Saturday, June 23, 2012

Top 10 Things you need to know about Reluctant Teen Readers

If you have a teen that is unwilling to read. Inspire them! After 5 years in a reading classroom, this is what I've learned. This does not, however, apply to everyone. Every single student is different, but hopefully one of these tips will help you, help your student.
  1. Most reluctant readers have never, ever found pleasure in a book because they've never found a favorite author, genre, or book (period).
    • What to do about it:
      • Most teens, especially girls, love taking personality quizzes. I mean magazines are full of them and I've noticed it's one of the first places they'll go. Here's a personality quiz that determines what genre might fit you best. It's a great place to start: What Genre Fits You Best? See if you can get your teen to take it.
        • If not, ask yourself, what do they do during the day? What interests them? Begin researching books.
      • Once you have that information, you have fuel for a fire. Begin reading some top teen picks in this genre or books that might interest them. Here's an excellent place to start:
      • If you like it. Sell it. YOU HAVE TO BE QUICK AND SNEAKY! Here's what I did that got a book a long waiting list: Book Talks. I'd spend a few seconds, seriously, talking about the summary, and then read an intense part, BUT LEAVE THEM HANGING. Do NOT tell them what happens, simply tell them, "Well, I guess you'll have to read the book to find out!"
      • Set the book down (make sure they do not know where you read that from) and walk away. It might be there for a few days, or not, but LEAVE it alone and don't say anything! You do NOT want to become naggy.
  2. I've found that many reluctant readers do not visualize the book in their head while they read. No wonder they hate it so much! No pictures in their head = booooooring!
    • What to do about it:
      • Read a book and talk about what the characters and setting looks like in your head.
      • Talk about what you saw as you read an intense scene... like a fight.
      • If a student has never visualized before, it's because no one has taught them that it's a thinking process they must do in order to enjoy reading. It's like a movie unfolding in their head and they must learn how to think. I do this through Think Alouds, where I'll read, stop, talk about what I see, read, stop, talk about what I see, etc. If your teen will sit and read a book with you, this is the most effective way to teach them how to think.
  3. Most reluctant readers have never spent time reading because they may not think they have time, or it isn't part of a families schedule, or a families priorities, etc. etc.
    • What to do about it:
      • Change your priorities! Make it part of your day! Begin with a short time period first and as it becomes a schedule they're used to, gradually take on time. Take 15 minutes where everyone is required to read, something, magazine, newspaper, whatever. The requirement is you must sit quietly and read, BUT YOU MUST JOIN THEM AND MODEL THE BEHAVIOR YOU'RE TRYING TO GET FROM THEM! Yes, it will be difficult at first. Yes, it will be a fight. You will probably hear, "This is so stupid!" STICK TO YOUR GUNS.
      • We began everyday with 10 minutes of individual reading time (I wish I had more time dedicated to that) and it took A LOT of practice to make it a procedure the students just did.
  4. Most reluctant readers do not know how to find what they're intersted in reading. They do not know how to navigate a library or a book store, for example. For them it's overwhelming!
    • What to do about it:
      • Take them to a library or a book store and teach them the ropes.
        • "If you're interested in this... go there..."
        • "If you're interested in checking out this type of books... here's where what you look for..."
        • "I'm interested in ____________, so this is where I'd go to find what I'm looking for...."
      • If you go to a library, most card catalogue systems are on the computer. Find it, and go through it together. If you're unsure, that's a librarians job: to help you! So ask.
  5. Motivation. Reading is hard, once they realize that it's a thinking process where they're required to connect, predict, visualize, etc. They don't want to do it because it's time consuming.
    • What to do:
      • Motivate them with something they enjoy. Like, spend 30 minutes reading you get 30 minutes past curfew. Spend 20 minutes reading and I'll make your favorite cookies. Spend an hour reading every day this week and I'll buy that game you've been wanting.... Finish this book and we'll make time to take a day at Elitch Gardens. Make it worth while.
      • For example: In my classroom they were required to earn so many AR points, I'd check them periodically and if they were making progress, I'd hand out candy. Candy works wonders, even for teens. :) I gave out free homework passes, points towards a free day, etc.
  6. Most reluctant readers have never been successful when it comes to reading.
    • What to do:
      • Create opportunities where they are motivated, once they are successful the motivation factor should become less and less because they'll just pick it up on their own. 
