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Reluctant Readers: Could YOU turn one?

Following on from the last ‘Reluctant Readers’ post, and in answer to ALL of your comments (thank you Jo Stapley!), I’m asking – how do we get reluctant readers to pick up a book and read it? Because, lets face it, the term ‘reluctant reader’ is slightly rose tinted. ‘Non readers’ is probably more realistic.

Some of the weight of getting people to read HAS to lay on the shoulders of schools, right? Jo made a great point – if schools set enjoyable reading asignments, regularly, then that should really get the ball rolling once an interest has been peaked. But how much can we rely on schools to get this right? How much can we rely on anyone ever finding any school assignment ‘enjoyable’? No matter how brilliant the source material is, if it is spoon-fed at school, then there is a danger of verging on ‘Eat your greens!’ territory. If teacher says it’s good, then it must be real bad. Like my younger brother-in-law who, at school, watched Schindler’s List (one of my favourite films at the same age) and came back saying

We watched the most boring old war film in school. Something called Stiffler’s List!

Jo is right, schools do need to make more of an effort to make reading enjoyable, and the government needs to be putting money into literacy development instead of pulling out and closing libraries. This would surely do some good.

But what about the truly stubborn types? The “I wouldn’t touch a book if you paid me” ones? How the hell do you go about turning them (and should we even bother?). Well, if reading at school could be considered as the ‘stick’ approach, then what would be considered to be the ‘carrot’? What could entice non-readers to pick up a book?

A great cover? Yes, but, if they have no interest in reading then why would they bother looking at that?

A glowing review? Sure, but again, to non-readers a book review is as relevant as the a phone directory is to a homeless person (who doesn’t want to make any phone calls).

An advert? Well, in a book shop, or in a newspaper, an advert would be as usefull as the above two suggestions. But what if an advert was thrown out into the mass media, the way big films or games are? What’s stopping publishers from mimmicking those movie promo ads where they film young people coming out of the cinema, commenting on how “That was the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my life!” or “I laughed so hard I actually popped a testicle!” Why do we never see marketing for books on a similare scale to that of music, movies and games?

One simple answer could be this – Why would anyone spend HUGE amounts of money trying to market a book to a bunch of people who REFUSE to read? It would either take balls of steel or brains of lead to try such a thing, surely? (Or perhaps a government bursary, because you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs, and there’s no point in an omelette even exisiting if no one wants to eat it! Or read it… Trust me, this makes sense in my head!)

But, until that miraculous omelette day comes around, it appears to remain the duty of the school librarians, the teachers, parents, big sisters etc. to try to find a way of somehow coercing ‘reluctant readers’ into being a little less reluctant and a bit more readery, by any means possible. But what means?


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  1. Reluctant Readers, Really?