Dave is an educator, coach, and motivational speaker. He lives in Utah with his family and affectionate budgies Perry and Sora.

Really. It’s Okay. Your kid isn’t broken. If your child hates reading, it’s not the end of the world.

But, I have a question for you. Do you hate reading?

You don’t have to reply out loud, or type your response in the comment section below(though I would love to have a chat with you sometime).

Reading comes in different forms, not just novels. Business news counts, a biography counts. There are many types of books, magazines, and web print that counts.

If you still hate reading, did you ever love reading in the past? Did a teacher in elementary school read a book to your class every day after lunch recess? Is there a book in your life that you remember with fondness at all?

I have noticed that among all of the students that I have taught; even the kids who say they hate reading, don’t really hate reading. Everyone has a book, though they might be ashamed to admit how long ago it was that they read said book.

There are different types of readers. These are all generally true, there will be obvious exceptions so don’t freak out.

  • Young male readers (8-15 years old) typically enjoy picture books, and books with  facts, data, machines, and pictures that explain them. Animal books, sports books, world record books, freaky facts, and did you know books. Their attention spans grab the data, and process what they’re seeing spatially. Some boys will enjoy big novels like The HobbitThe Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Vey, Hatchet, and the Percy Jackson series, but it’s ok if they don’t. One that my boys loved reading with me is The Watsons Go To Birmingham. It’s funny, and full of opportunity for conversation.
  • Young female readers (8-15 years old) typically enjoy picture books, and books with facts, data, machines, and pictures that explain them. Animal books, sports books, world record books, freaky facts, and did you know books. My daughters particularly like the Fancy Nancy series of books. Pete the Cat, and Elephant and Piggy. Those might be a bit young for 10-15 year olds, but I laugh at them. Again, novels like The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, are good. One novel that has a great female protagonist, and horse riding is The War That Saved My Life.
  • Frustrated and edgy teenagers don’t like to admit that they like reading, but they do. It just has to be a book that is edgy and challenging just like they are. Books that these readers enjoy will often have themes or language that caring adults might not agree with. These books include The Outsiders, Twilight, The Fault in Our Stars, several different manga titles, and many things horror. I don’t specify anything for the last two genres because there are so many titles and authors. You’ll know it if you see it.

I definitely don’t want to tell you what content you should allow. You have your rules and expectations. You have your own understanding of what is right or wrong. I wouldn’t want you to censor me, so I won’t censor you. Do a little research. Check out Goodreads. There are several reviews and ratings when it comes to content. If you’re worried about a book, read it for yourself first.

But do yourself, and your kid a favor.

  • Don’t force your child to read through books that you might have enjoyed as a younger reader.
  • Do give her time and space to find what she likes to read. That includes frequent trips to the library, or the bookstore.
  • Make time for him to read. Turn off devices. Expect that he reads.
  • Demonstrate that you enjoy reading. (Note to self. Find something I like to read.)
  • Take turns reading out loud. This obviously depends on the age of your reader. It can be a great experience to read something with your child. You’ll also have something to talk about later.

If there’s something I’ve learned teaching English to teenagers, it’s that we mess things up trying to help them do the thing we love. Kids learn to hate reading because they are asked questions about the book when they don’t know if they understand it yet. Kids learn to hate to read because there isn’t enough time to do it, or there always seems to be an interruption. Kids learn to hate to read because they don’t know words and don’t want to feel stupid. Kids learn to hate to read because they hear negative things about reading from people they look up to. Kids learn to hate to read because the movie or game or music is easier and louder and better, meaning it takes too much effort for the reward they receive.

Ultimately, it’s about time. We all go through phases. Put the important things in. Cut the distractions out. If your child struggles, help him exercise the skill that needs the work, don’t avoid it. Reading can be a rewarding experience when the right book is found.

Read on, even a little bit at a time counts.

-Dave

 

 

 

 

Image source clipartxtras.com

According to Dyslexia International, “dyslexia occurs in at least one in 10 people, putting roughly 700 million children and adults worldwide at risk of life-long illiteracy and social exclusion.”

That means I’m trying to help 18 – 20 students read and write better than they already do, while they’re at risk of life-long illiteracy and not fitting into our society! And I don’t even know who all of them are! I think I just had a panic attack. Is reading really that important? Maybe we should work on something else Monday.

I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know how dyslexia works, but I do know that successful people have all kinds of “disabilities”. They have figured out how to cope with, or overcome their weakness.  If you or your child has dyslexia, don’t give up hope! There are things that you can do to succeed, and I don’t think any of those things include “learning to read better”. Reading drills can help, but they can also be frustrating.

