Melody Garcia / CLEL Communications Chair
As librarians we focus on getting children ready to read in the first five years. In our storytimes and programs we reinforce pre-reading skills and strive to instill a love of books and reading in young children. The reality for many children though, is that no matter how prepared they are with pre-reading skills, transitioning into an independent reader is HARD.
Libraries support beginning and struggling readers in many ways. Many host programs like Paws to Read or Reading Buddies to create a judgment free space to practice. There are a variety of decodable books with a focus on phonics for kids just beginning to read. Leveled readers offer high interest topics to spike a child’s interest and support their developing fluency. It is important for library staff to know their collection and work with families to select books that will best support their young reader where they are. We have highlighted skills and strategies for supporting emerging readers on our Building Readers page, but I want to give attention to those children who struggle. This is a personal topic for me because despite all of the reading, rhyming, and talking I have done with my own son, learning to read has left him frustrated and discouraged.
I have found with my son that in addition to extra practice, it is also important to share books that acknowledge that learning to read is not always easy. Many books celebrate the joy of finding the perfect book, losing yourself in its pages, and devouring book after book. Fewer titles focus on the frustration and hard work that often must come first. This booklist is for those struggling and reluctant readers (an anyone else who likes a good book):
I Do Not Like Books Anymore by Daisy Hirst
Natalie and Alphonse, who you may remember from a past CLEL Bell winner, are back and now that Natalie has grown a bit older she is excited to learn to read! After all, she LOVES books and stories. But it’s not easy. The words are just squiggles and nothing interesting happens in the book her teacher gives her. Maybe Natalie doesn’t like books after all. But what about a book she makes herself?
Negative Cat by Sophie Blackwall
After much begging, a young boy finally gets that cat he always wanted, having promised to care for it and to read for 20 minutes a day. But things don’t work out as planned. The boy avoids reading because he’s not good at it and the cat of his dreams turns out to be poorly behaved and stand-offish. It reaches a critical point and in a last ditch effort to save his cat, Max, the boy begins reading to Max. Like magic the cat curls up in his lap and the boy realizes Max doesn’t mind if he reads slowly and makes mistakes. In the end, his whole class is reading books to cats at the local shelter!
For other tie-ins to your libraries Paws to Read Program, try Maddeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp
I Will Not Read This Book by Cece Meng
The narrator avoids reading because he can’t read fast and some words are hard. In fact, he will NOT read this book! Not even if you hang him upside down by one toe. His imaginative scenario grows more and more dire in this cumulative tale, with speeding trains, hungry sharks, and fire breathing dragons, until he admits that he might read this book, if someone reads it WITH him.
The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley
In this CLEL Bell Award winner, Nick loves reading, especially with his cats. When he decides to teach his cats to read, Nick finds that one is enthusiastic but the other struggles. Nick doesn’t give up and discovers that while his cat may not be keen to learn to read, it does love to draw!
Libraries are there for children through their whole reading journey. For children who encounter challenges along this journey, the best thing we can offer is compassion, patience, and support. And maybe one more book.
Do you have another book to suggest? Please leave it in the comments!