At the NCTE virtual conference the week before Thanksgiving, author Angie Thomas said something that has really stuck with me:
“There’s no such thing as a reluctant reader,
only an unimpressed reader.”
I love this idea, and it’s closely aligned with what I’ve been saying for years. The secret of cultivating lifelong readers is giving each individual child exactly the books they want to read—not books we think they should be reading.
Much of my work involves advocating for nonfiction, especially expository nonfiction, because studies show that about 40 percent of kids prefer it because they read to learn. The best way to impress them and get them excited about reading is by handing them a book on a topic that fascinates them.
But as Ms. Thomas points out, for some children, the single most important criteria may be something different, such as seeing themselves in the pages.
And for still other students, the key that will unlock the desire to read is something else. Whatever that “thing” is—whether it’s a topic, an idea, a format (such as graphic novels), a character from a certain background or with certain attributes—educators and parents must help children name it. Then they must provide a steady diet of books that meet the child’s criteria.
In some cases, this is a big job, a monumental task, but it’s a challenge that must be overcome because the reading lives of the next generation is at stake.
Thank you, Angie, for reminding us all how to reach the hearts and minds of young readers.