Thursday, April 21, 2011

R Is For...

Reluctant Reader Programs!

Finding ways to reach reluctant readers has been somewhat of a challenge for me and something that I would definitely like to get better at. Being a reluctant reader as a youth myself, I can certainly relate to the mentality of thinking that reading is boring or relating it to homework or a chore rather than something fun and entertaining. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would become a librarian who is constantly promoting the value of literacy! I'm convinced that, had I been a reader at an early age, school would have been much easier for me and I would feel much more confident about my writing skills. This is part of the reason why it's very important for me to connect youth with literature that speaks to them and find ways to make it fun and interesting.

I'm currently conducting a short stories program at an alternative high school for teens with psychological and behavioral problems. This program is funded by the People & Stories/ Gente y Cuentos grant, which aims to connect undeserved populations to literature. During this 8 week program I meet with the teens twice per week. We read out loud and discuss one short story per week. The discussions focus on the themes, poetics, shadows and contrasts of the reading and connects the readings to personal experiences or issues teens are currently facing. Being able to connect to the stories and relate to them is key in our discussions and has brought about some rich and sometimes intense dialogues amongst the teens. I have to say that every week I'm impressed to hear the level of discussions and interpretations of the stories. In the short period that I have been conducting these sessions I've witnessed some students come out of their shells and now the students are asking me what they will be reading next week. When I first started these sessions I couldn't get many teens to participate in the read out loud and now almost all of them want to have their turn to read. There is certainly a level of trust that the group has established with me and within each other that has facilitated the growth of these discussions. This program has shown me that reading short stories is definitely a way to get youth interested in reading and I'm hoping to be able to connect these teens to similar literature that meets their personal interests.

Another program that is in the works for tweens is an idea that I heard at a YALSA discussion regarding young adult programming. One of the librarians mentioned a "Cliff-Hanger" book club where the group reads the book together and picks up at the next meeting where they left off. When I first brought up the idea of a book club to my tween/teen council there weren't many takers. I recently brought up reading a book together (and of course added snacks to the mix) and more tweens expressed interest. The tweens are currently working on a list of books they want to read and we are planning on starting this program in the summer in conjunction with Summer Reading.

I know that I have a long way to go in my quest to reaching reluctant readers. But I'm hoping these programs are just the beginning of more programs and ideas to come that will motivate the non readers to read. As I'm writing this I have this massive reshelving project in my head and of course more reading lists!

I will definitely be attending this preconference workshop, that my fellow blogger mentioned in her previous post about ALA New Orleans, and hope to find new ideas to implement at my library:

Give Them What They Want: Reaching Reluctant YA Readers
Friday, June 24 12:30 PM - 4:30 PM $129


Sylvia van Bruggen said...

I have truly enjoyed reading your blog postings this month! :) So happy I can reply now to tell you all that!

Arlee Bird said...

Some of my earliest memories involve looking at books even before I could read. I was always so fascinated by books that I could hardly wait to start reading.

I think home is where motivation to read begins, like other habits and interests. I don't remember seeing my parents reading that often, but there was always an abundance of books in our house and my parents almost always included a book in the gifts we'd receive at Christmas and Birthdays. The library programs might do well to try to reach out to parents as well as kids in encouraging reading.

I've seen our local library bookstore offering carts of free books. If there is a surplus of books available, perhaps they should be more actively distributed among the more underprivileged families. I think the content of the book is not always as important to young children as the physical book itself. The first books I remember looking at on a regular basis was an old Webster Dictionary and a biography of W.C. Fields. I looked at these books from before I learned to read and on into high school, when I actually read that Fields biography.

The discussion groups are a great idea. Reading can be seen as a lonely avocation which is not always attractive to teens especially. Interaction with others can make the reading more fun and help create bonding and confidence in expressing oneself.

Kids (and adults!) are probably often reluctant readers because reading has not been ingrained within them from an early age and is discouraged by peers as time goes on. Libraries have a lot of competition that they're up against and must take aggressive measures in attracting people into the treasure houses that these great institutions are.

Good work and good luck in the future!

Tossing It Out