Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Resources for Working with Reluctant Readers

Who are reluctant readers?  
Reluctant readers are people who. . .

Can Read, But Don’t (Aliteracy)
A reluctant reader may have good reading skills, but chooses not to read.  They will often say that they just don’t like to read.  This is also called aliteracy; being able to read but uninterested in doing so.  When we talk about Reluctant Readers, these are primarily the types of readers we are talking about.  As Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man that can not read.” 

The Pew Report on Young American Reading Habits tells us that at least 83% of young people in America read at least one book in the past year.  This tells us that 17% didn’t.  And one book in a year, that’s not exactly our goal.

Wants to Read but Hides It
There are also some tweens and teen who actually do like to read, but because of the perceived coolness factor of it, they choose to hide it.  They are closeted readers if you will.

It’s a common adage that boys don’t like to read.  Truthfully, I know plenty of boys who like to read, and the things they like to read often surprise me.  But here is a really good look at boys and reading, some statistics to be concerned about (test scored have been falling for 30 years), and a different look at the question.  The truth is, there IS a gender gap in reading.  Test scores show that boys are less proficient at reading than girls and this gap has been widening for the past 30 years.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLHzIxXXHp0]

Can’t Read (Illiteracy)
Illiteracy is not necessarily the same as reluctant reading, because many people who struggle with the inability to read would like very much to be able to read.  It is amazing to me how many people are able to effectively hide the fact that they can’t read.  Others do so less effectively, of course.  Here is a look at the World’s Illteracy rate as compiled by Info Please:

The United Nations, which defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple message in any language, has conducted a number of surveys on world illiteracy. In the first survey (1950, pub. 1957) at least 44% of the world’s population were found to be illiterate. A 1978 study showed the rate to have dropped to 32.5%, by 1990 illiteracy worldwide had dropped to about 27%, and by 1998 to 16%. However, a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published in 1998 predicted that the world illiteracy rate would increase in the 21st cent. because only a quarter of the world’s children were in school by the end of the 20th cent. The highest illiteracy rates were found in the less developed nations of Africa, Asia, and South America; the lowest in Australia, Japan, North Korea, and the more technologically advanced nations of Europe and North America. Using the UN definition of illiteracy, the United States and Canada have an overall illiteracy rate of about 1%. In certain disadvantaged areas, however, such as the rural South in the United States, the illiteracy rate is much higher.

Here are 5 Spectacular Resources to Help Connect Readers with Books
People will read, when they find something they connect with. Our job as librarians (and teachers and parents) is to help them make those connections.  Here are some resources that can help you do that.

1) YALSA Quick Picks List
The YALSA Quick Pics list is a list of books specifically chosen for their appeal to reluctant readers.  These are short, quick reads that are engaging, thoughtful, and bound to turn reluctant readers into raving readers.

2) Graphic Novels
Many libraries now have Graphic Novel (GN) and Manga collections, because they are hugely popular.  But they are also a good draw for reluctant readers.  One of my favorite resources is the No Flying, No Tights website for reviews and core collection lists.

Research: Teenage Reluctant Readers and Graphic Novels

3) Audio Books
For many, audio books can help you engage in the story more readily than a book.  When reading a book, you can be overwhelmed if you are a struggling reader or easily distracted.  Research shows that listening to audio books can help engage readers and improve skills.

Research: Young Adult Audio Books, the audio answer for reluctant readers

4) Guys Read.com

Are Guys Reluctant Readers? That question is debatable; the truth is some guys are and some guys aren’t, just as some girls are and some girls aren’t.  But, Guys Read is a great resource for those looking to connect guys with books.

5) Orca Books 

Orca Books has set out with the singular purpose of producing hi interest/low level titles for struggling and reluctant readers.  They’ve done their research, established some great product lines, and produce a variety of titles.

What are some of the ways you help connect your reluctant readers with books?

Tell us in the comments.

Here are some additional research and information on Reluctant Readers: