It’s getting harder and harder these days for books to compete for our students’ attention. Meanwhile, fewer students are reading at grade level and many struggle to engage with any text longer than an Instagram caption. How, then, is a teacher supposed to get students who avoid reading to pick up a book? In this post, I’ll share 3 memoirs for reluctant readers that are perfect for a whole-class novel study or an independent read.
Looking for more novels for reluctant readers? Check out this post on 5 Thrilling Books for Students Who Hate Reading.
What Makes a Memoir Suitable for Reluctant Readers?
I’m sure every educator has a different set of benchmarks they look for when trying to find novels that appeal to more reluctant readers. I have three characteristics that I look for when trying to choose a novel that nonreaders will finish.
Firstly, if a book is interesting enough, nothing else matters. If a student truly wants to learn more about the story or subject matter, the reading level usually won’t stop him or her.
Books that are funny or incredibly interesting are perfect for reluctant readers.
Secondly, books with lower reading levels are ideal for students who dislike reading. If a book is a little easier to read (but the content is engaging), students are more likely to power through finishing it.
For students who rarely read, you don’t need to worry about giving them material that will appropriately challenge them. Increasing their reading volume alone will help improve their reading skills.
Plus, finishing a book can be a major accomplishment for a student who self-identifies as a book hater or a nonreader. Realizing that they can, in fact, finish a book may just be the confidence boost they need to pick up another one.
Novels in verse and graphic novels are great formats for reluctant readers for this reason.
Lastly, pay attention to the book’s format when choosing a novel for reluctant readers. Chapters that end on cliffhangers, perspectives that switch between characters, and stories told through multiple mediums (journal posts, newspaper clippings, poems, etc.) keep students engaged.
Memoirs Even Reluctant Readers Will Love #1: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is the perfect novel for reluctant readers!
In his memoir, Noah talks about the challenges he faced growing up in apartheid South Africa. True to his comedic career, however, he turns heavy topics into funny anecdotes.
Noah’s storytelling will have students in stitches as they read, and nothing keeps a student reading like humor.
If you want to learn more about Noah’s novel and why it’s perfect for your class, you can check out this post here. I recommend using Born a Crime as a whole-class study if you can!
Memoirs Even Reluctant Readers Will Love #2: Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Students may recognize Laurie Halse Anderson’s name from her beloved novel Speak.
In Shout, she discusses her own life–including her experiences with sexual assault–through verse.
Her story is gripping and the poetic format makes the book easy and quick for readers to tear through. Your reluctant readers will finish the novel before they even realize they’ve started.
The content is sensitive, however, so make sure you provide trigger warnings and obtain parent permission beforehand. The adult nature of parts of the novel, though, may make it even more enticing for students who don’t normally read.
Memoirs Even Reluctant Readers Will Love #3: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is a graphic novel in which the author Satrapi details her life in Iran after the Iranian Revolution.
Her story contains scenes that are humorous as well as somber. The images are delightful but also provide fantastic opportunities for close reading graphics.
Plus, your students won’t believe they’re getting credit for reading a comic book.
Whether you’re looking for a memoir to study as a whole class, memoirs for literature circles, or just need a recommendation for an unenthusiastic reader, these memoirs are sure to be a hit with everyone.
Looking for more recommendations for students? Check out this list of young adult horror novels!