So, what exactly is a reluctant reader? A reluctant reader is anyone who does not show interest in reading. There is a wide range within the category of reluctant readers. A reluctant reader may simply be a child who needs to be coaxed into reading texts. She may also be the child who vehemently refuses to read. Reluctant readers sometimes hide their ambivalence towards reading using other behaviors. A teacher may notice that a certain student always becomes the class clown when it is time to begin independent reading. Similarly, parents may notice that their child seems to become “naughtier” when he is asked to sit and read a book aloud. When children mask their negative attitudes towards reading by using other behaviors parents and teachers need to do a little “detective work” to identify the root cause of the problem. Once the root cause is identified, you can use the following strategies to help your child develop a love for reading.
One type of resistant reader is produced by the parents and teachers in their lives. The resistant child’s parent and/or teacher focuses on reading almost exclusively for improving reading skills based on enhancing their academic scores in the field of education. This makes reading, not for fun, but, rather for gaining high achievement on literary test scores and grades in school. This child finds reading, then, more of a competition, than reading for pleasure and interest. A strategy for teachers to help this type of resistant reader is to find the child books based directly on the child’s interests, and books (in all forms ) which are directly relevant to their personal lives (rather than solely on educational lives).
Many children who are resistant readers, have struggled with reading all of their lives, and may be mostly or partly illiterate. For this reason, these readers are resistant to books, since they find them discouraging and ‘mind-boggling’. These children find it academically and emotionally draining to read simply for pleasure, as they cannot seem to grasp basic reading skills easily. They may even be mocked by peers, based on their inability to read well. Thus, they avoid books at all costs. One strategy for immersing this type of resistant reader into children’s literature is to give them easy-to-read books, transitional chapter books, graphic novels, and informational books which are heavy in visual aids. (pg. 26)
Many children are resistant readers due to the fact that many of the books within their access, do not depict their personal lives or the lives of their families or communities. For this reason, these books do not interest the children who come from varying cultural backgrounds, or who have differing and unique family backgrounds and structures. A good strategy to connect these resistant readers with books, is to have a variety of books available which reflect a wide variety of backgrounds, family dynamics, special traits and values. Books that are relevant to the group’s lives and circumstances, is not deemed as threatening by these resistant readers, therefore making reading more enjoyable and self-assuring. (pg.26)
Students who are learning English as a second language, tend to be resistant readers as well. Obviously, the reason for their reading apprehension is because these students lack the vocabulary and sentence structure needed to fully understand English text. Also, the books that are often with access to them, do not depict their life experiences or cultural norms, as they are of different origin. These students need to be given books to read which are predictable, show a wide range of global cultures, and which could be concept and wordless books. (pg.27) Teachers need to understand that this societal group is large and growing each year, as we live in a multi-cultural country filled with opportunities for many immigrants who live in impoverished areas around the world. Teachers must include books in their library which cater to this population’s growing needs for a sense of belonging in their new communities, yet, which are reminiscent of their own cultural backgrounds.
Sometimes young people, become disengaged from reading because they lose interest in the content of the texts they are reading. Many traditional books assigned in schools as well as textbooks fail to capture the interest of today’s children because they are used to fast paced movies, video games and Internet sites. Parents and teachers can employ high interest reading materials to help spark an interest in reading in these children. High interest texts are usually fairly non-traditional. They often focus on “edgy” topics or include a great deal of action. In addition, they may not look like a traditional book. There are a number of excellent graphic novels and higher-level picture books that are designed to engage reluctant readers. While it may seem that these texts “dumb down” reading, they do not. They may be slightly below a reader’s independent reading level, but they provide valuable experiences with reading. Plus, they can serve as a stepping stone towards more traditional and sophisticated texts. The goal in using high interest reading materials is to jump start a reluctant reader’s interest in reading.
The final group of resistant readers, are boys. Typically, teachers are of female gender and, therefore, select books are based on ‘girl-type interests’. Also, one of the differences between boys and girls, is that boys prefer activities where they can avidly socialize whilst looking at their favourite books. (pg. 27) Girls tend to be quieter and more passive in their reading approach. Since boys also have a little bit more difficulty reading, than their girl counterparts, they prefer books that are informational, where they can chat with peers while reading this type of book. Therefore, a good strategy to take with boys who are resistant to reading for the above mentioned reasons, could be to provide them with reading material that is informational. Since boys also like to socialize while reading, magazines are of interest to them, as well as reading on internet websites which are informational, yet tap into boy interests.
The power of modeling successful and enjoyable reading experiences for reluctant readers cannot be denied. When those a reluctant reader looks up to model reading and reinforce its importance she is more likely to begin reading. So, this Literacy Day, and, continuing on into the year ahead, cozy up with your child, and a great book, and begin to develop a love for reading together!
Don't forget to check the momstown website often for great book reviews and literacy strategies and ideas for your family and child. We have a great partnership with Scholastic Canada which aims to get families and kids connected to books which are sure to inspire and engage! Look for our great giveaways and contests, sponsored by Scholastic Canada, as well!
Short, K., Lynch-Brown, C. & Tomlinson, C. (2014). Essentials of Children’s Literature (8th Ed.). Boston: Pearson Education Ltd.
Lana Kelly( B.A, SSW, ECE, Montessori). For 20 years, Lana has been dedicated to helping children and families. In 2010, she published a book (The Sheepish Lamb) , aimed at building resilience to childhood anxiety. She is a mom to four daughters, and values her faith and family solidarity.