Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reluctant Readers

I've been talking about "avoidance" a lot with my reading class lately.  The class I'm teaching is an intervention class aimed at kids reading below grade level.  Of course, some of them loathe the idea of being in the class because everyone in the school knows that kids in my classes are reading at lower levels than most of the other kids.  They don't want the stigma of having everyone think they are stupid.  Who does?  They aren't stupid.  They are extremely clever.  They have been avoiding reading as much as humanly possible since first grade.  I know because I've known many of them since they were in kindergarten.  They are the kids who have to go to the bathroom, go to the nurse, go to the office, get a drink, sharpen their pencil etc. etc. etc. every time they have been required to read in class since day one.  I don't know why they start avoiding it in the first place.  Learning to read is hard.  Maybe that's it.  But over the years it has taken a toll and they are now starting to face the consequences.  I feel bad for them because they are frustrated, but I'm also exasperated with them because they work so hard to avoid learning anything new.

So we've been addressing the problem of avoidance.  Part of my program splits the kids in to three groups and during our time together they go to different stations.  One of the stations is on computers set up with reading software that is awesome.  It modifies itself to their level and works individually with them on reading passages and answering comprehension questions, vocabulary, and spelling.  Of course they always want to go directly to the spelling so they don't have to read anything.  They seem to like the software though.

Another station is the individual reading station.  They pick a book from the class library (high interest, short, age appropriate books supplied by the program) and get twenty minutes to quietly read in a section of the room with bean bags and comfy chairs.  I have been watching them while they do this and for the most part they don't actually read.  They sit in the chairs quietly (because if they don't they have to go back to their desks), and they hold a book and they stare.

The last station is the small group station where one group at a time comes to me and we work in their text book together on the skill we are trying to master.  They are like popcorn in this group.  It's less like teaching and more like playing whack-a-mole.  They work together like a pack of wolves to keep from doing the task at hand and keep me from focusing them on "finding the main idea."  I have to say, their diversions are entertaining to me because of their pure ridiculousness.  When asked to use our target word in a sentence one girl said,"Wanna see me do a backbend?" and before I could say no, I wanted her to use the word "consequence" in a sentence, she was doing a backbend.  It was pretty good.  When asked to identify the topic sentence in a paragraph, one boy said, "I wrote a song, can I sing it?"

They all are capable of reading, like I am capable of running; but much like me and running, they will avoid it at all costs.  So I have to ask myself, what in the world could possibly motivate me to run because maybe that is the answer to how to get my kids to be more open to reading.  The truth is that the only thing that could cause me to run is if something dangerous was chasing me.  So I guess the answer to the "how would I motivate myself to run" question is pure self-preservation.  I don't think that translates to getting 6th graders to read.  I wonder if Scholastic has any cute "READ OR DIE" posters I could hang in my room.

Well?  I'm open to ideas.  Were you a reluctant reader when you were a kid?  Obviously none of you are now because you're reading this blog, but maybe you used to be.  What can I do to get these kids to do my bidding?


  1. oh man, i have one of those kids. as someone who loves to read, i never understood why some people hate it so much! it's so fun! it's portable! people leave you alone when you do it! if you figure something out, let me know. i like the idea of a "read or die" poster, though.

  2. So this isn't in order, but........they need to read what they like -- The Bear Attack book for example!
    They will love it!


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