One of the greatest challenges for a teacher-librarian is connecting with the struggling reader or reluctant reader. They are the ones who come to the school library during book exchange and dawdle around the search computer, tease other kids or huddle together around a random section on the shelves whispering about the latest hockey game or the “who likes whom” gossip.
Sometimes it’s hard for a struggling reader to admit that he or she finds reading hard. They’ll want a big book – a thick book – anything that looks as if they can read as well as any other student in their grade. But they are usually back at the next library exchange time saying “I didn’t like it.”
Developing the type of relationship that allows them to be honest with their difficulties in reading is one of the goals of a teacher-librarian. Then you are able to help them choose a book that they will actually read – often a high-interest topic with a reading level that they can manage.
Then you can have another type of reader – the reluctant reader – the one who can read well but just doesn’t enjoy it. They are quite a challenge for teachers, homeschooling parents and librarians. They are usually convinced that reading is boring. Any overly enthusiastic book recommendation by a teacher- librarian is greeted with deep scepticism. I’ve learned to temper my bibliomaniac tendencies, hold out a book and say, oh. so. casually. “I think you might like this.”
(applause inserted here for such Oscar Award worthy efforts)
Tonia got me thinking about passing on the love of reading when she wrote about a visit to the local library where author Avi held a group of children spell-bound for two hours. It’s a joy to read how her youngest boy, an emerging reader, discovered the gift of story.
Tonia’s entry about Avi and C7 reminded me of James, my 4th boy, also a reluctant reader.
An illustrator of Avi’s books lives here in our neighbourhood. He asked James, who was about 10 at the time, to model for the cover of one of Avi’s books – Captain Grey.
He’s the boy on this cover. James was quite shy at that time and it surprised me that he agreed do it. He was offered $50.00 a session so that might have been the motivating factor.
When we were in the studio, I mentioned to the illustrator that James might be a bit nervous because he was so shy. The illustrator seemed quite pleased by this and said “That works out well because the character he’s portraying has been kidnapped.” You can see the little worried look on James’ face. The captain on the cover is our plumber. I don’t know the pirate in the foreground.
You’d think that being on the cover of Avi’s book might have inspired James to read the book but no…. perhaps he needed to hear Avi speak about the book just like C7.
James stumbled into his love of reading another way.
He always did well at school and excelled in hockey and other sports. He loved to be physically active and was bored if he had to sit for any length of time. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that he didn’t enjoy reading. But still, it was a bit of a shock to his bibliophile mother.
It was hard not to be annoyed with his inability to sit still and occupy himself with a lovely quiet activity like reading – especially one rainy summer day when he was about 11 years old.
It was a perfect day for putting your feet up with a cool glass of iced tea and a nice, fat book and so I did. But he was bored and fidgety – I call it buggy – and his idea of a good time was pestering and driving his little sister crazy.
You’ll understand why I acted the way I did – it was the third time I had to put my book down. I was in a really good part. I think that it showed remarkable restraint that I only yelled.
For “punishment” I sent him to his room with a book …
“Read!” I ordered.
“I hate to read,” he protested on his way to the bedroom.
“I don’t care!” I said.
I thought it might last 20 minutes and then he’d be back out. But two hours later he was still in his room. Finally I peeked in the door – imagine my surprise when he looked up from the book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and said “I’m almost done Mom. Will you buy me the next one?”
Of course I did and then he moved onto the Lord of the Rings. I don’t know how many times he’s read them – he quotes whole passages and knows every character, every battle and all the history. He wouldn’t read anything but LOTR for about 2 years but finally moved on to other types of literature
Well now, he’s an avid book lover just like the rest of the family.
All it took was a
hysterical convincing mom and solitary confinement some quiet time.
(Don’t worry – I won’t be presenting this reading strategy at the next teacher-librarians’ workshop)
…The bottom line: If Glen continues to avoid “extracurricular” reading, he could be two grade levels behind by high school, and struggling with his assigned reading in all subjects…
an excellent article with some great suggestions.
I’m sure James wished I had read it …