Updated: Nov 4, 2019
When a reader doesn't want to read, I begin to ask questions to determine why. Nine times out of ten there is always a why, so here are things to consider if your reader doesn't want to read:
Ability to Self Monitor
Good readers think about many things while they read and when good readers begin to struggle they have a whole host of tools they use to solve their problem. Imagine that reader who doesn't have those tools and does not know what to do when confusion hits. It becomes an incredibly frustrating task that they have zero desire to attempt! Can you blame them? For that reason, the first questions I typically ask a reader who doesn't want to read have to do with what they do as they read and what they do when they get confused or begin to struggle. Insight into their brain while they read provides me with answers that help me create a personalized educational plan. What tools do I need to give them to help them enjoy reading and overcome their struggle or confusion?
"Constructing meaning during reading is a motivated act. An individual interacting with a text for the purpose of understanding is behaving intentionally. ... Therefore an explanation of motivation is crucial to an explanation of reading." Guthrie, John T. & Wigfield, Allan (1999) How Motivation Fits Into a Science of Reading
Accomplishing a Goal
Help a student write goals, reward them for reaching milestones, and reward reading with reading for finishing the task they set out to accomplish! For example, I know that if I want a student to read for two hours in one setting I cannot expect that student to do it right away. I must approach it as I would approach marathon training - little increments at a time. Therefore, I've set up a 16 Week "Reading Marathon Training" Record Sheet to help write goals, keep track of milestones, and provide an easy to read schedule to follow.
There will be hard moments that your reader will need to overcome. It would be abnormal to not experience some struggles on the way. Therefore, readers need tools to help them overcome those struggles, positive words of encouragement, and someone who will come alongside them during those hard moments. Be that person!
Beliefs About Reading
Does your reader view reading as a worthwhile activity? Or is it boring or stupid? Do they have a positive attitude, believing that reading is a valuable way to spend time? Or would they rather clean the toilet? What a reader believes about reading is important because their attitude determines whether or not they will do it. That goes for you as well! As a teacher and/or a parent, you help set that mindset by what you do or do not do. If you do not read, but what your student to be a reader, what kind of attitude do you think you're passing on to them? What you say matters, but they also pay close attention to what you do.
There are many other factors to consider, but those are the most important. I could spend time talking about how students need access to high quality literature, they need to make their own choices as far as what they're going to read, they need to read to and with others, there needs to be opportunities for social interaction, they need think aloud and book talks and memorable experiences, reading celebrations, and etc. etc. But focusing in on those four factors I spent some time explaining are proven to make a difference in terms of whether or not a student wants to read.