There is no such thing as a child who hates to read, there are only children who have not found the right book. -Frank Serafini
On spring break we broke up the long stretches of highway with different car activities. Coming out of Bakerfield, California we cranked the clear reception of KUZZ country radio and started sorting songs. We came up with four categories of country music: hookin’ up, breakin’ up, makin’ up and gettin’ messed up.
Take for example, Jake Owen’s Blue Jean Night
Blue eyes and auburn hair
Sittin’ lookin’ pretty by the fire in a lawn chair
New to town, new to me
Her ruby red lips was sipping’ on sweet tea…
Blue Jean Night definitely fits the “hookin’ up” category. While Blake Shelton’s Drink On It goes in the “gettin’ messed up.”
I could use another whiskey
And your Cosmo’s gettin’ low
While we’re trying to figure out
The next place we should go…
So what does this have to do with readers? Well, just like there are some trends in country music, so there are patterns with independent readers who answer a particular question in a particular way. The question is, “Do you consider yourself a reader?” And if the answer is no, they may fit into one of these categories.
Let’s start with the bored readers. Depending on the variety of books in their classroom or their access to the library, they may not have many books that fit their obscure tastes. Knowing your readers pays off big time here. Here are two students, the texts that got them unbored and how I sold them on these books.
Me: I read this book over my vacation. The False Prince It’s a murder mystery of sorts and has a bit of violence, but every last sentence of every chapter leaves you hanging.
Dre (Grade 5): What do you mean?
Me: Reads last line of chapter. “And that was my first clue about why Conner had taken us. We were all in terrible danger.”
Dre: That’s weird.
Me: Totally. And listen to this from the cover, “Choose to Lie..or Choose to Die.”
Dre: That’s intense.
Me: I read this book Flora and Ulysses with my daughter. The character Flora reminded me of you.
Thea (Grade 4): Why?
Me: Because you see things in extraordinary ways. Like this girl watches a squirrel get vacuumed up and that’s where the adventures really start. It’s definitely for a mature reader with a quirky sense of humor like you.
Then there are the chore readers. Often these students have experiences with Accelerated Reader or other reading reward programs. They look at me strangely when I ask, “What do you read for fun?” For fun? Reading? For these students reading is homework. Reading is what you document on a chart and have your mom sign. Reading is a big have-to for kids like Noah.
Me: I have this huge book called The Lego Ideas Book
Noah (Grade 2): About legos? Just stuff about legos?
Me: Yeah. I know how much you create and build so I thought you might enjoy reading this and tell me whether the author really knows what he’s talking about.
I hate to use the word scarred, but it’s fitting here. These are kids who know they are in the low group or have been told they struggle with reading. As one teacher put it, “He’s not the brightest crayon in the box, bless his heart.” They may be embarrassed to read at their appropriate level or have little practice with independent reading because their interventions don’t include it.
Me: I’ve noticed you haven’t really gotten into any series yet.
Dayton (Grade 3): Nope
Me: Some kids think these Elephant and Piggie books are for young kids, but I read this one to my teenage boy and he loved it. We Are In a Book!
Me: Because there’s so much humor in these books, if you read them right. Not everyone can read them right. But you do your funny voices and joke so I think you could really get into these books.
Dayton: What do you mean?
Me: Like read this page, not too loud so we don’t disrupt everyone, but do your voices and see how hilarious they are. Elephant is more like me, a rule follower, but Piggie is fun and imaginative. She reminds me more of you.
Dayton reads aloud.
Me: Do you know about these books? Guys Read: Funny Business
Trent (Grade 7): Shrugs.
Me: Well, there’s some language and inappropriate situations in here, so you’ll have to decide if that’s right for you. But there’s also some funny, funny stories.
Trent: Like Family Guy funny?
Me: Maybe. You’ll have to tell me. But the cool part of this book is that each chapter is a different story so you don’t have to read it front to back, you can just jump to the thing you like.
Trent: Like a magazine.
Me: Yeah, kind like that. I have only read three of them, but maybe you could mark some of the really funny ones and we could share them with other kids. I really liked My Parents Give My Bedroom to a Biker by Paul Feig if you want to start there.
The final category are disconnected readers. They often read aloud just fine, but they have no relationship with the text they are reading. They aren’t visualizing or stopping to ask questions. They’ve never gasped or laughed out loud during reading time.
Me: I found a book that is full of feels that I think will really get you playing a movie in your head. The One and Only Ivan
Skyla (Grade 4): Okay…
Me: Plus I know you love animals.
Skyla: It’s about a gorilla (looking at cover).
Me: It’s not just any gorilla, but it’s based on a gorilla that was caged for over twenty years at a shopping mall not far from here. Can you imagine?
When students tell me they don’t consider themselves readers, I’m intrigued to find out if they are bored, scarred or see books as laborious and unplugged from what’s alive in them. Of course whenever you have categories, you have exceptions like we didn’t know what to do with Billy Currington’s “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy,” but I queue up my stack of books with the intent of giving students a new experience of reading, to meet that book that might make the difference.