Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
“Look at this book I am reading! Did you know that Godzilla was in a short movie for the first time in 1910?” This conversation about his latest find in my stack of new books began just after 7 am.
How do we help reluctant kids learn to love reading? What if their resistance is a cry for help? A way to become visible. A way to send up a flare to get someone to notice them?
Johann Herbart as the “father” of educational psychology believed that a student’s interest in a topic had a tremendous influence on the learning outcome and believed that teachers should consider this interest along with prior knowledge when deciding which type of instruction is most appropriate.
How do we help children master reading well enough to follow their interests?
We need to take a constructivist view of education, which means that we must assume students must be actively involved in their learning and concepts are not transmitted from teacher to student but constructed by the learner.
How do we get children actively involved in learning when they are resistant to reading, a skill that is required for many types of learning?
Resistance is that internal dialog that keeps us from doing, growing, and being all that we were created to be. It is as present in educators as it is for the students that they are trying to reach. There are cases of developmental challenges that need to be addressed in learning, but resistance is at the root of many students reading problems that do not have a developmental problem.
Where do we begin to unravel resistance?
We go back to the beginning. We observe how our children learn and take in the world around them. Every child will have one natural intelligence that is stronger than the other. A child who loves numbers and logic might struggle with a language based intelligence such as reading at first unless they are allowed to experience learning in a way that is supported by their strengths.
For example, the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Steps is a method that would resonate with a child with high spatial awareness and ability to recognize patterns. They would do well with this method. As you open the pages, it presents phonics and phonemic awareness in the way of symbols – much like mathematical equations. It is a step by step logic approach will draw in a logical thinker in a way that a linguistically based method would most likely frustrate them. It also provides that all important emotional connection between a student and a teacher. This bond helps form the basis of their intellectual development.
A child that has a high intelligence in language and linguistics will thrive with phonics apps and sound-based methods because it avoids the symbols and sequencing challenges as it builds on the strength of sound awareness.
Seeing the natural strengths in children begins with observation. It also avoids the misunderstanding of resistance. Often resistance to learning is misunderstood as defiance when it is often a defense mechanism to shield a child from the anxiety of failure.
4 Ways to Turn Around a Reluctant Reader
1. Read to your children A LOT!
We read a fiction novel to our children every night. We take turns, and all hang out to hear the latest antics. We have read through Harry Potter series, BFG, and now are working our way through the Phantom Tollbooth.
2. Have your children learn another language online
Duolingo is an excellent free tool for language learning. It also requires students to translate phrases back into their mother tongue by typing it into sentences.
What language should they learn?
Let them try out several different ones and choose for themselves. It is not about mastery, but about exposure to language and reading in more than one way.
3. Give your children access to books at many different reading and interest levels. Get to know your public librarians. Allow your kids to spend time exploring and encourage your kids to get to know the library staff. They can explore and have a feeling of connection with others who love to read and learn.
Our children have a unique opportunity. Their mother is an educational consultant for a book distribution company. This means that there are books everywhere!
Seriously, I had my husband building more bookshelves yesterday for our front hallway. They also have a mother who loves to read, and they see me reading. That is where it begins.
We need to get past labels and begin to see our role as detectives. Why are they resistant? As they start to experience small wins, they will become more confident and with any luck run to you excited about a new book they found.