Guest Post: Understanding Reluctant Readers (Part 1) by Jim Westcott

Understanding Reluctant Readers
Boy Mama Teacher Mama Understanding Reluctant Readers Part1

Recently, BMTM shared a post about books for reluctant (boy) readers. We featured the books by Jim Westcott from Splashing Cow Books.  Click HERE to read more about these books.

Boy Mama Teacher Mama Books for Reluctant Boy Readers

As a follow up to that post, I am excited to have Jim Westcott share this series of post specifically about how to help reluctant readers. Jim is a former special education and author of books for reluctant readers.

Understanding the Reluctant Reader

I taught for fifteen years. I’ve done what many parents and educators do: label kids, lumping them for education purposes or, otherwise known as making things easier for overwhelmed adults. I wonder, though. Who are these reluctant readers really? Better question: Why are they reluctant? Does this label (reluctant reader) help serve or does it hinder those trying to help? Does it actually help children?

Not for everyone!

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After a fair amount of research, spinning my wheels- article after article, the same talking points, the tired eduspeak, the countless booklists for reluctant readers- mainly boys, I discovered Kylene Beers.

Kylene Beers is an education and reading expert that has been around and in the middle of this topic for decades. Her work and her insights, however, feel fresh to me. In her research, she attempts to unlump reluctant readers which is the first step to truly understanding them.

Her Research

In her article, Choosing Not to Read: Understanding Why Some Middle Schoolers Just Say No, she divides reluctant readers into sub categories. Understanding these sub categories, I believe, is the best way to truly understanding reluctant readers.

Yeah, you’re right, the topic is more complicated than most think it is. It’s more complicated than I gave it credit for.

The “Unlumping”

Beer’s Groups:

Avid Readers and Aliteracy Groups

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Kylene Beers stated that once she understood the motivations of the avid readers group, she was easily able to type the other readers.

Types of Readers

Beers also stated there are two main types of readers. These are Efferent and Aesthetic Readers.

Efferent Readers: Readers that view reading according to what they are told to do after the reading is done, or even during the reading, concerned only with what they have to do. These readers view reading in school as answering questions, getting the Venn Diagram complete, listing the key ideas and details, identifying the elements and structure, and so on. Reading is a means to satisfy what the teacher wants. You get the idea. Reading is a chore. Teachers and parents want them to read more, assess their reading, assign reading. They associate reading with work. They haven’t experienced the possibilities, the wonder, the new insights and personal connections that only comes from reading. They haven’t engaged with that one book yet.

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Aesthetic Readers: Connect personally and emotionally to what they read. They formulate opinions about their reading. They read for the experience of reading. Reading is access to new people, places, ideas, information, and new enjoyments. They connect with what they read or they understand why they don’t connect with what they read.

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I do not believe that Beers’ research is  just another attack on the way teachers present material during reading instruction in any way. It is merely good information that teachers may use as a refresher, or possibly to see differentiated instruction for reluctant readers in a new light, with new objectives.

Coming up in Part II of this series, we will discuss the myriad of reasons why Efferent Readers don’t want to or like to read and how teachers can move children to become part of the avid group of readers despite their age and background.

-Jim Westcott

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