Thursday, May 17, 2012

The ABC's of Middle Grade: Y is for Yummy

Sweet foods make me swoon, and dark chocolate is my favorite sweet food by a million miles, so sooner or later, my middle grade alphabet march had to relate to chocolate. Chocolate is yummy, pure deliciousness as it melts in your mouth, a little bit of heaven encased in brown silk. Oh, I could go on and on . . .

But as I continue chocolate dreaming, I should also get to business. So . . . books should be yummy to kids, maybe not the way their favorite food is yummy to them but yummy in that kids should devour books the way they devour their favorite food. And because I think that, I can't explain how my heart plummets to my toes when I hear a kid say, "I don't like to read."

My usual response when a kid says that is, "Why?" Asked in a kind way, of course. And more often than not, the kids don't really know why; they just know they don't like reading. We're all familiar with the term reluctant reader, I think. Teachers are always on the hunt for books their reluctant readers will enjoy. I met with a group of fourth grade reluctant readers for World Book Night. Parents get frustrated if their kids are reluctant readers. Goodness, my HUSBAND is a reluctant reader!

So, my question today is this: Is there a way to make reading yummy to reluctant readers? Can a reluctant reader become someone who devours books, or once you're a reluctant reader are you always a reluctant reader? I have views but would love to hear yours.

14 comments:

  1. Loved all the chocolate in your post. Yum! I really think the graphic novels and books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, etc. are great books to entice a reluctant reader to read. And then hopefully as they mature, their reading tastes will mature.

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  2. I have several brothers that were very reluctant readers. Two of them still don't read much. One discovered a book that interested him and now is an avid reader. He's working his way through the classics and has spent a lot of time with Tolstoy and Dickens. Because he found a book that spoke to him, he discovered how delicious reading was and is now reading books he previously thought were boring.

    I wish I could say what makes a book yummy to kids but it's different for each kid. That's why parents need to be involved in their kids reading journeys. Knowing their personalities and finding out what they liked and didn't like about books could help them find the book that flips the switch.

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  3. I think audio books are a great way to get reluctant readers reading, or having an adult read aloud and model how to read. I've noticed with my own daughter, that we would do me read a page, her read a page, and over time I noticed she started trying to read aloud like I read aloud to her, which I know helped with comprehension.

    As for types of books, it depends on the kid, but for the MG reader you can't go wrong with silly humor, animals, or adventure.

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  4. I think it all has to do with the flavor of what they're being offered (especially if learning disabilities have been eliminated as the reason for reluctance). Think about it --let's say you want candy and you're only offered sour gummies. What if you don't *like* sour gummies? And then someone gives you chocolate with nuts -- but you *hate* nuts? And so on, and so on. Kids need exposure to all kinds of books -- all kinds of themes, all kinds of genres -- to determine what "tastes" yummy to them. And parents or teachers sometimes don't offer that opportunity. There is a yummy book out there for everyone...and finding it can be a delicious journey. :)

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  5. Ilene (@ilenegold)May 17, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    In a former life, I was a teacher of reluctant readers. I found that they were especially reluctant to read what the adults in their lives wanted them to read (or thought they should be reading). So,I started with a simple question: What do you like? Then I helped them find a book on whatever topic interested them--cars, music, skateboarding, etc. That book became their foot in the door, and we built reading lists from there.

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  6. Chocolate is wonderful. I don't think that if a person is a reluctant reader that they are meant to stay there. I think there are a lot of ways to enjoy books and a lot of books. Audiobooks, graphic books, nonfiction- I think they should all count for reading.
    Not sure if it's true for everyone but maybe other things are going on with these labels. My third grade teacher put me in remedial reading in third grade. The thing was I was reading at a 5th or 6th grade level but I was terribly shy and wasn't good at reading aloud. Needless to say I breezed through remedial reading and caught up with my previous reading group.

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  7. Barbara, I think anyone who finds just the right thing to read will eventually learn to love reading. My husband wasn't a reader when I met him, but somehow he eventually fell into spiritual books. He is now a reader, yet he still doesn't care for fiction.

    So I always tell reluctant readers to find something they like to read, even if it is a magazine or comic book, and start from there.

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  8. Mmmmmm. I love when responses are like mini-blog posts of their own! Great points, you guys

    Finding an area of interest and that ONE book that will pique interest (flip the switch, tastes yummy as two of you put it) is key for reluctant readers. Involved parents, parents who are aware of what their kids are reading, and parents who discuss books with their kids is so very, very important to.

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  9. Oh, man, I was thinking about NOT going to get some chocolate, and now I just may have to.

    I think making sure that kids can pick any topic they want can help. I've found reluctant boy readers will often read in order to learn about a nonfiction subject that fascinates them.

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  10. A few years ago I worked with kids from pre-K to 8th grade. The one way I found to get them interested in a book was to tell them bits and pieces from memory. As soon as I picked their interests I tell the older kids they will have to read the book to find the answers to all their questions. With the little ones their curiosity get so strong they beg me to read with them or for them. Soon enough the reluctant readers find their way to the book shelves either to picture read themselves or have me read for them.

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  11. I wish I knew the answer. I have a reluctant reader and an avid reader (both are boys). It really is hit and miss with the reluctant reader when it comes to books. I can't understand why he doesn't want to read, and he can't understand why all I want to do is read (when I'm not writing).

    I LOVE dark chocolate too. :D

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  12. Once you've tasted yummy chocolate, don't you want more? But it can't be yucky, stale, bitter chocolate or you won't want it again. You'll be reluctant to try it again. So I guess the key is to keep eating (reading) the good stuff. ^_^

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  13. I agree with a lot of what has already been said. In my mind, once a reluctant reader finds what they like to read and are interested in, they will read. The problem lies in that they have to find the answers to those questions for themselves and by themselves, and it can be hard, especially if they struggle to find what they enjoy reading.

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  14. It's so hard for me to understand reluctant readers. My older sister is one, so while she avoided books like the plague, I was the one being scolded for reading at the dinner table, haha. I loved reading even before I could actually read, so it's hard for me to imagine why others aren't drawn to books, too! As a writer, all I can hope is that the type of stories I find appealing to write will also be appealing to readers, reluctant or not!

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Comments. Yay! They're almost as good as chocolate. Almost.