednesday!


  6. My life as a stunt boy is a great text because of engaging storyline, humorous main character and awesome stick figure sketches that support vocab development ( done by the author’s son).


  7. The staff that are facilitating this project are very impressed with the quality and quantity of the recommendations you all have provided. It’s extremely helpful because we aren’t in the classroom on a day to day basis like you are. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise.


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