To become strong lifelong readers, kids need to read every day. If kids aren’t reading daily, there are three simple things to fix that:
Children need books that touch their hearts, because kids eagerly read books they love, with characters or content they can personally relate to. That might sound simple, but it is often the sticking point for kids who don’t read. Everybody knows somebody that doesn’t care for a venerated classic, a cherished series or acclaimed author. So, then what?
“Aw, c’mon! Those are really good books! She’s an amazing author!”
Yes, they are. Without question. But not for every child if the books don’t grab them.
Children may read books we might predict would be way too difficult or too easy or juvenile. They might dive into subject matter and story lines that experienced teachers would poo-poo. They will eschew class favorites that are everyone else’s home-run books. We need to help them find the right books…right for just them.
Reluctant readers also need lots of book choices AND they need to be taught to choose from among paralyzingly numerous possibilities. So naturally, the library is where they need to go, and preferably with someone who understands and is sensitive to this challenge. Talk of home-run books is cheap when it comes to that one little girl that fiddles at her desk instead of reading that fabulous book we carefully chose and delivered. Casually hand-holding her, to develop a comfort, even affection, with the classroom, school or public library is a necessary step. A second step is teaching her that avid readers reject many richly authored books before they find the topic, character or genre that revs their reading engines.
Reluctant readers also need opportunities to read self-selected books. They need a chance to sit or lie down comfortably and sink into the world that their right book creates for them. That time may not be DEAR* time. DEAR time can be agony for reluctant readers. Bedtime might not be a great time either. But there is a time, his time, hers, that we need to find and keep clear, inviting them to read what they like.
Finally, reluctant readers need reading role models. They need to observe people they admire lost in reading. They need to see them get fussy when their reading is interrupted, see them light up when asked about their book, see them get excited to discover another book by a favorite author.
Additionally, they need to see books taken care of, lovingly shelved and protected, admired and recommended…even if the book is not one they would choose. They need to see books in classrooms and on desks, in the back seat of a car, in purses and briefcases, books open, face down on tables and chair arms.
To grow lifelong readers, we can offer books, opportunities and models. Indeed, we must.