Like I said yesterday, the end of the school year has allowed me to return to the life of a fairly normal person. But traces of the chaos of May remain--the piles of laundry, the unanswered emails, the children left to their own devices.
Ah, the children left to their own devices. This school year I haven't intervened much in my younger son's reading life. His reading assignment every night was blissfully easy--read anything you like for 20 minutes--but after Christmas he went to reading on the Kindle. It wasn't until Saturday at the library that I noticed that he had somehow transformed into what I call an "acquisitional reader".
What is an acquisitional reader? Here are some characteristics:
7-12 years old
I've noticed these kinds of readers in every grade that I have taught--fourth, sixth, and seventh.
Love a series or a kind of book
Acquisitional readers all share a love for a particular series or genre. For some kids it is a series of books (The Warrior series for my young one), while for others it is a kind of book, like books about wolves or airplanes.
Seek out information about a series beyond the actual books
Acquisitional readers are often very impressive in their knowledge about the series or books. Aidan knows everything about the Warriors books, the result of Internet searches and browsing online. Acquisitional readers can talk very knowledgeably about their favorite books.
Value acquiring the books over reading the books
And this is the heart of the problem.
This one characteristic is what unites every acquisitional reader that I have ever known. Acquisitional readers are quite different from reluctant readers because acquisitional readers love books. They love the idea of reading. They stand in the library and chat about their books. In fact, they love books so much that many people never even realize what's happening. (Like, uh, a mother who has been sucked into the thrall of too many May activities.)
How do acquisitional readers develop? I've noticed that they are often kids from families that value reading, or kids who just love school. The brain work of really deep reading is invisible to most kids. What do these kids see an older sibling or a parent doing? They see the role model:
-talking about books
-seeking new information about books.
Put all of this together--minus the invisible brain work of engaging with books--and you have the acquisitional reader.
In the library on Saturday, I realized that my youngest son is an acquisitional reader. He loves the Warriors series and knows a great deal about it. He has started many of the books. He knows all about the authors and why they chose the name Erin Hunter. But he hasn't really finished any of the books at all.
The good thing about acquisitional readers is that they already love books. They already love reading. They just need to be nudged into that deep invisible brain work. From my experience, it sometimes takes a clean break away from the series or kind of book that they like so much. They already have such a rich knowledge of that series that they don't even realize that they are missing anything.
For Aidan, choosing another book proved a challenge. He and I have been reading the Tollins books together over the last few months, so I knew that he loves word play and wry humor. I brought a few books to our library table for him to try. Toys Come Home proved to be the winner. (Yay! I love these books.) Although I had read aloud Toys Go Out to him three years ago, he didn't remember it, which meant that he was experiencing StingRay and the Girl for the first time.
We're reading chapters together and then talking about them in detail, which I hope will help him to get to that feeling of being "way down deep" in a book. Most importantly, I want him to realize the dual pleasures of reading and enjoying what's on the page he's on right now and putting that together with the bigger story of the book as a whole.
In some ways, acquisitional readers are not doing that badly. They do find pleasure in reading, even if they don't finish books, and they are able to have lively and animated conversations about books. Many adults wouldn't even notice that they aren't finishing.
But they are missing out on the best part of reading. This is why for Aidan, and for my students, acquisitional reading must always be a stopping point, never the end destination.
-At the end of the school year, what did you notice had been neglected for the last few weeks?
-Have you noticed any acquisitional readers? What advice do you have for helping them?