This post about getting reluctant readers to love reading is written by Ali Dent of Courage on the Edge of Tomorrow.
Thank you, Ali, for this incredible post!
- Getting Kids to Love Reading with a Literacy Club–LITClub, by Ali Dent
Reading doesn’t come easy to everyone. Is there hope for those of us who would rather be on the playground, soccer field, or climbing a tree?
How important is it for our children to enjoy books?
We have an innate hunger for STORY.
What happens to this craving when reading is difficult, as it was for my daughter who has dyslexia, or as it was for me as a child, because I measured myself against my peers who read much faster than I did? Most of the time, it gets stuffed down inside, and we forget we ever took pleasure in the magic of a story. My daughter believed she couldn’t. I decided I wouldn’t. However, our appetite didn’t die; it went into hiding.
Like a pet rabbit in a home full of hunting dogs, it lurks around in the heart and mind. Now and again, it sneaks out of its hole, hoping to find a solution. Disappointed, it retreats back into the shadows, wishing for a way to enjoy the light without fear.
With high school looming in my daughter’s future, we needed a solution that would allow her to read, comprehend, and interpret the classic novels on her high school reading list. In middle school, I read a lot of her books aloud to her, but the high school reading load felt overwhelming to both of us.
After a great deal of prayer, we discovered an answer that met her reading goals and turned out to be a way to satisfy a reluctant reader’s craving for stories.
Whether a child’s avoidance of books is from diagnosed reading issues, or a habit of choosing to do other things instead, a literature club can meet your child’s hidden craving for story.
Literature club was the answer to our prayers. It was the solution to Matti’s reading difficulties. We set out to get the books read on time and, hopefully, retain some comprehension. To our surprise, we got way more than we bargained for. Matti accomplished her reading list, understood the books, was able to interpret them, and she made lifelong friends.
It’s been 12 years since that first literature club started. Since then, I’ve seen shy, avid readers transform into confident public speakers (discussions and project presentations draw them out of their shells). Kids who are more interested in sports and electronics than a really good story transform into kids that say, “Mom, if we have to drop an activity, please don’t let it be literature club.”
LITClub kids experience books in a unique way. A literature club is a monthly activity that places a high value on the social needs of children and their parents. This entices the kids to give reading a chance. Interacting with family and friends is important to children. Moms need the camaraderie, too. Hanging out with their friends and sharing a meal together make literature club acceptable, even in the beginning, to those who think their moms have lost their minds when they tell them they are joining a classical book club. In a short period of time, the experience changes their opinion about reading.
LITClub gives the kids something to look forward to. Sure, they had to read an old book before coming to the meeting. They also had to prepare a project. They make this sacrifice, concluding, “The work is a small sacrifice to spend an exciting evening with my friends.” Hanging out is enough motivation during the first two or three months to keep the kids coming back.
After 2, 3, or 4 books, the kids get hooked on more than the social time. They find out that talking about the stories is a lot more interesting than they had imagined. They find themselves looking forward to what their friends have to say about the book, in comparison to their own thoughts. Most kids enjoy batting around thoughts, ideas, and opinions with each other. At first, the kids think that presenting a project to a group is either intimidating, or pointless. It doesn’t take them long to look forward to this part, too.
5 reasons moms love the outcome!
1. LITClub kids become skilled in rhetorical conversations. When our kids reach adulthood, they will be in relationships with people who aren’t like them. They need to know how to talk with others in away that doesn’t cause a fight. Literature club provides a platform for the kids to express their thoughts about BIG ideas and practice their responses to people who might oppose them. In literature club, we do this through book conversations. In addition, at least once a year, the kids have an opportunity to participate in a formal round-table discussion. After reading Animal Farm, the kids were divided into two teams. One side argued for socialism, the other team for free market trade. In this way, the kids learned a lot about themselves. They realized that they had strengths and weaknesses when put on the spot conversationally. In the end, practicing in a round-table forum, whether casually or formally, equips LITClub kids to talk to others about their faith and lifestyle in a respectful and effective way.
2. LITClub provides a stage for kids to learn how to be friends with people that are similar to them and different from them. They learn how to discuss their differences, instead of becoming enemies because they don’t know how to love others who aren’t like them.
