There’s No Such Thing as a Reluctant Reader
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by Debbie Dadey, author of The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids.
There is no such thing as a reluctant reader IF you find the right book. What a big IF that is, because there’s not one single book that every child will love. As a school librarian, I was determined to help the students in my school find books that they couldn’t put down. It wasn’t easy: one girl would only read about little black girls who looked like her. But who could blame her? So I searched high and low for books to satisfy her need until she finally branched out to other stories.
As a parent, I felt just as determined. My oldest son did not like to read. How embarrassing for a librarian and writer to have a son who did not like to read! It’s not that he didn’t like books; in fact he loved being read to. But he had no desire to read on his own. For one thing, it was difficult for him. And that’s the case for many reluctant readers, why do something if it’s hard? So in order to make it worthwhile, the subject matter has to be something that will grab the reader and not let them go.
For my oldest son, it was the Redwall Books. I was fortunate enough to have heard Brian Jacques speak and brought the first book home to try with my son even though the difficulty level was pretty high for him at the time. I had no desire to read about a fighting mouse, but figured my son might just like it since he’d made every stick he’d ever found into a gun. We both fell in love with the action and pretty soon my son couldn’t wait around for me to read to him at night. He was hooked and read every book in the series on his own. And then he read every fantasy book he could get his hands on. This kid who I thought would never read got so turned on, he went on to score the highest possible on the SAT reading scores.
That’s the magic of a series. Once a kid loves one book in the series, they feel comfortable, safe, and often quite eager to read more about the same characters. For my daughter, it was The Adventures of The Bailey School Kids series and for my youngest son, it was The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod.
With so many books out there, how to find the one that will turn your reluctant reader on to reading? The value of a good librarian or bookstore owner is never to be underestimated. Blogs like Imagination Soup are helpful too. Reading aloud different types of books is a huge key. First of all, if you are enjoying a story, your child may as well. Second of all, even if a book is slightly difficult a reluctant reader will tackle it if he’s hooked.
And IF we hook every child with the right book, there will be no more reluctant readers.
Bio: Debbie Dadey is the author and co-author of 145 books, including The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series and the new Keyholder series.
Melissa’s Note: Thank you, Debbie! I think finding the right book (or magazine or blog) is absolutely the way to hook a reader’s heart.
Readers, do you agree?
What books hook your kids?
FB and Twitter comments included these book favorites:
The Boxcar Children
Snug House, Bug House
“Some Dogs Do” by Jez Alborough
The Chronicles Of Narnia
“Go Dog Go”
Geronimo Stilton series
I Can’t Said the Ant
You are so right about what a big IF it is to get the right book into the hands of a reluctant reader. I also blog about books and there are tons of great children’s lit book blogs to help match up books with readers. Thanks for your post!
Jeri, I do believe if there is a will there is a way. I taught school for eleven years and I know there are some kids who fall through the cracks of ‘regular’ reading instruction. I didn’t learn to read by phonics (I’m too old!) but many students can benefit from that instruction. Just like every kid will love a different type of book, many learners will learn in different ways-be it whole language, rote, phonics, or whatever. If one way doesn’t work, try another. Having the desire to do anything is the key. But as teachers and parents, I believe our actions can fuel that desire-don’t you agree?
I enjoyed this post, and almost was convinced that IF we could hook every child with the right book, there would be no more reluctant readers, that their hearts would be hooked. I used to feel that way. But now I speak often with illiterate adults who have never been able to conquer reading skills even though their desire to read may be huge. Their lack of abilities is what has made them reluctant all the way along. Whatever their particular disabilities and inabilities are, I am convinced that many of these people can only overcome the inability to read if they are finally exposed to a systematic phonics instruction. That isn’t easy to learn by oneself without actually hearing sounds, either, so just a book wouldn’t be adequate. Maybe when the desire within grows strong enough, the reader would more aggressively pursue answers to the reading struggle, though; do you think? When there’s a will there’s a way?