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Jacqualin Cundieff What Causes a Child to Become a Reluctant Reader?

SLIS 5050 Spring 2012

JC 2

What Causes a Child to Become a Reluctant Reader?


What is a reluctant reader? There are several definitions to be considered. Moorfield (2004), a seventh grade teacher, states that reluctant readers fall into three categoriesthose who cant read, dont read, and wont read (para. 3). For the purposes of this paper a reluctant reader will be defined as a student who has the capability to read, but does not want or like to read; those students who dont read and wont read (Moorefield, 2004, para. 3). The reluctant reader is not a new type of student or a new problem that has presented itself. These students have been around for a long time, but there seems to be a growing number of these students. The number of reluctant readers is growing due to distractions from their ability to focus on reading. Background There is a variety of literature that explores reaching the reluctant reader by suggesting ways to teach these students and providing titles of books that will appeal to these students. This suggests that most professionals believe that the students reluctance to read is caused by the teacher not using the correct teaching method or not providing reading material that appeals to these students. Keeping in mind that a reluctant reader is one who can read, but does not want to read or chooses not to read, there must be more to their reluctance. Worthy suggests in A matter of interest: Literature that hooks reluctant readers and keeps them reading to hook students on books, teachers must approach reading in ways that dont kill it, and they need to find the books that will catch the electronic kids attention long enough for them to settle into reading (as cited by Earl & Maynard, 2007, p. 164). Research is slim in identifying additional causes of why students become reluctant readers, making it difficult to stop this cycle. Identifying the causes is the first step in reversing the trend.

JC 3 Causes of Students Becoming Reluctant Readers Todays world has become very focused on technology in every area of life. Students have bought into this way of living. They have grown up with video games, cable or satellite television, and computer games according to Crowe (1999). Crowe (1999) continues to describe students by saying Their eyesand maybe their brainsare more accustomed to bright and flashy animation than to black and white printTheir world is interconnected by the Internet, (p. 114). Students require a different way of receiving instruction today because they are so technologically inclined, and their attention needs are different from students in past generations (Crowe, 1999). This hard reality becomes a challenge to teachers who have taught for a number of years. They often feel like they are required to compete with all the electronic gadgets when instructing students. Gozzi (2011) suggests in his article Distracted that media are simply part of the fabric of everyday life (p. 110). Gozzi (2011) reports that people are so distracted, that even when they are reading on an electronic device, they tend to read small amounts and then get distracted and start exploring other media. The magnetism of the media is pulling our consciousness into the media zone and away from reality. Electronic illusions are grabbing our attention (Gozzi, 2011, p. 111). Students cannot help but be distracted with these imposing forces of electronic devices that flood their everyday life. Another distraction or cause to students becoming a reluctant reader, as noted by Stringer and Mollineaux (2003), can be a lack of motivation and interest(they believe) they have little control over their achievement (p. 73). When considering the state of the family structure, lack of parental support, and general busyness, it is no wonder students lack motivation. Their family foundation is very lacking, due to divorce and single parent households, along with parents who

JC 4 may be caught up in this same cycle of being a reluctant reader. Earl and Maynard (2007) observed in their study What Makes a Child a Reluctant Reader that students who were surveyed were not always negative about reading as one might have thought. These participants, who had been identified by their teacher as a reluctant reader, did see the importance of reading for their future success in school and life. However, further research revealed that support from parents and the home have tremendous impact on students success in school. Often times their first exposure or lack of exposure to books comes at an early age at home from their parents. Earl and Maynard (2007) emphasize this influence will follow the students as they enter school. this is why it is crucial that this involvement is positive and constructive. However, this is not always the case. Various reasons, including work commitments and time constraints, mean that parents do not always have sufficient time to spend reading with their children. (p. 178). Further discussions revealed that many parents do not give gifts of books, as was tradition in the past. Many of these birthday gifts or Christmas gifts are some form of electronic device. Since the parent is not actively promote(ing) the importance of reading, then it becomes probable that the child will not attribute importance to it either (Earl & Maynard, 2007, p. 178). Another area to consider is the fact that schools are being held to higher standards every day. There is a continuous emphasis on increased performance of students in academics that is measured through standardized tests. The Office of Catholic Education suggests that teachers are spending so much time on getting ready for the test, they do not have enough time to address the needs of the students with negative attitudes toward reading and responding to literature (as cited in Brinda, 2011, p. 9). Teachers have to find a balance with teaching the curriculum needed to perform on the standardized tests and making the curriculum engaging to

