Let’s face it. Some kids miss out on falling in love with books when they are very young for a variety of reasons. It’s a terribly unfortunate fact. Some children may learn to enjoy books as they enter school, if they aren’t intimidated by reading instruction. Others may feel that books are all about a process that is overwhelming to them and they can begin to feel that books are not for pleasure, but are for work. Those are the kids that tell you they don’t like (or even sadder, hate) to read. “Reluctant readers” is the educators’ term for students who feel this way about reading.
There is hope for these guys and girls! While it saddens me greatly to hear kids say they don’t like reading, I sort of find it a challenge then to help them find something they DO indeed like to read.
Let’s take a look at some options to encourage these reluctant readers to just read for pure pleasure – or at least for a purpose they personally value.
Comic Books & Graphic Novels – While they are not high literature, comics do include story elements of plot, character development, dialogue and other important features of more formal literature. Graphic Novels are newer on the scene, but take elements of comic books and bring them into a more text rich story. These still feel much like comic books of the old days, but are in book form. Both incorporate a coolness factor that gets reluctant readers motivated to give them a shot. Kids find them entertaining, so they associate them with fun, thus they’ll read more. That’s what we’re going for! (Here’s a sample of a book that incorporates these elements in non-fiction format Forensic Science.)
Magazines – The world of magazines is so varied in content that you can surely find a magazine on your child’s favorite topic, from hunting to cooking, knitting to golf, video games to ventriloquism (okay I’m not sure about that last one). If you can afford a magazine subscription for your children, all the better. Getting your own magazine monthly to read cover to cover on your favorite topic is a something most kids will really look forward to and again – will help them develop a habit of reading for pleasure. My kids love Sports Illustrated for Kids and National Geographic KIDS, along with the classic Highlights. And my teenager likes to get in some time with Newsweek now and then. (Here’s a site with listings of hundreds of magazines for kids – listed by topic for your convenience http://www.world-newspapers.com/children.html)
Instructions – Does your child have a hobby? Like to build or make things? Want to learn a new skill or get better at one? These are all ways to create a purpose for reading. When kids can create a product they can be proud of as a result of reading instructions for a specific project – they see reading as useful. When they can read a how-to book that helps them perfect a skill they can show off, they’re likely to see reading as a means to a rewarding end. The reward is in what comes from the reading, but it will encourage the habit of reading as a way of learning new things the child chooses to learn – not just reading required for an assignment. Check out these Kid Kits from Usborne Books – activity books with the goodies you need to complete the projects/activities all packaged together! Nice for reading with a purpose and great for the birthday gift stash too!
Cookbooks & Recipes – Kids of all ages usually enjoy making food for themselves and as they get older can manage the challenge of preparing family meals. Kids may also get a kick out of introducing the family to a new food from another culture they are learning about, or a place they’d like to visit. Whether it’s reading the side of the mac and cheese box, surfing the web for the simplest enchilada recipe, or exploring the Joy of Cooking. Kids are stretching their reading muscles for the purpose of feeding their bodies – and their minds get nourished in the process. There are many cookbooks on the market for kids too. Check out these cook book offerings from Usborne Books.
Travel Brochures, Guides & Maps – Planning a trip, or dreaming of one? Ask your child read up on what he/she is interested in doing when you arrive. Studying about a place in school? Call to get brochures mailed to you, or go online to research the place for more fun tidbits to share in class. Here’s a link for free travel information for the US, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean. http://www.travelguidesfree.com/
Newspapers – Not only will your child be up to date on current events. He or she can also find the latest information in the world of sports, have fun with the comics, help find what’s on sale at the grocery, even plan a fun weekend of activities for the family.
You can see there are many alternatives to books as a source of interesting reading material for kids. The most important things we can do, when working with reluctant readers, are to try to introduce texts that appeal to their interests and include a fun factor as often as possible. When reading becomes a pleasant activity for kids, they can often overcome their reluctance to read in general and save their disdain for some novels and poetry assigned in English class. (Not knocking high lit. here, just being real.) With some fun “alternative” reading going on, there is even the chance students will approach those assigned readings with a little more open mind.