Encouraging Reluctant Readers with Acting

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I have a reluctant reader.

He can read, just would prefer not to. Because of this, I am always looking for way to get him engaged in a book.

There are many ways to encourage boys to read, but I have a secret tip that I have been using since my boys were very young and that I still use today.


Now, I’m not talking about breaking out the complete works of Shakespeare or even an actual script. But we regularly act out the characters in specific books and series that can easily be divided into parts.

Reading Skills Acting Can Help Develop

Print Concepts

Understanding print concepts is essential to early literacy. Print awareness includes understanding the difference between print and illustration, following print from left to right and top to bottom, understanding the concept of a letter, the concept of a word and that letters form words. These early skills are largely developed by spending time reading regularly with your child. They are further developed by choosing texts which make these concepts easier to identify as is true with the books that can be acted out.


Before kids can read, they often can ”read” a book because they have it memorized. This is another early reading skill and inspires little ones to believe in themselves as readers. Regularly acting out books encourages quick memorization and builds confidence.


Fluency is the ability to read accurately with expression and at a speed that lends itself to comprehension. Utilizing acting and characterization is a great way to build fluency. When you are reading as a character, you speak as that character and the text transforms from words into meaning. Regularly using this skill encourages readers to tackle all text with more fluency.


Comprehension is understanding what you read. Acting a book out helps comprehension in a few ways. First, the text your child is required to read is usually cut in half, this can make the reading process feel less overwhelming. Secondly as a more experienced reader is also playing a role, it allows your reader to also listen to text and allows for comprehension to build naturally.


If your reluctant reader is struggling, acting out a book can make reading a lot more fun. There is less text to and adding expression or even voices to characters makes the experience less stressful and a lot more fun.

How to Act out a Book

  1. Find a text suitable to act out
  2. Each reader picks a part
  3. Read!!
  4. Switch roles and Read again!!

Books that are great to Act with 3-4 year olds

Caps for Sale

This is the earliest book I remember using with my kids. It is a classic story about a peddler who has his caps stolen by a group of monkeys. When my oldest two were young, I would read the text of the story, one kiddo would play the peddler and the other would play the monkeys. We would usually read it at least twice so each kid could play each role.

That is Not a Good Idea

This is a hilarious book by Mo Willems with several parts to play. It is about a fox who is eyeing a goose for dinner and the goslings keep repeating the phrase “ That is not a good idea.” This is a great one if you are trying to engage several kids as there is a fox, a goose and the goslings. Be prepared to read it several times in one sitting because it is so funny.

Books that are great to Act with K-2

Elephant and Piggie Series

This is a series of books that got my middle child through his daily reading in first and second grade. At this age he found reading a page full of text overwhelming, especially at the end of a long school day. These Mo Willems(we love him, can you tell?) books are funny, engaging and contain large format text bubbles. The text bubbles are even different colors for each character which make following your “script” even easier. There are even fun conventions with the text, like the size of the word indicating the volume needed. Even better? There are a ton of these books available which means that you can get your child reading a lot! See our favorites here, here and here.  You really can’t go wrong with any of them. My reluctant readers in now in third grade and we still go back to these. My five year has also memorized the parts in a few and enjoys acting them out as well.

Books that are great to Act with 3-4 graders

Narwhal and Jelly

This is a relatively new series and I discovered it while searching the graphic novel section of the library for books to encourage my reluctant reader. We now own all three books and can’t wait for more to be released. These books are very similar to the elephant and piggie series as they center around two characters. The books play out as a conversation between the Narwhal and the Jellyfish and utilize speech bubbles. It has a simple comic book format that requires a little more knowledge of print concepts which is great for older elementary readers.

Books that are great to act with 5-6 graders

Calvin and Hobbes

I read Calvin and Hobbes as a kid and I remember sitting for hours with these books. I actually bought the comics for my son to read by himself. But as it focuses on two main characters, we started acting these out too. I’m recommending this for older students as Calvin occasionally uses some pretty advanced vocabulary, however if you are reading it together you can also use these books for 3-4 graders. There is great opportunity for character discussions here too as Calvin is often caught behaving badly.


Any other great books out there to act out? I’d love to hear if you’ve got a recommendation. We are always looking.

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