Motivation to Read

For many students with LDs, learning to read is the hardest task they face at school in the primary years. Experiencing ongoing difficulties can lead to frustration, anxiety, and experiential avoidance [1]. This is why it is crucial that educators pay attention to motivational factors, and make reading a positive experience for all students, especially those experiencing difficulty.

Teacher and students reading in a circleFactors that contribute to students’ intrinsic motivation in reading include:

  • Involving students in the learning process;
  • Creating a text-rich learning environment;
  • Giving students choice regarding their reading materials;
  • Giving students choice regarding reading mode (e.g., audiobook; text-to-speech software; independent reading);
  • Promoting interaction and exchanges among students;
  • Serving as a model of what it means to be a reader;
  • Planning a variety of engaging and meaningful reading activities [2].

Ongoing Assessment

The importance of dated, ongoing assessment cannot be overstated. For one, it allows educators to select appropriately leveled texts for individual students. Additionally, routine assessment practices allow educators to flag students who are not progressing appropriately, and to implement interventions as early as possible. It also enables the teacher to show students their progress, a critically important aspect for students with LDs.

Reading level

Students’ task perseverance is directly related to their perception of their ability to succeed [3]. In reading, the text should be within their zone of proximal development; they should be challenged enough to expand their skills, but not so much that they become discouraged.

For more information on the motivational importance of offering texts at students’ reading levels, click here to access the What Works research monograph Using Multilevel Texts.

Early Intervention

“Interventions that are begun when children are very young have a much better chance of success than interventions begun later. Interventions begun at Grade 3 are much less likely to succeed than early interventions. It is essential to identify reading difficulties by Grade 1 and to put appropriate supplemental interventions in place immediately. In this way, reading problems can be tackled before they become entrenched and before repeated failures affect children's motivation and compound their difficulties in learning to read and write.” [4]

A list of assessment strategies that can help educators evaluate specific reading skills can be found on page 29 of the Ministry of Education document, Early Reading Strategy. Click here to access the document Early Reading Strategy: The Report of the Expert Panel on Early Reading in Ontario.

Differentiated Instruction

Recall that differentiated instruction (DI) is based on student diversity in terms of their strengths, interests, learning styles, and readiness to learn [5], and it is particularly important for students with LDs. A motivating reading program will take this into account, and offer students a variety of ways to engage with reading and show what they know.

To differentiate the content

  • Use learning centers, where small groups of students work on different types of reading activities, according to their own preferences or assigned by the educator.
  • Use leveled as well as multilevel texts.
  • Give students choice in their reading materials, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and texts addressing a wide variety of subject matter of interest to the students. Where needed, provide students with support in choosing their reading materials.

To differentiate the process

  • Use a balance of read-alouds, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading.
  • Use reading circles, where each student has a different role in the reading task. Click here to access the article Reading Circles.
  • Invite an author to talk to the class about reading and writing.
  • Before reading, introduce new characters and vocabulary through an interactive activity, such as a picture walk or treasure hunt.
  • Integrate technology use where applicable.

To differentiate the product

Two boys reading together in class

  • Give students choice and make the choices engaging.
  • Allow students to show what they know without fear of being judged, such as by reading to a younger ‘reading buddy’ or to a class pet.
  • Have students create a big book, individually or in groups. They may recount a favourite story in their own words, or tell an original story. They may present their book to the class or to the educator.

Differentiate the affect/environment by making your classroom into a space that embraces reading [6]

  • Provide comfortable spaces for reading in the classroom.
  • Make the class library a focal point of the room.
  • Provide a variety of reading materials that suit students’ diverse interests, skills, needs, and cultural contexts. Vary the texts available in the class library to keep it interesting and adapting to students’ evolving reading skills.
  • Have regular Book Talks, where the educator introduces a couple of books from the classroom library, giving details to pique students’ interest and giving cues to help students know whether to choose that book during independent reading time. Have students give their own Book Talk presentation about books they like in the classroom or books they bring from home to share with their peers.
  • Bring reading to life by using special voices for different characters, using props, imitating funny sounds, or acting out scenes from a book.
  • Create an author-of-the-month activity or a book award for the class’s favourite stories.
  • Have adults serve as reading role models, by making video clips where other educators or support staff talk about books that have had an impact on them.


[1] LD@school, 2018

[2] Ministère de l’Éducation de l’Ontario, 2003

[3] Ministère de l’Éducation de l’Ontario, 2003, p. 5.2

[4] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2003a, p. 34

[5] Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013

[6] Paquet-Bélanger, 2015