There are two kinds of reluctant readers, the first don’t want to read because they lack the skills to read fluently. The second have the skills (or at least, most of the skills) to read fluently but lack interest in the content of books. The first kind I’ll start to tackle in this post and the second in a post later this week.
For struggling beginning readers it helps to remember that decoding is important but so is comprehension. If words are just strings of sounds with no content then why would you want to read? Some kids will reread a sentence on their own to get the meaning. Others will be so relieved that they finished another sentence that they just want to move on. Raise your hand if you are guilty of letting the meaning of the sentence go because you too are relieved that she finished it (there is at least one guilty hand raised).
Beginning readers sometimes have trouble telling where a word ends, books with big print and lots of white space help in decoding and comprehension. It also helps to offer just right books. Just right books meet the five finger rule. Have your child read a page or two of a book, put up one finger for each word he doesn’t know. If all five fingers are up after reading a couple of pages, the book is too difficult. Another way to think of it is the one in twenty rule: the child should miss only 1 in 20 words.
In the Dr Seuss birthday post, we learned that some education experts thought that one reason why kids were not learning to read in the 1950’s was because the reading primers were, to put it bluntly, boring. Dr Seuss was challenged to write a book that a first-grader would love using only 225 different words. The result was The Cat in the Hat. Today’s kids also want engaging reading. Fortunately, there are many more good authors writing beginning readers in all kids of genres. I have a grandson who was fascinated with superheroes. Did you know that there are Batman and Spiderman beginning readers? Another grandson loves any book about animals, an easy find in beginning readers.
In the coming weeks, I will be visiting this topic again. There is much more to be said. Topics will include ideas for developing a reading foundation, picture books apps and e-books, Scholastic’s 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report, and more on great reading choices for the beginning reader.