3. LITClub kids’ written and spoken communication skills are honed through project creation and presentation. Projects are geared to be fun and require thoughtfulness to complete. The Denver, Colorado middle school club read Death Be Not Proud. Lee, the facilitator, gave them this project: If you were given the news that in 6 months you will be leaving this earth and life as you know it, what kind of important-things-I-want-to-do-in-life list would you come up with? Kind of a bucket list, but preferably not ‘I’d make sure I go to NASCAR or visit Disney World’ (although maybe those could be at the bottom of your list).
So, in other words, if the Lord were to announce to you that He will be here in 6 months to take you Home, what MEANINGFUL and IMPORTANT things would be on your bucket list? Make the list real for you (not everyone has to make sure they witness to 600 people or kiss the Pope’s ring).
4. Projects are designed to mature the kids’ hearts and minds. Another tough, but very fruitful project that stretches the kids’ minds and hearts is the monologue project. After reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the kids were asked to choose a character and write a monologue from the character’s viewpoint.
The kicker was that the monologue had to defend slavery from the character’s worldview. Imagine how absurd slavery is, how much you hate it. Then imagine putting yourself in the shoes of one of those characters and writing a speech from that vantage point. This exercise not only educates, it changes us in a positive way. By stepping into the life of another person, seeing things from his perspective, we become more compassionate and able to love. Writing this type of project, and then presenting it before a group, sharpens speaking skills, while simultaneously building confidence.
5. LITClub kids’ critical thinking skills are stirred up through planning and implementing cool projects. These projects are less crafty, and more interactive, like pretending to be a news reporter and interviewing a character, or creating an original board game based on the plot of the story, with strategy based on symbols and motifs. Critical thinking is the ability to think in a circular fashion that spirals deep and wide, as opposed to a linear train of thought.
Imagine an idea that is brought to light in a conversation, a newspaper, magazine, news program, or on the radio. Linear thinking hears it and jumps to the first conclusion that comes to mind, and either owns that conclusion, or accepts the commentator’s conclusions without question. Circular thinking, which we sometimes call rhetorical or Socratic conversation, is less quick to jump to conclusions. Circular thinking takes time to listen to the other side. It ponders past, present, and future, and weighs the costs and outcomes.
- LITClub thinkers learn to ask questions.
- LITClub thinkers learn and respect for others.
- LITClub thinkers learn to listen.
- LITClub thinkers learn patience.
In the end, LITClub thinkers desire to know and love others more than they want to prove a point. This opens up conversations, whereas linear conversations tend to end abruptly and, often, are never broached again.
It might seem that a reluctant book lover would turn up his nose to all of this. My daughter thought she wouldn’t make it through her reading list. I wondered if I would be up for the task. Some kids push against the idea of a LITClub because they are introverts. The idea of presenting a project to a group is terrifying. Another child may insist that he just can’t corral his brain long enough to read a whole book. Regardless of a child’s reason for digging in his heels, hang tough. When it’s all said and done, he will be so grateful to you for the gift of literature club.
How do you transform reading into an experience?
If you would like to share this amazing process with your children, there is a handbook called The LITClub, Transforming Reading into an Experience. All the work is already done for you. It starts out with an explanation of the club, and ends with four classic book studies, along with all the tools you need to enjoy your very own literature club experience.
You might want to try it out before you buy. If so, you can download this free eBook, Transforming the Hunger Games into an Experience. This eBook, completely free, includes a quick-start guide to the literature club experience, a themed menu, a completely ready-made discussion guide, and a project guide.
If you have questions, send a message to Ali Dent.
Ali Dent is an author and story lover. She grew up in Georgia and was educated at Berry College, where her heart for writing was trained and nurtured. She currently resides in Texas with her family. Check out her book, The LitClub, on Amazon.
This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts. Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field. These posts? Seriously awesome.
The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!
Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.
You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!
other posts in the series:
- sweet, sparkly flower craft
- toddler shapes
- paper plate puzzles
- stand up for yourself: at work, home, school
- using iPad apps to create
- phonemic awareness and classification with zoo pictures
- what to do when kids find their passion
- 8 ways of supporting advanced learners
- tons more to come!