Downloadable Literature Guides

Suzy Red's Reluctant Reader Advice

Dear Suzy,

I have a question for you. I have attended your last three workshops in Amarillo and really enjoyed them. I am currently working on obtaining a teaching degree, so there are many things I do not yet know.

What I want to know from you, as an experienced teacher, is how do you encourage your kids to read. My daughter is one of those students that is an excellent reader, she just doesn't enjoy reading. When the students are assigned book reports, many come in and check out a book, then a week later, are looking for a new one because they didn't like it. I always suggest to them that they at least read to chapter 3 before deciding they dislike the book. What would your suggestions be?

Thank you,
First Year Librarian

Hi, Misty,

When I first started to teach, I remember Madeline Hunter telling me, "If you want to change a child's attitude, first change the behavior." I still find that to be valuable advice today.

Some kids will read anything and everything they can get their hands on! Praise God for them! They keep our cups of happiness filled!

We have to work cleverly to fill the cups of reluctant readers. To do that, you have to change their behavior.

I think that the main problems with getting many of our students to read may be:

1. They are very social people and don't like the isolation and static feeling they get in reading. Providing them book clubs, discussion groups, and partner reading where they can discuss and do activities with the story will really turn them on to reading. I suspect your daughter is a lot like that..."excellent reader, but doesn't enjoy it." I try to make this easy through my units by providing discussion cards and extension projects, games, puzzles, etc. Modeling our love for reading by doing this with them will be contagious. Doing partnered book reports could be the answer!

2. Reading may be uninteresting for them. It's difficult to compete with the world of media entertainment, and in truth, there are a lot of boring books that can stop kids in their tracks! In that case, I become a collaborative reading partner, grab the absolutely most exciting award-winning book available anywhere (like Earthquake Terror, Woods Runner, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, The One and Only Ivan, One-Handed Catch, Toby and the Phantoms of the Fourth Grade) to read to them (WITH ACTIVE DISCUSSION AND ACTIVITIES)! I use guided reading strategies as I read the first chapter or two or ten to them. This makes them want to know what is going happen next. Then, only ask them to read one chapter independently. After discussing and guiding them through the activities, I read another chapter or two. Pretty soon many of them will start begging you to continue. They are hooked and will be ready to start getting the book and reading on their own. The others that are still struggling may need to hang with you until that fire starts to crackle and pop under them ... but if you're patient and share your enthusiasm, it WILL begin to crackle and pop!

3. Some kids just prefer nonfiction or fiction or Goosebumps and only want to read those. Good readers can grow with anything, so I will encourage that. You can gradually expose the to other genres through tricky moves.

4. Some kids (like I was) are very competitive and need a chance to win a contest, fill my chart first, etc.

5. Some kids CAN'T read or CAN'T comprehend. You can find out who they are quickly enough by having them read out loud to you and answer higher-level questions (the “why” and “how questions), not knowledge-level. If they say they prefer to read have a clue! With those kids, you will need to give them the tools they need through phonics, etc. I found Repeated Readings work well quickly build fluency...researched based! But nothing beats reading with them (and following left to right with your finger to train the eyes to track) to keep them inspired and to give them tools as they break down.

Okay, time's up! Did that help? Let me know if you have any specific problem kids. I may be able to go on!

I'm just finishing a unit on Okay for Now...probably the best book I've ever read. (middle school level) You'll find it good, too, I expect! I expected it to receive the Newbery Gold! I also thought The Cheshire Cheese Cat (HUGE vocabulary, so a great read aloud) might win it! The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg did win a Newbery Honor, so I'm content!

Thanks so much for remembering me. I sometimes feel like the Maytag repair man, wondering if anyone is still out there! You've made my day! I hope you use my suggestions in your favorite Kids Wings Literature Guide!

Let me know what helps!

Keep walkin' in the sunshine and passin' it along!

Suzy Red
Kids' Wings Educational Associates
1707 Twin Island Dr.
Lockhart, TX 78644
Kids' Wings Phone: 512-558-1121
Kids' Wings FAX: 888-558-1123
"In times of change, the learners will inherit the world while the knowers remain well-prepared for a world that no longer exists." Eric Hoffer