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02 August 2011


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I get students who use this as an excuse all the time; they're not much like the gal in the story with the Dessen book. That girl obviously did like to read or she wouldn't have been in a bookstore in the first place.
In my experience, when a parent tells me their child is a slow reader, I find they're usually right. However, I cheerily tell them that there are lots of good books for kids who aren't yet on grade level and that the more fun the kid has reading, the more than kid will read, and the easier it will become.
And when a parent tells me their kid is a good reader, I often find that is true as well -- even if the kid isn't quite as brilliant as the parents think. The problem there is that parents often have no clue what the kid can handle.
True story: One little gal last year LOVED to read and went through tons of books. She was also special ed and read way below grade level. No problem. Our school library has plenty of great MG books for her to gobble up. All was good.
Then her father told her he wanted her to read Les Miserables. No joke: he gave this kid the full-length Victor Hugo.
Yeah, how to crush a kid's love of reading. geez.
For the whole week, I gently explained to her that Hugo didn't have modern 12-year-olds in mind when he wrote it, and that I could find parts of his work long and dull sometimes, too. I kept suggesting that maybe we could find a simplified version. Finally the dad gave in and let the girl choose her own books!


I think the big thing is that adults need to let kids choose what they want to read. Adults often seem to forget that they, too, find books they have no interest in to be a complete slog to get through - so why can't kids be the same? If you force a kid to read only the things you want him or her to read and it takes that kid forever to get through anything, maybe the kid isn't really a "slow reader." Maybe they're just not reading the books that are right for them.

Plus, there are my concerns in general with this kind of thing - what if you say your son or daughter is not a strong reader, and he or she starts to believe it? That's just sad. I went through this, not with reading, but with math. For years I thought I sucked at math. My tests said I sucked. I had to relearn the same thing year after year. Then I got a math teacher who was like, "yeah, I'll just give you a week's refresher on that stuff you keep forgetting over the summer, and then we're going to go onto new stuff that's going to be great." And it was. It's nice to have adults not doubt you before you even begin.

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