Sadly, this just isn't the case for many struggling readers. I am sure that we all have at least one reluctant reader in our life. It may be our son or daughter. Perhaps it's a grandchild, niece, nephew or a student. It may even be an adult. Someone we know is struggling to read or to find things that they want to read. Nearly every day I am presented with a reluctant reader. The parents are usually supportive but lost and unsure of how to help them. The kids themselves are often embarrassed and frustrated. Many are ready to give up on finding anything that they can or are willing to read. It is really and truly heartbreaking. While I myself never struggled to master my reading skills - I did (& some would say, still do) struggle with math. It was terrible, just terrible to sit in a classroom stare at a chalk board and have absolutely no idea what my teacher was talking about. I was especially confused, scratch that, betrayed when all of the sudden letters, my wonderful friends the letters started turning up in math problems.
I take helping these kiddos very personally. I love to find books for reluctant readers. Finding that perfect story, that perfect book is pretty powerful. In fact, sometimes it kind of feels like a super power. Or the closest thing I have to one anyway. So today I thought touch on a few of my favorite Rules for Reluctant Reader Rescues. Maybe one or two will work for your own reluctant reader.
- Your Favorites Are Not Necessarily Their Favorites. While the most natural place to start with recommendations is with what you know it is also likely to be the most firmly resisted. I believe that books have a way of finding you when you are ready for them or you need them. Present your favorites but don't insist upon them. Give kids the room to say no. Truly, if a child is not interested in a book when you walk out of the shop then what are the chances they'll crack it open at home on their own. Give them the time and the space they need to make a selection. There will be plenty of time to reintroduce that title once they are a little more comfortable or their skills are a bit stronger.
- Look Beyond The Usual Suspects. Award winning titles win awards for a reason. Super smart bookworms have selected them for these honors because they stand alone in their genre. That is important, however it can be really intimidating. Especially for a kiddo who is really struggling. These kids don't need to be reading weighty tomes. They just need to be reading. If they are drawn to items that aren't exactly what you want for then them pay attention and see how you can translate that into something else. A boy who spends hours playing with baseball cards might really love a trivia book like Sports Illustrated Kids Full Count: Top 10 Lists of Everything Baseball. Then they might be drawn to read a sports biography like Legends in Sports: Babe Ruth by Matt Christopher. Before you know it they'll be asking for All Stars: Wild Pitch by Cal Ripkin. Sports is only one example. If your kiddo is into science and nature there are great beginning science books to get them started. Don't turn your nose up at trivia books, joke books or even magazines. There are many ways to be well read. Your kids will find their own way if you keep an open mind and let them lead the way.
- Books are Books, Right? So many new, young readers are overwhelmed by the books we offer them. Their peers are carrying around Harry Potter (not to knock Harry Potter - I love, love, love Harry Potter!) while they are still plowing though beginning readers or early chapter books. Imagine pulling the latest Magic Tree House book (again, not to knock Magic Tree House, it is a positively superb early chapter series) out of your back pack and looking over at the next desk to see your classmate is reading an 800 page book. You'd probably put your book right back and not take it out again. Digital readers like the nook (my personal preference) or the kindle or an ipad offer kids enormous anonymity. No one needs to know what they are reading. They just pop it out, turn it on and read away. Now I love an honest to goodness book as much as anyone. Nothing, I mean nothing, beats a real book. But for a reluctant reader privacy is priceless. As an added bonus many of these digital readers have dictionary features. This is fantastic feature for anyone and everyone trying to build up their vocabulary.
- Get Serious About A Series. I think the absolute best way to motivate a reluctant reader is to get them hooked on a series. There is a series for almost anything you can imagine: Baseball, fairies, teeny tiny people living in walls, or even flat kids. There are mysteries, magical adventures, historical fiction or horror. Find yourself an awesome librarian or kids specialist in a book store and let them help you. Find the right series of 4, 10 or even 50 titles and that will lead to another series and another series and even another series. The best things about most of these series from The Magic Tree House to Harry Potter is that they get harder. They will start at an easier level and get gradually more difficult. Lulled by familiar characters and storylines your kids won't even know that they are reading harder material.
I am by absolutely no means an expert in education. Far wiser and more educated folks than me may surely disagree with my opinions and suggestions. I am simply a mom with a passion for kids lit, a lifelong bookworm, a professional book pusher and a would-be writer. I love kids and I love kids books. I love to help kids find their gateway book. Just don't give up. It only takes one, the right one to hook a kid.