Reluctant reader is a relatively new term that it being brought to the forefront of many educational conversations. According to Think Literacy, reluctant readers are those who appear to be unmotivated to read, lack self-esteem in their reading abilities, report difficulties in reading because of outside interference (i.e. noise), are frustrated with difficulty levels of assigned reading, become skilled at avoiding reading, often do not simply choose to read – they must be highly motivated to read and interested in the content.
If you see these characteristics, they are possible indicators that you or your student might be a reluctant reader. I’m usually pretty reticent to use labels – the term reluctant can apply to each and every subject in school. And reluctant doesn’t equate to low intelligence or lower capabilities – it is closely tied with personality and personal preferences. Reluctant speller, reluctant writer, reluctant track runner, and the list goes on for any activity practiced in schools. However, when we recognize that kids are reluctant in a certain area, we can do something about it.
Helping Reluctant Readers
If your child just does not seem to want to read, even though you are fairly certain he has the mechanical skills to do so (understands phonics, punctuation, and possesses a fundamental vocabulary), there are things you can do to help. I know from experience – three of my four children loved to read anything, anytime, anywhere. However, one of my dear children didn’t seem too particularly interested in books or motivated to read. Although he loved to be read to, reading on his own was something entirely different. I had to do something about it.
Create a deeper and broader pool of reading materials. He and I sat down and selected two magazine subscriptions we both thought would be a good fit.
Try graphic novels. All three of my sons are taking a comic class that is focused on graphic novels and comic strips. Through this class my reluctant reader developed a love for good old fashioned Garfield comics. New research also supports the idea that graphic novels are sometimes more likely to entice reluctant readers than other book genres.
Visit author James Patterson’s site dedicated to encouraging kids to read. This famous author also has a son who was a reluctant reader, and the site is the culminating effort he and his wife put forth in order to help their son become an avid reader.
Read to your child, whether he is a reluctant reader or not, whether he is in preschool or high school. Creating an environment in your home where reading is a positive interaction relieves the stress that reluctant readers can feel when faced with reading assignments.
If your child is struggling with reading in school, talk to his teacher to see if more options might be given for his reading choices as he builds his interests, and see if reading aloud is a mandatory activity in class. Research shows that unrehearsed reading – when the teacher calls on a student to read aloud in class – is one of the “most upsetting” activities for adolescents in their “entire school experience.”
Set kids up for success. Think Literacy says that if there are 7 unknown words within the first 100 words of a book, the material is probably too advanced and will be more likely to cause frustration.
Don’t give up. Reading is a lifelong skill, hobby, and daily activity. It used to be that I was poking and prodding my reluctant reader to pick up a book. Now I am poking and prodding him to put it down for just two minutes so he will come eat dinner. A welcome change of pace in our home.