Last year, my biggest challenge was Nick. Oh, Nick. With a lot of pressure, I could get him to read Magic Treehouse books–not that there’s anything wrong with Magic Treehouse books, but Nick, I knew, was capable of so much more. He was the pure definition of a resistant reader. Fake reading. Paging through non-fiction books looking at the pictures. “Losing” books. I was tearing my hair out.
One day, late in April, I set Percy Jackson’s The Lightning Thief on his desk. He moaned (too thick and difficult), but agreed to read one chapter. The next thing I knew he couldn’t stop reading. He read while walking, skipped soccer at recess to read, and read until late at night (his parents told me). He was a convert! By mid summer he’d read the whole series. By the end of the series he was a reader of much more than Percy Jackson books. This fall Nick scored the highest in his class on the MAP tests in reading! One of those moments teachers live for. never, never, but never give up trying to find that perfect book for a student.
Last night, I checked out Lisa Yee’s Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time as a possible read for resistant readers. It’s perfect! The story of a resistant reader who flunks 6th grade and has to go to summer school, Stanford Wong is a likable, athletic middle-schooler. Lisa Yee nails her characters. I could see my sons when they were in middle school: a mix of charm, insightfulness, dumkopfness, kindness, and lovesick heifer.
Mom sees me reading The Outsiders and kisses the top of my head. Usually I squirm when she pulls stunts like that, but this time I just brush her away and keep reading. This book is exactly like my life, except that I am not in a gang and I don’t get in a lot of fights and my parents aren’t dead. I asked Mr. Glick to stay after class Friday and we talked and talked about The Outsiders. Well, I talked and talked. He just grinned.
I thought maybe I had food on my face or something and finally asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m just happy that you are enjoying the book. These are the kinds of moments a teacher lives for.”
My grand-daughter, Shaye, has a bad case of not-finish-itis. She starts lots of books, but seldom finishes them. The question is, what to do??
First, I asked Shaye to self-diagnose. “Do you know why you’re not finishing your books?” asked I.
“Yes, another book looks more interesting.”
“Ah…an advanced case of the-grass-looks-greener,” I murmured. “I have just the cure for that.”
“Shaye, honey, good readers do four things to solve this problem:
They’re very careful when selecting their books.
They pay careful attention to the first chapter, asking lots of questions.
They make a prediction at the end of every chapter.
They have a special place for the books they’re going to read next. That’s called having a reading plan.”
Shaye and I went to the bookstore and spent about an hour picking out one book for now and one book for later. We went home and I read the first chapter out loud to her, modeling how good readers ask questions and predict. Finally, we went in her room and chose a spot (an empty drawer) for the books she planned to read next.