I’ve been taking Walking on Gold, my buried treasure adventure story, out into schools and having lots of conversations with children, teachers and parents, too.
With Christmas coming up, parents are asking me to recommend books for 8 – 12s, especially for reluctant readers. In answer, I took the opportunity to talk with educator Rachael Underwood:
Rachael The main thing to remember is that reading may be very hard for them: if it’s a real effort, the pay-off has to be worth it.
Janine Yes, sometimes I’m not sure that people fully understand just how difficult reading can be for some children (and adults): the words might blur or seem as if they’re dancing about on the page. And we’re not just talking about boys are we? There are plenty of girls who are reluctant to read.
We can draw some general conclusions about what makes reading easier: short chapters, plenty of margin space and large type, for example. With e-readers, you can adjust the size of the type to suit.
Other children don’t have a specific difficulty with the text; it may be that no one at home reads fiction, so there’s no role modelling. And there’s so much happening on screen these days that, if children don’t find a book or author that they connect with, they may write off books before they’ve really discovered them.
Rachael I agree. I think it’s important, too, to give children a cosy place to read (not a hard table, associated with homework tasks). Some children prefer non-fiction. Humour often engages children – and books that fit with their hobbies. The main thing is to keep persevering until they find a book that switches them on – then they can build on that.
Janine Humour does engage this age group – but it’s not for everyone.
Rachael Certainly. Many reluctant readers I’ve come across don’t like a lot of funny stories – they do want books with a fast pace and stories which are believable.
Some of our personal favourites:
Rachael The Horrid Henry series by Francesca Simon; Tracy Beaker stories by Jacqueline Wilson; books by Roald Dahl and David Walliams
Janine Mozart’s Banana, Gillian Cross; Young Merlin, Tony Bradman; Two Weeks with the Queen, Morris Gleitzman; Gangsta Granny, David Walliams; The Legend of Spud Murphy, Eoin Colfer