Try to feed her. She doesn’t want a bottle. Burping her doesn’t help. Diaper check! Nope. Holding and rocking her to sleep? No luck. Singing and dancing with her? Nada! She keeps looking around apparently trying to tell you what’s wrong, but you just don’t get it, so both of you are getting more frustrated by the minute. Been there?
A roughly equivalent situation is when reading, the single most powerful habit an individual will ever adopt, just doesn’t click for some kids and nobody knows why.
They’re doing marginally okay in school, yet they are unenthusiastic readers, turned off and disinterested in reading…period.
C’mon, now! There has to be a reason they are exhibiting zero interest in what should be an ever-expanding set of choices they have been invited to make. This should not be an “Eat your peas or no desert, young lady!” situation. This calls for a “Pick anything off the menu and it’s yours, young man!” Yet they don’t.
This all too common situation indicates that there’s something missing on the menu or that there’s not enough time to enjoy the meal. Sometimes the problem is that the book offerings at school and in the home don’t have what revs kids’ engines. Sadly, however, the problem too often is because reading is not a significant daily event in classrooms or in children’s homes. A culture of reading is weak or nonexistent in their world.
As with the fussy infant, we have to keep trying to figure out what’s going on when we encounter resistant readers, and we must provide support for the unique literacy development of each individual child. There clearly is not a programmatic or whole-class solution for school children any more than there is for calming babies. The solution includes the creation of a classroom or home culture that aids individual children in partnering with teachers, librarians and parents to communicate what they yearn for.
What’s key here is that individuals don’t become better as readers by having more teacher-directed reading lessons. Granted, lessons can be of value if many students in a class exhibits confusion or lack of confidence. If we keep doing what we’ve always done, however, we’ll always get what we have always gotten: apathetic readers and pathetic reading achievement.
The good news is that kids will always get better from the ongoing relaxed reading of books they love. When we teach young readers to explore all the possibilities, and find a captivating or enduring genre, or topic or author, and then create a context that provides time for them to relax and read, we’ll energize readership and they’ll relax and grow as lifelong readers.