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Reluctant Readers - Tips from Barrington Stoke

7th February 2017

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Barrington Stoke is an award-winning children’s publisher set up in 1998 with a mission to help emergent, reluctant and dyslexic readers unlock a love of reading. Our quality short fiction, by the best authors and illustrators in the UK, is crammed with ingenious design and editorial tricks to ensure an accessible and enjoyable read for all, and a great quick read for more confident kids.

How we do it

  • We publish household name authors because we believe that all children deserve the best stories regardless of reading level
  • We keep books short and punchy with lots of chapter breaks to tackle short attention spans and reward readers
  • Our tinted paper, super readable font and friendly layouts offer a smoother read for everyone including young people with dyslexia and reading problems
  • Our careful editing makes age appropriate stories available to less confident readers
  • We make sure all our covers have wow appeal so they are pick-upable and do not look or feel like school books


Got a reluctant reader at home? You are not alone…

Studies show that around one in three children don’t enjoy reading. Both girls and boys can be reluctant to read, although until recently most support focused on boys. There are many reasons a child may be reluctant to read:

•                A home with no books or reading. If kids don’t see adults read, they don’t have positive reinforcement of the value of reading. Kids whose parents don’t read to them may find it harder to learn to read. This reinforces the idea that reading isn’t fun.

•                A lack of reading role-models. Boys in particular may never have seen an adult of their own gender reading.

•                Disenchantment with ‘beginner’ books. Children with no book culture at home may not associate reading with story and pleasure. If they are limited to ‘at-level’ texts (e.g. reading schemes) in school, they may give up.

•                Unidentified reading issues. Reluctant readers often struggle to read, because they haven’t built up enough experience to do it with ease. Sometimes, though, there’s an issue like dyslexia and a child avoids reading so as to hide it.

•                Competition from other media. Immature and inexperienced readers have to ‘work’ at books while games consoles etc offer instant gratification.

•                Book selection may be wrong. We often value ‘big books’ more than short ones and obsess over ‘progression’ and ‘quality’, meaning that children don’t get to pick what they want to read. Children’s books are also still quite white, middle-class and middle England, and so some kids may feel shut out.

 

How grown-ups can help

  • It doesn’t always help to tackle a reluctant reader ‘head on’ – in fact, this may compound the problem. Instead, let them see you reading, talk about what you have read and make accessible, appropriate books easily available. Don’t judge their reading choices, and don’t forget that match reports, comics, graphic novels, magazines and so on are ‘reading’ too.
  • Reading aloud is not just for the under fives! Reading to children boosts memory vocabulary and listening skills. There’s no right age to stop!
  • To establish whether a text is at the right reading level ask the child to cover all the words they can’t read on one page with a finger. Not enough fingers? Too difficult.

Matching the right book for the right child

Every reluctant reader is an individual with individual tastes but here are a few recommendations from the Barrington Stoke list. This is a list of suggestions for ages 8 to 12 but with a reading age of 7 or 8. They are all super-readable short novels, you'll be able to see how many pages each book has, if you click through on the "View Book" link.

Reluctant Readers: Book Recommendations for Ages 8+

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Gamer

For console fans, try Gamer, an action-packed dystopian epic from Bodyguard author Chris Bradford.

Scott is an orphan, roaming the streets in search of food like so many other children. When the opportunity to become a games tester for Vince Power and his Virtual Kombat video games comes along, he leaps at the chance. But Scott's about to find out that there's nothing virtual about the danger in these games...The Matrix meets The Hunger Games in this fast-paced action thriller.

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Robot Girl

For sci-fi fans, try Malorie Blackman's Robot Girl, a futuristic drama full of suspense from the UK Children's Laureate 2013-2015.

Claire is keen to find out what her dad has been working on in his lab. He's been really excited about it and Claire knows it must be something that will make him even more famous. But the big reveal isn't at all what she expected and now Claire has a dilemma on her hands - what do you do when your dad has created a monster...?

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Shadow Warriors

For martial-arts fans, try Shadow Warriors by Chris Bradford. 

Taka's got a problem: he can't pass the Grandmaster's test and earn his black belt. But then a much more serious situation arises, and it seems his whole clan is under threat. At last Taka has a chance to prove himself, but he and his friends Cho and Renzo will face terrible danger on the way. A fantastic adventure that will floor boys and girls alike from the first page and keep them reading long after lights out.Illustrated in stunning detail by David Wyatt, this edition includes ninja facts and activities to satisfy martial arts-mad fans.

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Reluctant Readers: Funny Books

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Sterling and the Canary

If your little one likes funny books, try Sterling and the Canary by Andy Stanton (bestselling author of the Mr. Gum books).

