Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Attracting Reluctant Readers

On Thursday, 10-18-12, I will be presenting the first of two workshops at the Ohio Educational Library Media Association. I will be talking on a subject close to my heart, reaching out to reluctant readers. Advertisers and Marketeers know it’s easier and less costly to retain an existing customer than to win back a lost one. And young people are customers for reading and education.

Why do I care? 

 Because we as educators, librarians, concerned parents and as writers need to consider more than just the needs of the avid reader. I met a girl who informed me she reads a book a day. Maybe an exaggeration, but she’s the reader we all love. A member of her schools reading club, purchases lots of books, reads above grade level – a future leader. But what about others? We all develop at different rates, and reading at "grade level" may put too much pressure on some developing brains. And once a child gets behind, when they read one or two grades below their peers, reading aloud, in class can cause such fear and embarrassment that they turn away from books.

Try it yourself. Pick a language you don’t know and pick up a book and see how much joy you get out of stumbling through it. Get a feel for what it could mean to a struggling student when we say "Just try harder," or "Reading is fun," or the really great line, "Lose yourself in a book."

Is it really surprising so many struggling kids decide they hate reading? 

Human beings did not evolve for reading, the way we did for seeing and speaking. Instead, pars of the brain have learned to adapt and achieve that skill.  Sometimes things go wrong. We recognize that and call it a learning disability and work on strategies to help readers over come the problem. But sometimes things take a little longer, and our race to push and put every student at grade level or above can end up having a detrimental effect on someone who matures just a little bit more slowly. 

If we can catch them before they accept the label "Reluctant Reader," before they convince themselves they hate books, then we have a chance. And they have opportunity to achieve their potential.  If I take my car to work and someone else decides to ride their bike (GO GREEN!!) but we both get their on time, they don't fail going to work. I will be talking about ways to keep kids from feeling like failures just because they take a little longer to reach the goal of reading proficiently.

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