Monday, May 3, 2010

Kids Who Abandon Books

Very common at the beginning of every abandoners. They pick up a book, take it to their reading spot for a few minutes, and then decide to take it back and get another one, only to continue the cycle the duration of reading time. Or maybe it is a child who is really gung ho on a book at first, yet never gets through it and finishes it (this too can become a habit).

How do you work with these kids?

I have found a number of things work, but it depends on WHY they are abandoning...First off, they may not have a clue on how to select a book -- that's when I do the most work on finding "just right books" (see earlier blogs) or how to look at a book and really decide if it is something I am interested in. Sometimes these kids don't know themselves as readers, or haven't really ever thought about their own interests. That happens between second and third grade. We need to stop them for a few minutes and teach them how to reflect - to think about what they like to do, what they don't like to do, and then how to take those interests into selecting books.

I will usually pull about 10 books from my library and sit with each child. We will talk about why and why not -- do they like the subject? how does the reading feel?

Here's the trick, however. You need to keep them accountable. Set a small goal. I usually tell them to give the book a chance the whole reading time (20-30 minutes) that day, and then we would talk more. That's the key. Talking with them more. After they spent time with the book, how do they like it? How does the subject grab them? Where are they struggling? Talking with them will make them think about how they are a reader. They will start identifying why it was hard to focus, what they liked or didn't like. That's important. If you continually tell them what is wrong, they will never get that internal feeling/knowledge. That's what carries on for years.

Now if they are picking just right books and it is an attention thing, I ask them to first evaluate why they are off it the reading spot? is it time? We will change location, use a timer, inset breaks if need be. During the breaks I would have them sketch their book character or scene, and then get back into it. Some kids need that timer...they don't know how long they have and it is either overwhelming or they just keep focusing on the clock. When they know the timer will go off, they can relax and focus on the book.

Some kids, like my boys occasionally, will start books with a fury, and then not finish. That's often a stamina thing. Tell them to hang tight. When they seem to be losing steam, talk with them mid chapter. Get them through it by putting it on yourself. For example, I always tell kids to keep reading and keep me up to date on what x character is doing. "I am so interested to find out what happens to them - you must keep reading so I can find out!" I say enthusiastically. Then I follow up. That day. I ask them. Then then next I check in again..."How's that character?" I bubble...They see how I am in suspense, and it shows them how they can be too.

Sometimes kids abandon, and that's just the way it is. I do it. You do it. But here's the deal. Often, kids will return to those books later and finish them. My boys picked up some books they got for Christmas this weekend. They had started them, but it didn't rock their world, so they sat on the shelf. I cajoled once or twice to get them to read and finish, to no avail.

But lo and behold, without my prompting, they resurfaced on Saturday. They were reading them in the car on the way to school this morning, and when we reached the car line, Ben told Sam sternly, "Stop reading! We have to get out of the car now!" Funny boys.

So abandoning can be a problem, and it can become a habit. We need to stretch them, to hold them accountable in a supportive they can make it to the finish line.

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