Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Would You Tell a Reluctant Reader?

Those of us who love books and love reading almost can't imagine a kid who doesn't like reading. "What?" we say. "What's wrong with you? How can you not love books?" Or if we don't say it, I know we're thinking it. I do, and I see kids all the time in schools who are just ho-hum about having a visiting writer, and shove the books aside while making out books are just dumb.

Because who wants to admit they feel dumb? You know how many kids actually aren't very good at reading? When everyone else is doing it just fine, how would you feel if you were the one the teacher had to hassle about books, about how little you read, about how far behind you'll get if you don't read more? As reading adults, we wonder how on earth these kids could possibly not be able to read (apart from the ones who have dyslexia or eye problems, perhaps).

We're doing that adult-arrogant thing again. Sigh. Assuming everyone else should just go with the flow. Forgetting totally what it's like to be small and not good at something. How you'll do anything to cover up, including insisting you hate reading. The teachers and librarians who said Harry Potter books were great, simply because they got kids reading who hadn't read before - they were right! Very often, once a certain level of ability and confidence is achieved, what a kid needs to get them into reading is ... a book they fall in love with.

Not a "required reading" book or one the teacher insists on. No, one they discover themselves, either by accident or because some keen adult decided to give them a certain book and it is just the right one!! So ... if you had a reluctant reader in front of you, what would you tell them? What book/s would you recommend? What would you buy them as a gift this year?

My first pick would be the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. I recently read the second in the series and think it's great for 10-14 year olds (yes, even girls who want a bit of action!). I've had Diary of a Wimpy Kid on my reading pile for ages now and never got around to reading it (soon, soon) but it's very popular and with the cartoons in it, might hit the spot for a 10-14 year old boy.

For girls (especially if you want to get away from the endless awful fairy books), try the Billie B Brown books by Sally Rippin. They're active and exciting and good for readers 6-9 years. I also always recommend Aussie Bites and Nibbles, because the two series have lots of different authors and a wide range of stories accessible to kids from six through to nine or ten.

Now, if you've got kids (or if you're a keen reader of kid's books), what would you recommend for that reluctant reader? And why?

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