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Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Wed Feb 4 15:21:24 EST 2004

On Wed, 4 Feb 2004 15:43:09 +0000, minnow at wrote:

>Melissa wrote:
>>I used to gripe and moan privately about the "let's be so very careful with
>>the reluctant readers"
>I'm ignorant.  I had never met the phrase "reluctant readers".  It made me
>stop, gawp, giggle, and then think "and how about the reluctant in any
>other field?"  Do for instance reluctant gymnasts get special care taken of
>them, or do they just get told to vault that horse. climb that rope, and to
>blazes with their tender sensibilities?  How about the kids who are
>reluctant about adding and subtraction, or who are inclined to be a bit
>unenthusiastic about geography?  The ones who stand on the edge of the
>swimming-pool but just don't fancy getting their hair wet?

Makes you wonder, huh?  How, for instance, does one tell the difference
between a child who is mortally afraid of the water and one who just doesn't
want to get wet?  Roger is right--reluctant readers are the ones who choose
not to read because they don't like it.  But it encompasses a whole lot of
different kids, including the ones who don't like reading because of some
undiagnosed disability, the ones who are really bad at it and can't read
well, the lazy pigheaded ones...and most of the time they are all treated
the same by being given pap.  There are actually a number of acceptable
techniques, including giving them books about something they're already
interested in or turning them on to books that are similar to a particular
favorite.  Or allowing them to read the same book over and over again.  (Or
actually diagnosing the disability and treating it.  It took something like
thirteen years for my mother-in-law to discover why her youngest daughter
genuinely couldn't read, complicated by the kid's stubbornness and general
lack of outstanding academic skills.)

The real problem is that "reluctant reader" is really more about an
educational approach than it is about the student.  It means that some
teachers approach their less-competent readers with an idea that they need
dumbed-down books because they haven't got the reading skills they should
have for their age.  This isn't always the case.  Even if it were, giving
them poorly-written books is more likely to reinforce bad reading habits
than not.

When I hear that mantra about getting the kids to read *anything*, I
question whether the speaker even knows what he or she wants to achieve.  Is
it to make them better comprehend what they'll have to read as adults?  Is
it to keep alive the joy of reading?  Is it so they'll be able to pass the
kid up to the next grade with a clear conscience?  Or do they just not
believe that there are fundamental differences between different kinds of
texts--differences that will affect the kind of reader each person becomes?

I think it is a serious problem that so many children don't enjoy reading.
But, as with a lot of educational problems, it's something that has to be
addressed outside school as well as inside.  Like maybe having parents who
enjoy reading, do it for fun, and don't gripe about how much they hate it.
I think it would also help if certain upper-grade English lit teachers
didn't find so many ways to squeeze every drop of fun out of the books they
teach.  (I found out my old English teacher is now the department chair.
Good for her.  The previous chair was a tough old bat but a good teacher.)

Anyway.  Mostly it makes me irritable and pessimistic.  Too many kids are
growing up with the idea that reading for fun is pointless when you have a
Playstation.  If I catch them, maybe I will give them the swift kick in the
rear that Robyn suggested.  :)

Melissa Proffitt

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