When it comes to school visits, I like to do things a little different. If you look at the picture below, which was taken at Fulbright Junior High in Bentonville, Arkansas, you will notice some things are missing.
A Stage. A Microphone. A Huge Assembly of Students.
While working with small groups, 100 or less, requires me to repeat the same session 3-5 times each author visit, it’s worth the extra effort. I connect with students more effectively in this manner, allowing direct interaction. Kids are much less intimidated by their fellow students in small groups, allowing them to ask questions freely and join discussions. It gives kids the feeling of being included in the process instead of simply watching a show up on the stage.
Thinking back on my memories of being a young reluctant reader, I must warn you about something. There are certain students who require a different approach.
Some reluctant readers are mysterious creatures. Approach carefully, stealthily, or they will dash to the door!
I was one of those.
My only advice would be this. Do not come at them with books in your hands, offering something to read. This is the equivalent of Superman’s kryptonite. They will immediately make a speedy exit or simply push away each book you offer. Instead, pull out your bag of tricks and get your reluctant readers to help you. Kids want to feel important and be treated like adults. Give them that opportunity by asking for their advice. The next time you need to buy a gift for your niece/nephew/child, find one of your reluctant readers and ask what is one of their favorite movies or games for the purpose of choosing a gift for your family member. Use that information to search for a related book and then ask for their advice again, saying you would like to give your friend/family member a book as part of the gift. Since the reluctant reader suggested the movie or game, ask if they would read some of the book and give their opinion on your choice. It sounds like a lot of work but this is how you can help young students discover their specific combination of story requirements that may ultimately get them hooked on reading. At the very least, you have directly involved them in the process of choosing a book and made them feel important.