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  • Russ Thompson


May 30, 2022.

It was the first day of summer school. I was teaching a basic skills class for kids who were behind in reading and writing. Most of them were ninth graders.

I assigned seats, passed out textbooks, and began calling on students to read aloud. I had always done it that way. And when I called on students, I picked them at random.

But when I called on Curtis, he just looked at me. I called on him again.

He got up and walked out of the classroom. I never saw him again until school started in the fall.

Why did he leave? He left because of his poor reading skills and because he didn't want the other kids to find out. When I looked at his records, I saw that he had been failing for a long time.

What did I learn? I learned to call on kids in ways that would not embarrass them. What else did I learn? I learned the importance of having books for reluctant and struggling readers.

The right kind of books would have helped Curtis. He needed books that were written at a second-grade readability level. He also needed books that were written at a high-school interest level.

He would have been able to read them independently. And he would have gradually improved and gone on to read books at higher levels.

In addition to high-interest novels from Finding Forward, you can also get books for struggling readers from High-Interest Publishing, Lerner Publishing, Orca Books, and Saddleback Publishers

If you are a teacher, talk to your principal and request the books. Order them for your classroom library and watch your kids improve.

See below for additional ideas from Edutopia on encouraging kids to read.

Russ Thompson is a retired reading teacher and high school principal who is the founder of Finding Forward Books.

During his time as an educator, mostly in high-poverty areas of Los Angeles, he worked closely with at-risk students.

He observed many successes. He also observed the tragedy of students who did not get the support they needed.

Finding the right books is a big step in helping students improve their reading skills. See more at

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