#RaisingReaders Monday: No More Reluctant Readers

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!

My Readers Rock

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!!


9 thoughts on “#RaisingReaders Monday: No More Reluctant Readers

  1. Yay for you and your hits and responses 😀 I have to say, I much prefer “developing readers,” and really, I think a lot of times is simply that not all kids want to sit still and read words, regardless of what those words are. They prefer to play, or things that are visual or active, partially due to the allure of all the active stuff around them, or even their mood. That’s why it’s so critical to allow kids to read what they are drawn to read. If it’s not something they enjoy enough to pull them away from TV or a video game, they will be reluctant. I know I am! I want my reads to be compelling 🙂

    Love these images/quotes/chart, btw 🙂


    • I agree,it can be hard to draw kids away from active play and alluring images like TV and iseo games offer – and I think there’s a time for all of it. That’s such a big reason why it’s important for them to try many kinds of materials – otherwise they will never learn what books are “alluring” (as you say) to them. Heck, I was 35 before I discovered a love of nautical fiction. A stack of Horatio Hornblower and a box set of the Aubrey and Maturin books (think Master and Commander) later, I can’t imagine not loving it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on all of the traffic. Love this post and I can see why it was popular! I like the term “dormant reader.” I’m married to one of them. 🙂 No problems reading but it is the last thing he would do in his free time. Much of reading, I believe, is about choices. As a child I NEVER enjoyed reading until I realized one summer that I could read any book in the library – it didn’t HAVE to be something my teacher assigned me. That made a huge difference in my life. Choices are important. I adore the “Rights of the Reader” image. Thanks for linking up on the Kid Lit Blog Hop! Off to share…
    Cool Mom for
    The Stanley and Katrina Gang


    • Thank you for coming by and sharing your story! My husband is another who never really took a liking to reading for enjoyment – until I found him the right books. Now he eagerly awaits the next Christopher Moore novel and checks to see if he’s missed any Tom Robbins. I guess it’s never too late to raise a reader.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for the insightful post, I will now avoid all the other things on my to-do list and happily enjoy reading your previous posts!!! #procrastination

    I love Donalyn’s philosophies on reading logs and standardised reading assessments and happily embrace the relabeling of struggling to developing, we have all of her books cataloged in our school library however they are rarely IN the library; which is a good thing.

    As a librarian, every day I have parents and teachers talk to me about getting ‘just right’ books in their childrens/students hands. As a teacher, I too preached about just right books; however as a librarian, the just right book for the child, is the book the child WANTS to read…. Yes there will be stages where they are ‘stuck’ with Geronimo, Wimpy Kid, only Graphic Novels, whatever the current fad is, for what the parent or teacher, or sometimes even me, deem too long… however, if they are happy, and engaged, and viewing themselves as readers… then that is a HUGE win.

    Thanks for being part of the #kidlitbloghop
    Kimbra Power
    Barefoot Librarian


    • Kimbra, I am so glad that you came by the blog – and that I’ve provided you with a way to procrastinate on your pesky to-do list. I hope you find plenty to enjoy!

      There have been days I’ve cringed at the books my children have chosen – and it took me longer than I’d like to admit to be convinced that the book a child can’t put down is almost always the right book. Hopefully, I’m doing my karmic part to help pass that on to other parents now, so their kids don’t have to hear “I don’t care if you like it – I am NOT buying another Barbie book!”


  4. Pingback: Make Poetry Fun and Relevant for Every Child: an Interview with poet/educator Laura Shovan | kateywrites

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