      • Show them how to find a book they might be interested in reading. The more interest the have in the topic, the more likely they are to finish the task.
      • If they complete a reading task, make a big deal of it. Reward them for a job well done!
      • Talk through the book with them (which means you'll have to read it too). Most reluctant readers do not understand that their viewpoint is valuable. Sometimes they've been criticized for thinking differently or outside the box, they have to understand their insight is valuable and it's ok to be wrong.
        • For example, in class we work on predicting. Most reluctant readers are hesitant to do this because, "OMG! What if I'm wrong?" Well, who cares. The point is making the reader think about what's going to happen next, if you're wrong you'll be that much more surprised.
        • The other, more depressing and long lasting aspect, is when your student was called stupid for making a prediction or answering a question. This is where you need to help your student gain confidence on his/her ability to answer questions and participate in a discussion. This is something you can do, do not criticize. Help him/her learn the academic language that most people use to discuss a book or text by simply using it. Perhaps even give him a sentence starter: I believe... I wonder if... What would happen if... etc.
  7. Most reluctant readers struggle. I love how Kylene Beers stated that struggle in her book When Kids Can't Read What Teachers Can Do, "The struggle isn't the issue; the issue is what the reader does when the text gets tough."
    • What to do:
      • Independent readers try to figure out what's confusing them, they use strategies and tools to get them through a particularly rough part of the text, but they persevere. They ask questions, guess meanings of unknown words, reflect, make mistakes and are still confident. Struggling readers do not do any of that.
      • What they need is a tool box. Not a literal tool box, but something tangible so they know what tool they can use to fix what's confusing them. Teach them what good readers do, do not focus on what they're not doing.
      • Before Reading Good Readers:
        • Preview the book (read the summary, look at pictures, thumb through the pages).
        • Think about what they know about a text before reading it.
        • Predict what they think will happen.
      • During Reading Good Readers:
        • Predict what they think will happen next.
        • Connect the text to their own life, to something they've seen, heard or read before (books, movies, magazines, news, etc.).
        • Ask Questions.
        • Visualize
        • Infer
        • Compare/Contrast
        • Find the Main Idea
        • Know the sequence of events
        • Self Monitor (For example: they say, "Wow that was a really tough paragraph, I'm going to go back and reread it." or "I don't understand that word and I think it's confusing me, I'll look it up or ask the teacher.")
      • After Reading Good Readers:
        • Reflect (Did I like it? Would I recommend it? I wonder why...)
        • Discuss (Reading is a very social activity! If you like it, you'll want to talk about it and share it!)
  8. Many reluctant readers pick books that are way to hard.
    • What to do:
      • Stick to the fist rule. As they're reading make a fist. For every word he/she does not understand stick out a finger. If there are 5 or more words on one page they do not understand. Pick a different, less challenging book.
  9. Most reluctant readers do not connect.
    • What to do:
      • Struggling or reluctant readers do not see how a text relates to them. If it doesn't relate to their own lives right now, they want nothing to do with it.
      • This is where you need to do your homework. What does your student like? What would he/she find interesting? Find a book, magazine, comic, whatever, that relates to their interests.
      • What movie did they enjoy? If they liked I am Legend with Will Smith, for example, they'll like The Maze Runner Series because there are people in the book called Cranks that I pictured as the zombies in that movie. Eeek.
      • YouTube is a favorite of mine, so is music. If girls listen to music all... the... time... they'll love the book Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. Excellent, clean, teen love story. While I read any book that I think Teens might like, I try to find YouTube videos or songs that relate to the book in any way, it helps them connect.
  10. Most good readers have a place where they can't wait to go and relax. It's like their own reading utopia. Most reluctant readers do not have a reading utopia.
    • What to do: Create one. This is a picture of one of my reading utopia dreams, the only thing it requires is a quiet place, popcorn, a pillow, and a love sac:

I hope this helps inspire you to buckle down and get to work on helping your student read. It will be hard, frustrating, and at times a tad daunting. Don't give up on them! Parents are the best or worst advocates for reading! Keep at it, despite the "I don't want to's..." or "I don't feel like it's..." because I promise you that it will benefit them in more ways than you can possibly count.

"The road to knowledge begins with the turn of a page..."

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