Hooking Kids on Reading Starts with Picking the Right Lure

By Dr. L. Robert Furman, principal, South Park Elementary Center, South Park, Penn.

What the Research Shows on eReaders

The 2012 Kids & Family Reading Report had surprising things to say about kids and eReaders:

  • The percent of children who have read an ebook has almost doubled since 2010.
  • Among children who have read an ebook, one in five says he or she is reading more books for fun. Boys are more likely to agree than girls.
  • Half of children ages 9 to 17 say they would read more books for fun if they had access to ebooks, a 50 percent increase since 2010.
  • Seventy-five percent of kids who have read an ebook are reading them at home, with about one in four reading them at school.
  • Kids say that ebooks are better than print books when they don’t want their friends to know what they’re reading, and when they’re out and about.
If you fish, you know different fish take different bait. You’re not going to catch a shark with bread on your hook, and you won’t dump a bucket of chum into a lake to catch a catfish. Different fish respond to different bait and lures. The same holds true with students and reading.

The only inspiration avid readers may need is enough light to read by. Not so with reluctant readers, who require a little more energy and creativity. Here are some ways parents and educators can get a reluctant reader hooked on reading.
  1. Introduce your reluctant reader to eReaders. eReaders such as Scholastic’s free Storia® app, Kindles®, and Nooks® all give students the ability to remain anonymous, so no stigma is attached to what they’re reading. Without the stigma, they can read anything – books generally considered appropriate to the opposite gender, books that are too easy, or books that are too hard. Portability is another nice characteristic of eReaders. A soccer player who spends a lot of time traveling to and from games and practices can use that travel time for reading in any light. eReaders give kids 24/7 access not just to books but to an entire library, so they’re the ultimate in terms of choice and access.

  2. Help students find books. Some teachers will say students aren’t reading in their free time or designated reading time. This prompts me to ask, whose fault is that? A reluctant reader isn’t likely to go find a book on his own from the library or Book Fair. He needs his teacher or parent to help him. This is another way to take advantage of eReaders, which allow kids to pluck through libraries until they find something that sparks their interest. And because they’re electronic, they add a bit of entertainment into the mix. You can also help kids identify books they want to read using another nifty piece of technology, the brand-spanking new Book Fairs App. It helps identify books for various reading, age and
    grade levels; lets you watch videos or podcasts; allows you to read a book summary; provides the price and other pertinent information; and even lets you create wish lists. Every teacher and parent at your school needs to take advantage of this cool new tool, but they may not know it’s out there if you don’t tell them. Do it. You can also call upon the help of an old friend, Book Wizard, which has a book search engine and a Leveled Search function, along with a BookAlike feature that helps students find books similar to ones they like.

  3. Don’t be a Debbie Downer. If a typically reluctant reader comes to you and says, “I want to read this 1,000-page Harry Potter book,” don’t be that person who says, “But you can’t.” instead be the person who says, “Absolutely!” Then find a way to help that child succeed – either by reading it along with him, giving him a peer as a reading buddy, or by hooking that student up with an audiobook (even if you have to record it yourself using a sound recorder) so the child can follow along with the recording.

All this involves being an advocate for the child. That may take time and patience, but the investment will reap a lifetime of rewards.

Dr. Furman is a guest blogger for The Huffington Post and the author of Instructional Technology Tools: A Professional Development Plan and the upcoming title Motivating Reluctant Readers. He also was recently named one of NSBA Technology Leadership Network’s “20 to Watch” leaders. Email tips or questions to him at Rob@FurmanR.com, or text him directly at 412-999-0449. Follow him on Twitter @DrFurman.
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