A Note to Readers
I’m delighted to welcome Kim Zachman to the blog to talk about how to reach those reluctant readers. Whether you are a writer, educator or librarian, this post will help you connect with readers. Enjoy!
Reeling in Reluctant Readers
by Kim Zachman
For seven years, I had the best job in the world. I worked for Scholastic Book Fairs as a field support representative. I loved seeing the excitement in the students’ faces when they walked into the book fair. It was one of the reasons I wanted to be a children’s author.
I noticed that kids shop in different ways. Some went from case to case, pulling out one book after another. They agonized over which one to buy because there were so many they wanted to read!
Some kids would rush to their favorite section and grab a book like it would dissolve into thin air if they didn’t capture it. Only after that book was solidly in their hands would they even glance at anything else, usually in the same section.
Other kids wandered around from case to case and table to table, picking up a book and setting it back down. They weren’t excited about the books, but I could tell by their expressions that they felt like they should be.
I tried to help those unenthusiastic shoppers find something that interested them. During those experiences, it seemed to me that those students judged books by how much actual reading was required. They tended to like facts and stats books such as Guinness World Records and National Geographic Kids’ series Weird But True.
I’m not an educator, but I developed a theory from watching kids shopping for books, that they could be divided into three basic categories:
Avid Readers: They read a lot, and almost anything, in almost any format.
Situational Readers: They enjoy reading when the subject matter is important to them, but may get bored with other topics. They may prefer certain formats. If the situation is right, they like to read.
Reluctant Readers: They would rather be doing anything else.
For these students, their reluctance might come from a reading skill issue, but not always. Some kids just don’t enjoy reading, like some kids don’t enjoy sports or music. Unfortunately for them, reading skill is one of the key indicators of academic success. Kids don’t have to play basketball if they don’t want to, but they can’t skip learning to read. And the only way to get good at reading is reading.
Reeling in reluctant readers became my goal.
When I started working on my book about the history of popular American foods, I kept in mind the three types of readers. I wanted to engage the avid readers with a story-based narrative which I thought would attract a group that typically reads fiction. For the situational readers, I included sidebars with high interest information, so if the narrative bored them, the fun sidebars would keep their attention.
For the reluctant readers, I included a section at the end of each chapter with trivia in bullet points and a recipe or an experiment. My hope was they would be attracted by the trivia and get interested enough to look at the sidebars, and then maybe, they would go on to read the narrative.
It’s also helpful for the reluctant readers that the chapters stand alone. They can read the chicken nuggets chapter one day and then ice cream chapter another day without affecting comprehension.
This format also makes There’s No Ham in Hamburgers perfect for classrooms. It’s a great book for free reading periods and there are curriculum tie-ins for science, history, social studies, and health which are explained in the Educators’ Guides on my website www.kimzachman.com.
Obviously, I would be overjoyed if everyone reads my book from cover to cover and loves it all. But I will feel especially honored if a reluctant reader picks up There’s No Ham in Hamburgers and doesn’t put it down… at least right away.
About the author: Kim Zachman is a freelance writer with 130 articles and essays published in more than 25 magazines and newspapers. She also worked with Scholastic Book Fairs as a field support representative. She combined her freelance writing skills with her love of children’s literature in her first non-fiction middle grade book There’s No Ham in Hamburgers: Facts and Folklore About Our Favorite Foods, a Junior Library Guild Gold Selection, released by Running Press Kids in April 2021. Kim is a member of SCBWI in the Southern Breeze region and www.middlegrademojo.com. She lives in Roswell, GA with her husband and their two college kids. For more information, see: www.kimzachman.com