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The Reluctant Reader

Teri Andrews Rinne
Truckee's Children's Services Librarian
If students are poor readers, they may be able to skate by until reading comprehension plummets and they will not understand science and social studies books.
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What if your child does not like to read? He or she would rather participate in sports, watch TV, surf the Internet, or play video games. Basically do anything but read.

“There seems to be several ‘critical junctures’ in children’s reading patterns,” according to Nancy Bentley, a middle school coordinator for information technology in Colorado. “One happens early on ” in first grade. If by the end of first grade, a child is having difficulty reading or is a reluctant reader, jump right on that and inquire about testing. Another hurdle seems to be in third and fourth grade. If students are poor readers, they may be able to skate by until the time content becomes important. Then reading comprehension will plummet and they will not understand the science and social studies books. And then, of course, there’s middle school ” a time when hormones and computers and MTV and peers are much more exciting than reading. Kids who are poor readers will simply stop trying.”

So the key is to get them hooked on reading before those critical junctures. The challenge is to find books that match your child, rather than trying to match your child to a particular book that he or she is supposed to be able to read. Thankfully, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. There are many resources available at the Truckee Library to help, besides the human ones called librarians!

In the Juvenile Reference section, there are more than a dozen literature guides to help parents navigate the children’s literature maze. I will mention a few that may be especially helpful for the parent of a reluctant reader.

Laura Backes has authored a wonderful book entitled “Best Books for Kids Who Think They Hate to Read: 125 Books That Will Turn Any Child into a Lifelong Reader.”

Backes defines eight characteristics that give books “reader appeal”: Humor, well-defined characters, fast-paced plot, concise chapters, suitable text, kid relevance, unique presentation and visual appeal.

She then provides detailed critiques of books she recommends, which includes suggested audience and reading level and why a particular book or series might appeal to a reluctant reader.

Another excellent source of ideas packaged in a slightly different format is Kathleen Odean’s “Great Books About Things Kids Love.”

Odean previously authored the bestselling duo “Great Books for Boys and Great Books for Girls.” This ambitious undertaking includes descriptions of over 750 recommended books for children, ages 3 to 14, divided into 55 categories from airplanes to zoos. Both fiction and non-fiction are included. So if your child wants to read exclusively about mummies, pirates or princesses, this book will help show the way.

There are also some great literature guides within the regular circulating collection of the Truckee Library. Ones that you can check out and take home with you. “How to Get Your Child to Love Reading For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike” by Esme Raji Codell is an excellent choice. Publisher’s Weekly deemed it an “exuberant treasure trove for parents…akin to having one’s own personal children’s librarian at one’s fingertips.”

Librarian action figure model, Nancy Pearl, has jumped into the fray with “Book Crush for Kids and Teens: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Interest.” Pearl’s recommendations are also based on topics, interests and other themes, presenting more than 1,000 titles organized into 118 lists aimed at the youngest, middle-grade and teen readers.

From “A Dog’s Life” to “Girl Power” to “Heartbreak Hotel,” Pearl has a knack for connecting a subject, setting or character with the right reader.

In the next installment, I will cover how kids’ book clubs can be a great way to keep your child interested in reading and showcase some great online resources to help you find books that your kids will love.

Library Hours

Monday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Tuesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Wednesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Thursday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tuesday Toddler Time at 10:30 a.m. (ages 2 to 3 years)

Babes in Bookland on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. (ages 6 months to 2 years)

Storytelling with Mrs. Fix on Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. (ages 3 years and up)

Spanish Storytime on Fridays at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. (ages 2 and up)

Bookshelf’s Dry Camp Book Club at the Library

Meets monthly at the Library. Participants at the book group meeting will receive a coupon for 15 percent off a one-time book purchase at the Bookshelf at Hooligan Rocks. Everyone is welcome.

Now on display at the library:

Portraits by Truckee artist Raphael Jolly

Above the Fireplace: Sand Harbor in oils by Linda D’Toole


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