Reluctant readers

We just did this presentation the other day at the West Seattle B&N educator day that got me thinking that I wanted to post about how fantasy appeals to reluctant readers. Have you ever seen that? A kid that is really into video games finally getting turned on to reading because a book is set in the same world, or has the same magical feeling? A 10 year old boy who hasn’t read an entire book on his own realizing that Star Trek or Dragonlance or Star Wars or some other series gives him characters he can return to again and again?
I never really thought about series being both useful and fun until I started working here and editing series. Here at Mirrorstone, we make a “reluctant reader kit”* every year free for librarians, teachers, and homeschoolers that includes ideas on how to get your reluctant reader reading. Book club ideas, teacher guides, readers’ theater, and samples of the first book in each series the kit covers–each with the intention of giving teachers and librarians tools to help them help the kids and teens they work with.
But one thing the kit hasn’t covered yet that our authors discussed on the panel on Saturday is how the right kind of video games can directly give kids the skills they need to feel more confident as readers. Ree Soesbee (), who works for a company associated with GuildWars in her day job, talked about how adventure games that give the player a quest make the player have to possess or develop certain comprehension skills. She gave the example of a player coming upon a character in the game who says, “I’m lost in the woods and I can’t find my way home! But I have to find my pig first. Can you find my pig?” The player then has to figure out how to find the pig, what clues will lead him or her to the pig, find the character again and lead them both out of the woods. This takes reading skills and the ability to decipher certain clues.
I really like that connection. I grew up on Atari and Nintendo, and though I never really game all that much now (though I do enjoy our department’s weekly Eberron game, which is paper-and-pencil, rather than video), I can see the value these games have in kids’ lives, both as tools for reading comprehension and for enjoyment in and of themselves.
Ree did, of course, make a distinction about this kind of game and others, such as first-person-shooters, but she and Jeff and Anjali also brought up that even these interests can be translated into interests in books. You like first-person-sho
oter games? Perhaps you’d enjoy a spy novel (or a nonfiction book about true crime, etc.).
For those of you who work with kids or teens directly, how do you reach reluctant readers?
*For a reluctant reader kit for your library or classroom, email libraries AT wizards DOT com, or you can download parts of last year’s kit here (this year’s has more material for new series):