Monday, October 27, 2014

Odd Girl Out

I was never a reluctant reader. I have to admit, I feared writing about this topic because it is something I know very little about. While my parents were not avid readers, they were willing to drive me to the library. When I was very young, I was confined to bed because of a long illness. I found solace in reading. I learned to read at a young age, and I read everything. I loved action/adventure stories. When I was finally healthy, I couldn’t run fast enough, all the time running about, creating my own adventures. And when I wasn’t running about, I was reading.

Ezra Jack Keat's APT 3
 I was the odd girl out in middle school. I was a nerd before it was cool to be a nerd. High school was a bit easier because it was small and private. The nuns didn’t take kindly if someone came to class without having read the assigned pages, or books as the case may be. So everyone read. No one liked the “or else.”

Of course, I didn’t have computers, iPhones or iPads or video games way back then. There was no Facebook or text talk. Ooo! I shudder to think how Sister Alice Marie might have reacted if I dared write into an essay, AFINIAFI (A friend in need is a friend indeed)!

Although, to be sure, nerds will be nerds, no matter which century, and kids will always be kids. A friend and I had learned Morse code, and then tapped out messages during class. Colonel Seese, the retired Army colonel who taught history, caught on. He was scarier than the nuns. While he approved of our ingenuity, we still had to serve detention.

  Those were different times. I have to wonder if there may be some connection between the gadgetry of today and reluctant readers. As much as these electronic gizmos can be an aid to our learning process, might they also be a deterrent? I wrote in my last post (here) about current studies that suggest old-fashion hand writing helps cognitive development, critical thinking skills, and reading skills. Connected to this is another important question, how does the new technology we use to read change the way we read? Are we still reading as thoroughly and attentively? As Jabr Ferris suggests (Scientific American, 2013), while studies are still ongoing, there seems to be a consensus that “modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.”
 Where The Wild Things Are

 So could it be that one key to coaxing reluctant readers is to re-create that tactile and sensory experience?   

I have long been impressed by uber-teacher and Facebook friend Paul Hankins, who teaches English 11. He posts about his strategies that treat the senses and engages the reading process. His projects include using collage, which he calls remixes, to recreate covers of favorite books, including Ezra Jack Keat's APT 3 and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

Halloween produces some of my favorite books. What better way for a tactile experience than skin shivers and tingling spines! So many books, but currently I am reading (again) Stephen Messer’s The Death of Yorik Mortwell (Random House/Yearling Edition, 2012), a mock-Gothic horror story inspired by Edward Gorey.

Another treat is Philippa Dowding’s Jake and the Giant Hand (Dundurn, 2014), all about weird stories gone wrong. 

As a writer, I take to heart the wisdom Carmela shared in her post: "If you want your writing to appeal to boys and other reluctant readers, don't try to target this particular audience. That's right, DON'T target them. Instead, write what moves, excites, or interests YOU." In my books (Big River's Daughter and Girls of Gettysburg), you can still find me running about, all the time running, and having the best adventures.

For more information, you might find this interesting: Jabr, Ferris. The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens. (Scientific American, April 2013)

Don't forget about the CWIM giveaway!

What do you think? Share some of your insights, experiences and strategies below!

Bobbi Miller


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for sharing the article, Bobbi. Some fascinating stuff!

Bobbi Miller said...

Thank you, Carmela! This was a hard piece to write, but what an interesting subject!

Margot Finke said...

Loved this article, Bobbi. Thank you.
I pinned to my Writing Help etc on Pinterest:

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Esther Hershenhorn said...

How insightful, Bobbi.
Thank you!
I'm always seeking research re reading TXT vs. reading books, and for obvious reasons. :) said...

This is so interesting! At the library I work at we were recently discussing whether many of today's youngest children will miss out entirely on the pleasure of books. Magazines, too. I can still remember the thrill of having a shiny new children's magazine (with MY name on it) arrive in the mail, chock-full of stories and pictures for me to explore.

Rebecca C said...

From one odd girl out to another, Bobbi, I really enjoyed reading this. And I've wondered also if there is a link between modern gadgetry and reluctant readers.

Bobbi Miller said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Margot! And thank you for your kind words!

Bobbi Miller said...

You are right, Esther. It's a fascinating subject!

Bobbi Miller said...

Thank you, Marcia, for stopping by. And I think you are right on the mark with that insight. Young readers are missing out on something, and I sense we are just beginning to see the consequences of what that 'something' might be in regards to literacy, problem-solving, critical thinking (and so on).

Bobbi Miller said...

Yes, Rebecca!! Old Girls Rule!