books, family

of books and readers . . .

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.

captain_grey.jpg 

 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

and now?

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)
 

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12 thoughts on “of books and readers . . .

  1. My two little ones love to read. B (5 years) is way ahead in her class at reading she’s just started reading to herself for pleasure which is really sweet to see. I love to read so I’m so glad my little ones seems to have the same enjoyment of books that I have.

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  2. When our boys were in elementary school, we gave them a challenge to read that involved money. Shameless, I know, but you should have seen their reading efforts. I love this post and go figure…Harry Potter lead him to LOTR. And they say Harry is evil.Blessings

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  3. Islandsparrow says:

    Jeanne (whispering here) I almost didn’t mention "he who must not be named" here in cyberspace – Harry is such a red flag – I had a picture of myself as one of those ducks in a shooting gallery. But I wouldn’t have been honest about James’ reading – it was Harry who sparked his imagination. The later books in the series are very dark – so I was glad that he was an older teen when he read them. Glad you enjoyed it Julana!Missm – I haven’t read it myself although we own several copies. I’m not a huge Avi fan. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is in our grade 7 curriculum so I have read that one. Our school has a school-wide 20 min. silent reading every day. It does work. Sometimes kids need a little "encouragement" :)Donna – keep reading aloud to Katie and she will catch on someday. My oldest boy, at the same age as Katie, didn’t like reading either – mainly because it was just too much work to decode and he would rather that I read to him. In grade 2 he wrote "I hate reading" and in grade 4 his teacher had to tell him that there was more to life than reading. He was hiding books inside his math cover. In grade 7 they did a year long reading record (# of pages read)and then scored the whole class to see how they compared to the class the year before – they had to leave him out of the equation because he skewed the results. He had read over 18,000 pages. He went on to get his honours degree in English.Hi Michelle – thanks for the tip about the Secret of Droon series – I have seen them listed on the high-interest low-level lists but I’ve never read them.

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  4. That’s great–I was even working on a post about my son’s struggle with reading for next week. For him it was the Secrets of Droon series that finally did it.

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  5. I love this story! How amazing to be on the front cover of a novel! Is it a good book? I am so glad your son became a reader. How tragic if he were not to! I must admit that I have used the enforcement method in the classroom. With a particularly rowdy class beginning the lesson with 20 minutes enforced silent reading time helps to settle the class well. I employed this strategy this term and noticed that even the reluctant readers, when given no other option, would read. I then gave them the opportunity to voice their disapproval in a reflection journal and validated their "this is so boring[s]" but by the time they reached the sixth chapter they were all hooked. As homework the students had to read for another 20 minutes and record what had happened, what they liked and what they would change.After 4 weeks of this program I had to abandon the silent reading time because the students were reading too much! Instead of just reading one novel some were up to the third, fourth or fifth in the series! I completely agree with your enforcement method and the understated approach for reluctant readers.

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  6. Harry Potter did it for my daughter too! Before that, I would try giving her all the girls’ classics and she would say, "You’re trying to make me into an old-fashioned girl–and I’m not one!" She’s right–she’s always been as enculturated as a moderately sheltered child can be. But Harry Potter blew her reading out of the water. She couldn’t put them down. Her pace and comprehension picked up tremendously, and after those big, fat tomes, other books looked much more doable to her.I’m very grateful to Harry!Jeanne

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  7. I had one who was a struggling read who finally caught on but the struggle made her into a reluctant reader. We have to really search for a series she really enjoys. But when we find one, I’m buying her a book a week.

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  8. Harry Potter did it for my daughter too! Before that, I would try giving her all the girls’ classics and she would say, "You’re trying to make me into an old-fashioned girl–and I’m not one!" She’s right–she’s always been as enculturated as a moderately sheltered child can be. But Harry Potter blew her reading out of the water. She couldn’t put them down. Her pace and comprehension picked up tremendously, and after those big, fat tomes, other books looked much more doable to her.I’m very grateful to Harry!Jeanne

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