I was a reluctant reader. Most writers boast about being the kid under the blankets with a flashlight. Not me.
The thing is, I really wanted to want to read. I envied kids at school who buried their noses in a book. I felt like I was missing out then, and now I know I was.
Regardless of my reading reluctance, I loved writing. I crafted stories like those I’d want to read. I still do, and that’s inspired my mission: To reach reluctant readers with fun, fast-paced, page-turners in which they can get lost.
What is a reluctant reader missing?
Reading helps our brains stretch, imagine and relax. It decompresses the mind after its high-pressure day full of stimulation and screen time. I’m as guilty as anyone of too much screen time, and I love escaping into a book to let my brain detox.
Secondly, reading expands our world and horizons. For example, I like books set during World War II. I haven’t studied WWII, and I didn’t experience it, but by reading, I’ve learned about that time in history. Consider post-apocalyptic books and how they provide a glimpse into what the world could be following a catastrophic event. These stories make me think, could it happen? How could it happen? And then my mind falls into a sequence of wondering … oh, how I love the feeling of a sequence of wonderment.
Lack of focus is an epidemic hitting our youth the hardest. This isn’t their fault; they’re constantly juggling. They consume media in “snackable sizes,” rapidly moving on to the next piece. This rapid switching of gears makes true, deep concentration rare. It’s as if the muscle of deep concentration doesn’t develop. Reading helps both focus and concentration — great assets to future learning.
Lastly, readers develop good vocabularies and written communications skills. And verbal fluency increases the likelihood of future academic and professional success.
Are reluctant readers born?
Before becoming an independent reader, I loved being read to. Even after I learned to read, I still loved story time. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Ross, with the biggest blond curls, picked the best stuff. I remember James and the Giant Peach. With her voices and gestures, she “sold me” — lured me into the story, the setting and the characters.
Sadly, story time ends. Around age nine most kids read on their own. I didn’t. Probably, possibly, I wasn’t good at it. We had SRAs — laminated cards in the library that measured how smart you were. I was labeled a “turtle” (thankfully, education has changed). Those cards were boring material that couldn’t hold my attention. I’ll never know if I hated SRAs because they were forced, boring or because they were hard for me. But the outcome was the same: it turned me off. So did required reading because I wanted to choose my own books.
I encourage reluctant readers to try everything until they find something they like. (See the tips at below.) I believe whatever gets a tween engaged in stories is a good thing.