I was overwhelmed by the response to last week’s Raising Readers post about Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, with its emphasis on relabeling “struggling” readers as Developing Readers. The blog received unprecedented (for me!) traffic, and I made lots of new educator and parent friends. The discussions this post spurred both on and offline will surely go on to help hundreds of developing readers reach their full potential. I want to thank you all for reading and sharing – and a special thanks to Ms. Miller herself for taking the time to read, comment on, and share my post!
As promised, this week we will continue discussing the import of The Book Whisperer for parents. Specifically, let’s talk about those parents who have children labelled “Reluctant Readers.”
Parents of these children dread the Reading Log. Having to convince their child to read for 20 minutes a night is discouraging chore. What I hear from friends is “He CAN read just fine. He just doesn’t LIKE to read.” Sound familiar?
For some students, this a phase they pass through as their reading skills become stronger, or until certain genre or series grabs their attention and shows them how enjoyable reading can be. For others, it simply becomes a lifestyle. They read when they HAVE to, and never because they WANT to.
(I recently featured a guest post by children’s author Tara Lazar about her own experience raising a reluctant reader. You can check it out here.)
I do not have the space here to discuss all the reasons why not reading is a problem. Some of you won’t think that it is. As a matter of fact, schools often don’t see it as a problem, either. At least, not one they have the resources to address.
As long as these kids pass the state assessments and get decent classroom grades, their enjoyment of books is of no concern.
The real energy of the education system goes into the kids who are under-performing, or possibly into those who excel. The students who are holding their own and doing just fine are left to do just that.
We’ve been calling them “Reluctant Readers.” Ms. Miller’s book suggests we call them instead Dormant Readers. There is are readers inside them, ready to awaken, given the right conditions. It’s now our job to create those conditions. Here’s how to get started:
1. Talk with your child’s teachers about your concerns.Teachers who care, who want to inspire these kids, can be very influential in changing Dormant Readers into avid readers! It might not be the language arts or homeroom teacher who connects with your child – so make sure to bring it up with a favorite coach, art teacher, band director, etc.
2. Build a relationship between your child and a librarian. Today’s librarians are more than shush-ers and shelvers! They are living, breathing treasure troves of knowledge about all there is to read. A good librarian can help your child discover his interests, order books from other libraries, access free e-books from anywhere, discover magazines, websites, and discussion groups. (BTW, librarians, if you are looking for more ways to inspire these dormant readers, check out School Library Journal’s webcast on Engaging the Reluctant Reader on October 16th.)
3. Read together! Whether you are reading aloud with your child or cuddling up on the couch with one bowl of snacks and two entirely different books, spending time reading together makes a big impression on your child. It shows you think reading is important AND fun. It shows that you think your child is important and fun, too. (For more on setting the right example, see CopyCat Kids.)
4. Pay attention to the Rights of the Reader. Kids often feel there is a right or wrong way to read, as well as right and wrong books to read. Give your dormant reader freedom to read when, where, what and how he likes and you may see a change in his willingness to read. This very popular poster of the Rights of the Reader coined by author Daniel Pennac is available to download from Walker Books, Ltd of London.
5. Check The Book Whisperer out of the Library: Or purchase a copy of your own. If nothing else, read the chapter called Walking the Walk to learn how you can change your reading habits to positively influence the children in your life. Then, check out the awesome Appendix B. Sound boring? It’s also called The Ultimate Library List and it will go a long way to guide you, and your child, toward great reads that inspire further reading!
I can’t wait to read all your comments and have some more chats here, on twitter, and in “real life” about these ideas. Please read, comment, share – and most of all, keep on #RaisingReaders!!