Think about it. Can your child hold a conversation? (age appropriate of course) If your child is 8 or 12, can he or she express ideas or discuss things he or she is interested in? When you watch a movie together, can you talk about the characters and story afterward?

I was recently listening to the audiobook version of The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss. Mr. Foss has dyslexia, and writes about three different processes of reading.

  • People who are blind read with their fingers. There’s nothing wrong with that. The standard process for someone who can’t see is to read and type with braille.
  • People who can see process phonemes and morphemes with their eyes. Those sets of symbols (letters and words) form images, and the brain processes those images and makes sense of the meanings.
  • People who can see, but don’t connect images to words, read by listening to audio. Whether audiobooks, newscasts or podcasts, listeners can see images, follow storylines, and decode complicated ideas.

All of these forms of “reading” sound beneficial and positive to me. Why is it that teachers and administrators in school districts all over North America have a goal to help seeing students read better through their eyes if their ears are capable of doing the same activity?

That’s my point. Reading is the process of identifying ideas and making meaning from words. It doesn’t have to include looking at the words anymore. And technology is making that more simple to do.

  1. Google, Apple, and many other companies have text to speech abilities. There are even free web based applications, like naturalreaders.com, that can read text for free.
  2. Read out loud together. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts together. After a chapter or an episode, talk about what you heard. Talk about what important ideas came up. Talk about questions that developed from hearing new ideas. Talk about what might happen next.
  3. While listening to an audiobook, follow along with the actual book. Practice doesn’t have to be high stress with tests at the end. Exposure to the written word doesn’t have to be frustrating and scary. Follow along; no expectations.

I hope this has helped you to understand and alleviate some of the anxiety you are probably feeling. My message to my students is for them to find the way that they can take in information. If they need audiobooks, or text-to-speech readers, they should be using those things.

Whether you use your eyes, or your ears, read on!
-Dave

 

PS – I don’t receive any incentive for telling you about products or linking to specific websites. I’m just trying to share what I know and discover with you. 🙂

I don’t want to make any assumptions. You might enjoy reading, but you’re trying to help a child find a book that he or she will really want to read. Maybe you’re here to figure out how to find something you’re interested in. Either way, let’s find you a book!

First though, you have to know a few things.
-What are you or your little reader interested in? Subject matters! There are books on every topic.
-Can you name a book that you enjoyed? What was it about? Why did you like it? If you know the answers to those questions, it will be easier to find something similar.
-Is there something you would like to learn about? There’s bound to be a book about it.

 

# 1 – The Library

Online, or in person, the library is a great resource for finding what’s new and popular.

My local county library website has lists for new adult fiction, new adult biography, and books that are popular within this library system.

The whole library catalog is searchable by category and genre. If you’re at the library, ask a librarian. They love books, and can give you an idea of what will be interesting. I have also seen bookmarks for each genre with new titles available for checkout.

One way to use the library online is through OverDrive. More on that resource later.

# 2 – Goodreads.com

Goodreads is my favorite way to curate book lists. This isn’t about making lists, it’s about finding books to read. Goodreads is a great place to find reviews of books. It also hosts lists of books that might fit the category you are interested in, however specific or general you want.

The people who review books on Goodreads are generally good about protecting spoilers in case you’re worried about that. They also give biased information about books, so read a few before you decide whether or not to pick up a book.

Goodreads is also a social media platform. You can find friends from work or school and see what they are reading. If you have similar interests, it’s easy to add a book that they are reading to your list.

# 3 – OverDrive

OverDrive is an app for your phone, tablet, or computer. It is a hub for all of the libraries you have access to. You can log in to your city, county, and school libraries so long as you have a library card for each. You can search and filter through genre and book format.

OverDrive is great because you can check out books and magazines just like at the physical library, and turn them in when you’re done. It provides access to eBooks and Audiobooks. If a title isn’t available, you can put it on hold. You can see how many people have it on hold in front of you, and get an email when it’s ready to be checked out.

 

There are many other ways to find books to read. Even doing a web search for book lists will provide you with plenty to read through. Once you have a book or two that you can say you enjoyed, you will be able to find something similar. You just need to ask.

Are there other places you frequent to find something to read? Let me know in the comments!

Read on, be brave!

-Dave

 

I think about reading all of the time. I try to think of ways to encourage my students to read more. I spent the first few years of my teaching career teaching whole class novels probably like every other ELA teacher. I was excited to share Bilbo’s journey through Mirkwood. I took a risk by singing the dwarves’ story about the Misty Mountains. I like making kids uncomfortable, ok? I love comparing Bilbo’s choices and character growth to our lives, and I like to think the kids in 8th grade got it.

