Young people are naturally curious about the world. They want to know how things work, and why things happen. Books provide answers to young people’s questions and take them to another level of exploration. A major challenge that comes up during the summer months and during recreational time is the difficulty of getting young people to make the connection to books.
Unfortunately a large number of children of color see reading as a boring chore. These students believe that reading should be done at school and that holding a book outside of class makes them look uncool. As parents and teachers, we want our kids to be able to engage in academic conversations and share deep insights about history, science and literature – about the world around them. The question that concerns us most is “Can we get our kids to turn off the video games and T.V and pick up books?” The answer is yes! I have never met a child that couldn’t improve as a reader, and with some help from us they can do wonderful things. Let’s start by identifying the three types of readers and looking at a few recommendations to support them.
Reader #1: The Reluctant Reader. These students can read. They can decode multi- syllable words and can comprehend a story. They most likely have received passing scores on their state standardized exams, but will not pick up a book on their own. These students need to be encouraged to read for interest. Sometimes we fail to value students’ interests. We want them to be reading “high quality literature,” but for reluctant readers all reading is valuable and should be respected. Pay attention to what your child is interested in without them telling you. Bookstores and libraries are filled with books about everything. Children make connections to things that they can relate to. Biographies about pop stars, non-fiction, books on gaming, and books that represent characters that are rebellious are key to getting students to read on their own time.
Reader #2: The Struggling Reader. These students have trouble reading. There are a variety of issues such as decoding or comprehension that can get in the way of these students reading for pleasure. In this case, I would recommend low-level/high interest books. There are many books out today that support struggling readers while eliminating some of the challenges that are presented in an age level text. Go to the library or bookstore and ask for abridged versions of the classics. These students enjoy short sentences, short chapters and dialogue. Let’s give these readers support that makes sense to them not just to us.
Reader #3: The Frustrated Reader. They have multiple layers of reading difficulties. They are at a point where they don’t even want to attempt to read anything. This is very serious. If you have a school-aged child that is not reading, my advice to you is to seek professional reading help. There are school services and numerous outside organizations that have reading specialists that know how to assess and develop a personal plan to support your child.
One of the most important things that parents, guardians and people interested in getting a young person to read can do is to READ TO THEM. The child’s age doesn’t matter. Taking time to read a newspaper article, a book or directions to the latest tech gadget is priceless. By them seeing you read, you will be providing them with examples. It is important and very serious that they see you demonstrating the behaviors that you want them to acquire. Reading is fun and enjoyable and is also powerful. We should have hope for every young person out there. We can all improve as readers. For more information about literacy support, contact: Literacy Partners of New York or Kids Research Center. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this topic further please feel free to reach out firstname.lastname@example.org