Help for Struggling, Reluctant Readers
- Monday, October 26, 2009
As a child, I never liked to read. When I mention this to someone today, I can anticipate the reaction. Their mouth drops open in disbelief, followed by a gasp. "You're kidding!" often follows. That's probably because I'm also the author of a number of action-adventures and mysteries especially written for other boys who may be facing similar difficulties.
Even as an adult, reading for enjoyment continues to be a problem for me. I find it ironic because my father has published over 70 books. Several of these were children's books, and I never read any of them. I grew up in a family of seven children. We had avid readers, nominal readers, and me. Still, I managed to finish high school and graduated from College with a degree in psychology. But I have always been more interested in, or stimulated by, things visual. I do read in order to gather information, but not for pleasure.
I used to think that a reluctant reader was simply someone who hadn't found the right book yet. But the causes may go deeper than that. The word reluctant is defined as opposed in mind, unwilling, disinclined, struggling, or resisting.
At the outset, it's important to understand our terms. Parents must be certain that, if facing a struggling, reluctant reader, there aren't any problems with vision, neurological issues, or other medical conditions that might hamper reading. These should be diagnosed by professionals, but here are some things to look for.
Difficulty with vision is a big one. The transposing of letters or numbers may indicate a vision problem. You might notice that your child sees 14 when the actual number on the page is 41. The same can happen with small words. Does the child use a finger to keep his place on the page? I always did this as a child. Does he have a short attention span, or hold the book too close to his eyes?
Does he have good posture while reading, or does he move his head from side to side during reading, rather than moving his eyes? This may indicate binocular trouble because both eyes aren't working together. Again, I suffer from this. One of my eyes sees distant objects better, while the other sees closer items with more clarity. A child with this problem may slouch in the chair, or turn his head to one side in order to favor the eye that can see the book best.
In addition to vision, a child may suffer from ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. It's only my opinion, but I think many of the hyperactivity problems, found more often in boys today, could be greatly mitigated by allowing them to run off much of that energy for an hour outside, or in some other physical activity.
Based on my own background, I expected that reading difficulties came from what I had experienced. Readers would struggle because they were intimidated by large blocks of words on a page. Or they were likely to be more visual than linear, as I am. My research took me through nearly two hundred children's books. I found that some were just silly. Others seemed too unrealistic, while quite a few were simply slow and boring. I wanted exciting, realistic, and very visual things to be happening.
Recently a study was released which noted that nearly 80 percent of children 6 and under, read or are read to in an average day. But it went on to say that children spend an average of 49 minutes with books in that same average day, compared with 2 hours and 22 minutes sitting in front of a television or computer screen.
My research into reading difficulties began about eight years ago. I truly wanted to understand why it was that I grew up as a reluctant reader. I found some interesting patterns in several of the books I selected for research. In many cases they defied a person like me to get into them. The style was boring, the dialog was sometimes sparse, or when it was used, seemed too adult. As I looked around for books written especially for boys 8 - 13, I found The Hardy Boys, and a few others.
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