When I think about the whole process in a big picture sort of way, I can see why so many kids start to despise reading. We start the chapter, then stop to ask questions. Then they get a worksheet or vocabulary, then we finish the chapter. It doesn’t flow. I don’t read that way, and you probably don’t either.

Too often when we read a whole novel together as a class, we ask students questions that they probably aren’t capable of answering yet. Most of them haven’t read all the way through The Hobbit (the movie doesn’t count!). How do they know if he’s a hero yet, or not? They don’t understand the history of the Tooks and Bagginses, and how that personal baggage has an impact on Bilbo’s decisions from The Last Homely House to Smaug’s Lonely Mountain. They barely even notice how regularly he whines about wanting to be home by his fire with a nice cup of tea.

What are we to do, then? Do we really need to pack every kid at every imaginable reading level along for the ride? Not if we’re going to stop and analyze every plot point and every characters action. We’ve lost them before we’ve begun.

I had a great conversation with a friend one recent Saturday. She talked of an experience she had in a high school English class. The teacher tried something for the first time that year. He had the class read The Old Man and the Sea all the way through before beginning to close read and ask questions. No extra assignments for comprehension. They just read. Then they came back and started the book again. But now with an understanding of who’s who, and where they are. She talked about how she actually understood the plot, and character motive, and the big picture of what the story is really about. That is amazing to me!

This is my first year teaching at a high school. I teach sophomores, and I’m trying something new. I get the feeling that they understand what they read better than when they were in 7th and 8th grade. Hopefully that’s true, they’ve been practicing for a few years. I don’t know exactly how I will do it, but I have until January to figure that out. We will be reading Macbeth, and I want to give them access to the characters and story all the way through once before I start to ask the why’s, who’s, when’s and what-if’s. I want them to understand the puns, and how the phrases turn. I want them to appreciate some aspect of Shakespeare’s genius. Sure we’ll read it twice, and at least watch a version of it once, but I’m hoping they love it like we expect everyone to love Shakespeare. Does watching one of Shakespeare’s plays count as reading? Is that cheating?

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for every possible trick to help my students succeed with and love Shakespeare.

Donalyn Miller has a point. If they’re reading ability or reading enjoyment doesn’t improve, then why are we making them read?

Keep reading!

-Dave

I’ve been teaching 12-14 year olds the wonderful world of English Language Arts in a small school district in Salt Lake City for three years. I find it interesting that every class I have ever taught has had at least one student, (boy or girl) who vocalizes nearly every day that they don’t like reading. I don’t take it personally that they don’t enjoy reading, but I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Why do some kids resist reading? What is it that they dread?

In my 7th grade classes, nearly every student recalls with fondness, that special time after lunch when an elementary school teacher read a book out loud. One or two students will claim that they didn’t like it, that it was boring. BUT, they remember the teacher, and they remember the book. So when we begin reading a book together, most everyone will pick up their copy, find the page, and follow along. And when it’s their turn to read aloud, even if they’re not really confident in their reading ability, they’ll try, even for just a few sentences.

In my 8th grade classes, often with students I taught the previous year, they’ll deny that they enjoyed that after-lunch-story-time. The number of students refusing to pick up the book, and find the page goes up. They can read, but when called upon to read out loud,  they refuse to do it. They are resistant to practice reading.

There are many factors in why students don’t like to read, and I’ve been trying to figure out what they are in hopes of finding a solution. There are probably others, but so far I’ve come up with the following:

  • A multi-lingual student isn’t confident reading in the first language, so isn’t excited to practice reading a second or third language.
  • Nobody reads at home, so why should they?
  • They haven’t found the right book yet.
  • Dyslexia, ADHD, and other cognitive issues make it difficult to decode information making reading confusing.

I think that there are solutions to all of these things. The problem is that every situation and person is different. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix.

I did discover a possible fix for some readers. An amazing colleague at my school shared with me the idea of using colored transparent sheets* to read through. Every student that tried them this week found the color that worked for them.

Ultimately, a skill like reading takes practice. The problem is knowing where to start. Is your reader struggling with letter sounds? If they understand letter sounds, do they understand the rules of word pronunciation? If they’re guessing at words, they might be focusing on word shapes. A good teacher or tutor should be able to sit down with you and your reader, provide a few word lists or paragraphs, and have a pretty good idea of where your reader doesn’t want to read.

It takes time. Patience and time.

If you have a question, I’ll try my best to answer it!

I hope this helps. Keep reading, I’ll be back later!

WRC

 

*Link provided for reference only. I don’t have any deals with vendors or their products.