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Finding "The Book" for your Reluctant Reader

When your child tells you he doesn't like reading, what he's saying is that he hasn't found the right book yet. He just doesn't know it. I believe that it only takes one soul-moving book to get a kid reading. But the variety of books is overwhelming. How do we choose the one book that will plant itself in the soul, changing your child's life? It's not as hard as it seems.

First, you need to match your reluctant reader with the right genre. How do you do that? Below is a list of movies or activities that align interests with genre (click genre for a list of books).

If your child likes...

Diary of a Wimpy Kid/Sports/Disney sitcoms/Movies about real people/(Hidden Figures, Soul Surfer)/Dance-look for REALISTIC FICTION.

Star Wars/Lego/National Geographic/Technology/Robotics-look for SCIENCE FICTION


Halloween/Fairy tales/ Movies like Maleficent, Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Narnia,- look for FANTASY

Marvel/Super Heroes/Comics/Dress up- look for GRAPHIC NOVELS

Outdoors/Camping/Exploring- look for NONFICTION.

The History Channel/Wars/Titanic/- look for HISTORICAL FICTION.

Matching a child to a book isn't an exact science. For example, my tween son Sean loved the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies and read the books. Any activity that requires a ball--basketball, football, baseball--he loves. That puts him in the REALISTIC FICTION category. We read The Big Game by Tim Green, and that was "The Book." He's been reading ever since. However, during the pandemic, my husband, a 6th grade ELA teacher, read The Book of Three (FANTASY) aloud, and Sean loved it so much that he's been comparing real people to the characters in the book. There's a lot of higher vocabulary in The Book of Three, and he wouldn't have had the same experience if he'd read it independently. Many times, vocabulary is a barrier, and the kids can't grasp the meaning as profoundly; hence the soul goes untouched. They give up. My suggestion is reading aloud, but if you can't do that, ask your tween to highlight unknown words or confusing parts so that you can explain them.

Developing readers may enjoy several genres, and that is the goal--to expand their scope, reading a variety of books. And a lot of books can be genre hybrids. But when it comes to finding "The Book," your best bet is to match as closely as possible to the reader's innate interest. Once recreational reading habits are established, encourage branching off into a different genre. You could read the first few chapters aloud, ensuring the beginning plot is clearly understood. If she's reading Historical Fiction, take the time to research that period in history prior to reading.

Let's face it. Parents are doing the best we can, teaching and supporting our kids' learning at home. But it's not easy for anyone. Especially for teachers who are teaching their classes AND teaching their own kids. And the exhausted health care professionals, working all day or night, facing hours of homeschooling on top of dinner, laundry, and disinfecting. Wouldn't it be nice if your tween would take a break from Fortnight or Dance Mom binges and spend an hour a day reading? For fun? Encouraging your kids to read is peaceful when they enjoy it.

I hope that your reader, no matter what age, finds that one life-changing book. The book that helps him look at the world differently, taking him on a journey that will forever be a part of him. The book that makes him smarter. Better. Until then, keep searching. It's out there somewhere.

Bye for now and happy reading!


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