Friday, January 30, 2009

The Reluctant Reader Conundrum

In his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers Richard Allington writes, "Our schools create more students who can read than students who do read." The problem of getting kids to read more is rampant. They just don’t seem to want to do it. The question is why?

A lot of teachers sheepishly confess to me on that sly that when they were young, they didn’t like to read either. They get it when kids say, “I don’t want to read!” In the spirit of coming clean, I too have a confession. I was one of you. I didn’t like to read as a kid, either.

Looking back, I can’t understand it. I grew up in Central New York, the land of lake effect snow. I can’t tell you how many hours I wiled away doing nothing but feeling bored. I could have filled a lot of hours reading books, but I go back to my original question: Why don’t kids want to read?

For me, I think a lot of the problem was book choice. Every time I’d go to the library and pick something out on my own, it was a long shot. It was a random grab at the shelves. I’d look at the cover and think, “this looks okay, I’ll give it a whirl.” I’d read a couple of pages, put it down, and never go back to it. Sound familiar?

I see this cycle a lot in the classrooms I visit. I predict with staggering certainty who will finish books and who will not. So, again I ask, why don’t they want to read? I think a lot of the problem is kids don’t know what to read. Earlier this year, I blogged about the importance of blessing books. I mentioned the titles we share often become coveted reading in the classroom. At first kids are interested because they like you and want to please you, but then, they read it and actually get turned on. When kids get turned on to something, they start telling other kids about what is happening. They start passing books around. Certain titles have waiting lists. It’s what happened with Harry Potter a few years ago, it’s what I see every day with Captain Underpants, The Magic Tree House, and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. How do these crazes get started? People get excited and they talk.

We as teachers can learn so much from this. Talk. Therein lies the secret to getting kids to read more. I sometimes wonder how my reading life would have been different had my teachers spent time talking up books. What if they had allowed other kids to share what they were on about in their reading? Would it have made me a reader? Who knows? But I sure wish someone would have tried.

1 comment:

max said...

Author James Patterson has a ten year-old son who doesn’t like to read. So Patterson has established http://www.readkiddoread.com to help other reluctant readers.

I, too, grew up as a reluctant reader. And my father was the author of over 70 books. Now I write action-adventure and mystery books especially for tween boys. My blog, Books for boys, http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is # 4 on Google today.

Max Elliot Anderson