Abandoned Books and Lack of Engagement: What to Do?


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“Corwin, I noticed you are reading a different book today than yesterday.”

“I didn’t really like that one.”

“How did you decide to choose this one?”

“I just grabbed it, but I don’t really like it.”

 “What is one of your favorite books you have read or that someone read to you?”

“I don’t remember.”

“If you did remember, what would it be?”

“Well, I guess I liked it when my teacher last year read Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.”

“What did you like about it?”

“I liked the magic dragon. It would be cool to get a dragon egg and have it hatch.”

“Did you know that there are more books by that author about that same magic shop in the Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher? We have a set of four others right here in our classroom. Maybe you want try one of those?”

“No, I’m not really interested.”

Does this type of a conversation sound familiar to you? Have you ever had a student—or perhaps you are currently teaching one—who abandons books or can’t seem to find a book they like? You know, those students you spend focused time getting to know, finding out what their interests are, and attempting to discover what has piqued their reading interest in the past? These are the students who keep us combing libraries, book lists, and recommendations, and reading voraciously ourselves just so we can find a book or books that may be "the one" that gets them hooked.   

What to do with a student such as Corwin? Listen in for one of our favorite approaches: 

“So Corwin, pretend you are interested in reading one of these other books in the Magic Shop series. Which one would might you choose?”

“Well . . . I guess I would pick this one about the toad, but I don’t think I will like it.”

“Tell you what, why don’t I read the first chapter to you? Then we can talk about it and you can decide if you are interested in this book and want to continue reading it.”

This simple strategy of reading the book’s first pages or a chapter aloud has proven time and again to be instrumental in getting a child into a book. If we stop to consider why children might abandon or can’t engage with a book, we find that many of these reasons can be addressed by supporting the student through those first few pages:

  • They need help understanding the setting.
  • Characters and how they connect to the setting and story can be difficult to determine.
  • Some of the specific language in a book can be addressed right up front, making the book easier to comprehend.
  • Their lack of enthusiasm for the book can be altered by our own excitement.
  • And sometimes a student may have finished a book they loved, are grieving the loss of the book, and just need to "meet" a new book's story and characters before they can bond with it. 

Do you have other strategies for helping students find a book to hook them? We would love to hear your ideas and continue the conversation! Just log into the Discussion Board, share, and learn other strategies to support students.




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