JC 5 the students so they will stay interested and have enough time to become truly engaged. Brinda (2011) observed in his study that students who could personally connect to a book were more likely to continue reading it. Some reluctant readers are just not interested in reading. They have learned to read, but have not found books that appeal to their interests. It is possible that teachers have required them to read material that was uninteresting or boring to them in the past, therefore they choose to not read at all. Students benefit from having the option of choosing their own books and will be more engaged if they have this choice, even if it is a limited choice of books. This is especially true for teenagers (Gruenthal, 2011). Many researchers and authors have focused on providing books that will appeal to young people, mainly boys, who tend to be reluctant readers. Jones, author and former teen librarian, reports that 43% of boys dont read or only read what they have to, while 57% enjoy reading (as cited in Jeffery, 2009, p. 56). Jeffery (2009) reports that many boys do not read; they have bought into the propaganda that boys dont read (p. 156). Jones (2006) provides criteria for selecting books to appeal to young adult readers in Reaching Reluctant Readers: Tips, tools, and techniques that teachers and librarians will want to consult as they seek to find books that will connect to their reluctant readers. Conclusion There are many different causes for students reluctance to read. Some students are distracted due to the massive availability to technological devices which has caused a change in their attention and the way they receive information. Media has become a part of our lives that has changed how we spend our time. Reluctant readers often lack motivation and interest that appears to be reflective of the home environment and the lack of importance that parents put on reading. Parents model their view of reading importance in their actions by not reading with

JC 6 their children because they are so busy with life that they do not take the time needed. Additionally, teachers are spending so much time preparing for standardized tests that the lessons they teach are not engaging students, therefore the students lose interest and do not see the pleasure in reading. Finally, many boys become reluctant readers because they lack interest in the available reading material or they do not see that it is something that boys are supposed to do. Parents and teachers need to intervene with the students who are reluctant to read. Parents have the potential to have a greater impact on changing this cycle when students are younger (Earl & Maynard, 2007). Once students are in secondary school it will be more difficult to change students attitude. Williamson & Williamson emphasize if this cycle is not broken students will lose ground academically and may begin to struggle with reading due to their lack of practicing these literacy skills. The curriculum will continue to get harder and more complex and these students could become a struggling reader rather than a reluctant reader (as cited in Worthy, 1996). The majority of secondary students are expected to use the skills they learned in elementary school to assist them as they read text associated with their lessons. Students who are lacking the necessary skills will need to have additional interventions to close the gap (Greenleaf & Hinchman, 2009). Librarians, teachers, and parents need to join hands in finding a way to reverse the cycle of reluctance of reading for students once the cause or causes have been identified.

JC 7 References Brinda, W. (2011). A "ladder to literacy" engages reluctant readers. Middle School Journal, 43(2), 8-17. Retrieved from http://www.amle.org/Publications/MiddleSchoolJournal/tabid/435/Default.aspx Crowe, C. (1999). Young adult literature: Rescuing reluctant readers. The English Journal, 88(5), 113-116. doi:10.2307/821799 Earl, A. & Maynard, S. (2007). What makes a child a reluctant reader? New Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship, 12(2), 163-181. doi:10.1080/13614540600982959 Gozzi, Jr., R. (2011). Metaphors in action: Distracted. ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 68(1), 110-111. Retrieved from http://www.generalsemantics.org/etc Greenleaf, C. & Hinchman, K. (2009). Reimagining our inexperienced adolescent readers: From struggling, striving, marginalized, and reluctant to thriving. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(1), 4-13. doi:10.1598/JAAL.53.1.1 Gruenthal, H. (2011). WARNING! This list contains drugs, violence, language, sex, abuse, and some of the most amazing things on the planet! YALSA's quick picks list. Young Adult Library Services, 9(3), 36-39. Retrieved from http://www.yalsa.ala.org/yals/ Jones, P. (2006). Reaching reluctant readers: Tips, tools, and techniques. Retrieved from www.connectingya.com/ALLA2006.doc

JC 8 Moorefield, L. (2004). Reluctant readers: How to help students who cant, dont, or wont read. Classroom Leadership, 7(7), n.p. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/classroom-leadership/apr2004/Reluctant-Readers.aspx Stringer, S. & Mollineaux, B. (2003). Removing the word "reluctant" from "reluctant reader". The English Journal, 92(4), 71-76. doi:10.2307/3650460 Worthy, J. (1996). A matter of interest: Literature that hooks reluctant readers and keeps them reading. The Reading Teacher, 50(3), 204-212. Retrieved from http://www.reading.org/general/publications/journals/rt.aspx