Sterling Thaxton is in love. In love with Lizzie Harris - the beautiful new girl. Her hair is the colour of magic. Her nose is as sweet as music. Her arms are as slender as rainbows. Problem is, she's not interested. Luckily a small yellow canary turns up with some excellent advice...

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Desirable

Desirable, by Frank Cottrell Boyce (bestselling author of Millions) is another hilarious book guaranteed to bring giggles. 

George is so unpopular that even his own grandad won't come to his birthday party. Instead, his grandad sends him a bottle of aftershave that expired years ago. But the aftershave seems to have developed extra properties since its sell-by date...Now George is irresistible to all the girls in school - and even the teachers can't get enough of him!

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Mad Iris

Another brilliant book from King of Comedy Jeremy Strong. A crazy ostrich wreaks havoc at Ross and Katie's school. Mad Iris doesn't like the ostrich farm. She likes Pudding Lane School much better! But the men from the ostrich farm are hot on her trail - It's up to Ross and Katie to rescue her! Fantastic comedy featuring the maddest ostrich on the planet!

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Aidan Abet, Teacher's Pet

Aidan Abet knows the key to surviving at school - it's making himself indispensable to the teacher. Unfortunately there's something distinctly odd about new teacher Miss Vowel and her menagerie of animals. It almost seems that the animals are warn Aidan of danger...Should Aidan help the animals, or is his dedication to teacher-pleasing just too ingrained?

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Bigger and Better

For lovers of funny fairy tales, try Bigger and Better by Kaye Umanksy. Vi the Giantess loves little things - her thimble collection is almost out of control. So when a little chap called Jack pops up in her kitchen, her giant heart melts right away. But this Jack is a regular Jack-the-lad, intent on carrying off Vi's husband's treasures and keeping them for himself. Can Vi fight off her instincts and challenge the interloper? (With extra song lyrics). 

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reluctant readers: Books for football fans

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Secret FC

Lily, Zack and Khal can't believe it when the new headmaster at their school bans football in the playground. What are a gang of football-mad kids meant to do at break-time now? Then Zack has a brilliant plan and a very secret football club is formed...Light-hearted and uplifting, this tale of football-underdogs-with-a-twist is lots of fun. You can see more books by Tom Palmer.

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Football Crazy

When football legend Joe Ramsey agrees to coach their team, Danny, Lewis and Jamil are delighted! But Coach Ramsey is tough. Very tough. Can the boys survive the pressures of the team and still enjoy the game? 

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The Number 7 Shirt

For a fact and fiction story mix, try this book, the story of a boy's journey to becoming a professional footballer. Will the advice of 5 of Manchester United's greats help him achieve his dream? A must for football fans everywhere. Jimmy has always dreamed of becoming a pro footballer and gets one step closer when he's invited to go for a trial for the Man U Academy! But he still has lots to learn. Follow Jimmy's progress with the help of 5 of Man U's heroes, all legends of the number 7 shirt. Fabulous football story featuring facts about Best, Beckham, Cantona, Robson and Ronaldo.

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RELUCTANT READERS: books For fans of schools, friendships and family stories

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Honey and Me

Things haven't been great for Kirsten recently - she's had to start at a new school where she doesn't know anybody, and home hasn't been a great place to be either with Mum and Dad arguing all the time. At least she has her old friend Honey to talkto. But her new friends have lots of questions about Honey...and her older brother Finn might just spill the beans about this special friend!

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Running from the Rainbow

Rosie Roberts has a secret. So when she moves to a new school, she's desperate not to draw too much attention to herself. But things aren't so easy when your Mum is the popular new teacher everyone is talking about...Heartfelt drama, perfect for tweens. 

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Girl with the Sunshine Smile

Warm and wise tale about new families. Everyone comments on Meg's sunny smile, and she's put it to good use as a model for her mum's range of bridesmaids' dresses at wedding fairs. It's always been just Meg and Mum, but then Mum meets Danny and is swept off her feet - right onto a grotty old river barge. Soon Meg is discovering the 'joys' of river living in a house full of boys, and there's not much call for her sunshine smile...

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reluctant readers: books for animal lovers

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Bright Star

A heart-warming story about the powerful connection between an isolated girl and a terrified wild pony. When 12-year-old Morgan is sent to her aunt's ranch in the Rockies for the summer, she has no idea that she will forge a bond that will last her lifetime. Morgan is more comfortable around horses than people, but then she meets Bright Star, a terrified wild mustang her aunt has rescued, and discovers that she is braver than she ever realised. A powerful, girl-friendly story about the friendship between humans and animals.

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White Fox

The day the fox came things began to change for Sol. Lost, alone and far away from home, Sol feels a deep connection with the little Arctic fox he discovers down at the Seattle docks - he too feels lost in the big city. Dad is always busy working and Sol misses the grandparents they have left behind. So Sol decides to take the little fox back home, reuniting his own family in the process.

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