The labels stick and the notion gets engrained in children. So much so, they don't associate themselves as readers. They read because they have been told to, not because they want to. And there lies the problem.
How does one help these children to recognise themselves as readers? Is it as simple as changing our statements and referring to them as 'readers'?
That's a start for sure, but what matters is giving them a chance to experiment with books. Being allowed to abandon books that did not pique their interest and try another book without having the guilt of not having finished the book paves the way to self discovery- a realisation of which kind of books fascinate them. Some children are more inclined to sports for example and might find their way to books that involves sports for instance. While others may gravitate towards fantasy, some may detest it and perhaps gravitate more towards mystery.
Prior knowledge helps with reading comprehension
Sometimes children shy away from reading a book as it has an alien subject. The reverse is true too. Ardent sports fans are far more likely to pick up books based on their favourite sport as they can understand the book a lot better than a book based on a subject they don't know anything about.
Dealing with book choices that may make you squirm
Donalyn Miller in her amazing book, Book Whisperer, offers sound advice to deal with situations in which a child picks a book that is unacceptable at several levels- gross humour, absurd story lines and with vocabulary that is perhaps not at all required for someone of such a young age. Clearly, in such situations, something has caught the attention of the young reader. No matter what the reason is, recognising this child as a reader making a recommendation, goes a long way. Donalyn Miller shares an interesting anecdote in which her student highly recommended a book called, The Day My Butt Went Psycho by Andy Griffith. Miller did not send the student away but graciously accepted a copy that the student happily lent to her. She read the book and even had a few laughs with that child. Miller explains how much difference it made to the child seeing her teacher read and enjoy a book that she had recommended. Later, the child was more open to her teacher's book recommendations and began experimenting with books in genres that she had never attempted before.
The Day My Butt Went Psycho
The book begins with a warning page addressed to teachers, parents and anyone over the age of 18. It forbids them from reading the book any further. Chapter 1 begins with Zack's butt running away and often being impounded by the local butt catcher. What does the butt do each time it runs away? It throws harmless pranks! As the story progresses it turns out that this boy's butt as well as other people's butts are aliens intent upon world domination!
If you are making up your mind how good this book is likely to be, you must know that this book has got excellent ratings on Amazon. That speaks volumes of how much young readers love this book.
Wacky titles such as the above tend to catch any reader's attention. Children who hate reading somehow naturally gravitate towards this ridiculously funny books and read them from cover to cover. The same goes with the Geronimo Stilton Series. Teachers and parents often frown upon this series and brand them as not great reads. They complain about the spellings, the way the books are written sometimes with made up words and so on. Yet, this series remains probably one of the largest in children's literature. There are over 200 books in this series. Clearly there is a reason why it sells so well. Children find it entertaining. That's so critical in enabling young readers to become life long readers- associating reading as a way to be entertained.
Geronimo Stilton is a phase that children get over with
Young readers who get hooked to Geronimo Stilton tend to read one after another in the series. It is almost as if they have found a new joy in reading. Encouraging them diversify during this phase, usually fails and parents often get worried. Left to run its course, readers often move on to new genres and don't look back at this series. They know when they are done.
Reading anything, at least something instead of nothing!
Enabling readers to set their own goals
An eight year old at the Young Readers' Club was once asked, "Do you know why it is important to read something of your choice everyday?"
He replied, "So that my reading will improve."
"What then? How will that help you? Do you know?"
He nodded his head and his eyes were filled with doubt and fear.
"You will be able to read anything you want. For example, you love playing with toy cars. What if you can read and find out how a real car moves? You don't need to depend on someone to tell you. You can find answers to any question if you can read on your own comfortably!"
A few days later, he had written a description of his toy car and had mentioned the word "spoiler" as a part of his car. When asked to write what it meant, he thought it was important to google, read and identify relevant information to explain. Of course, he had difficulty in understand a word or two such as "stabilize". But that did not deter him. We set out to find out what that word meant and then came back to what a spoiler is! Since that day he has been picking up a book everyday to read aloud. He is growing in confidence.
Every child is a reader. They just need to find the right book!
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-12 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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