One often hears the term ‘reluctant reader’ and ‘struggling reader’. Is there a difference between these terms?
A reluctant reader is a child who is reluctant to read books. He/she can be an able reader who is switched off from reading for a variety of reasons: boredom or disinterest in the reading materials offered, poor attention span, and a general disinterest in the medium of books and the benefits of reading. These pupils do not read for pleasure. Many reluctant readers do not see reading as a ‘cool’ activity in this day and age of visual stimulation of TV, video games and You Tube.
Do we need to worry about reluctant readers? Yes, we do. If children stop reading once they can read, this can have a detrimental impact on their education. Pupils who are not exposed to texts with increasing richness in vocabulary and grammatical sentence structures, will not develop their receptive and expressive language beyond the limited language used in conversation. Limited language then limits comprehension. This can impact their access to more difficult and demanding texts throughout their education. Limited comprehension can become a barrier to future learning in any subject they may wish to pursue. Limited vocabulary also limits their ability to articulate thoughts and ideas in speech and in writing. Also, pupils who are not repeatedly exposed to print are often poor spellers.
What to do? It is up to the teachers to try to engage these pupils in reading which is relevant to their interests, through a variety of genres. Many new reading books include non fiction literature with fantastic illustrations and the internet offers a huge mine of texts that can capture the imagination of young people.
A struggling reader is a child who experiences difficulty learning to read. This may be due to: speech and language problems, specific learning difficulties, English as a second language acquired at a later age, poor reading instruction when they were learning to read or a combination of the above. Many struggling readers are also reluctant readers because they find it difficult, fear failure and are aware that they are falling behind their peers. Many of these pupils experience low self esteem.
What to do? These pupils need a highly structured phonics reading programme to ensure that the missing gaps in phonic knowledge and skills are filled. Then they need lots of reading practice at each level to develop reading fluency and confidence. It is important that at every stage struggling readers are offered age-appropriate reading materials so that their self esteem grows with their reading progress.