Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reluctant Readers and Readers with Autism

The Man Who Wore All His Clothes

If you're looking for suggestions from librarians or booksellers,
and your child is in elementary school,
you may want to ask what they would suggest for a reluctant
reader with your child's skills.

Of course reluctant readers are not readers with autism and every child is different,
but there is often some overlap in what appeals to these two groups. And your child
may very well be in both groups in any case.

Reluctant readers and readers with autism often prefer
- larger print
- fewer words per page
- fewer pages
- more pictures
than other children their age.

The Storm (The Lighthouse Family)
Books that match this criteria include Ahlberg's series about the Gaskitt family
starting with The Man Who Wore All His Clothes
Rylant's Lighthouse Family series
starting with The Storm
and Benton's Franny K. Stein series
starting with Lunch Walks Among Us

These were third grade (age 8) favorites for my son.

However, differences between the two groups need to be kept in mind.

Readers with autism usually need
- illustrations that reflect the text exactly
- a story with as little subtext as possible

The Rylant books with their sweet stories about cute animals work very well for these constraints, but may be unpopular with reluctant readers because reluctant readers often choose books based on
- what other kids think
- age/gender (boys may reject books as "baby books" or "girl books")
- current fads

Conversely, books that work for reluctant readers may not work for readers with autism.
The Benton books depict things that could not really happen and the Ahlberg books sometimes shift narrative viewpoint. This may be a litte confusing for kids with autism.

Last year my son enjoyed both of these series, but he struggled with
the last book in the Gaskitt series, The Children Who Smelled a Rat
because it suddenly shrunk typeface size and condensed the story for dramatic effect.

Reluctant readers may also easily understand concepts that some readers with autism do not. My nine year old liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid but didn't understand many of the ideas.
The mother of a third grade reluctant reader told me Diary was a favorite for her kid and he had no trouble with the sixth grade setting.

Still, if you're having trouble finding recommendations, books for reluctant readers may be a place to start.

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