'I hate reading'

A “louse reader” in Mr. McGuire’s sixth-grade English class wrote him a note: “I hate reading Book’s Mr. Mc Giure. I hate them all.”

The teacher wonders: What to do now?

The Book Whisperer, also a sixth-grade teacher, warns that popular teaching techniques let “fake readers” pass through the system with weak comprehension skills.

Whole-class novels and literature circles—Fake readers wait for the class discussions about the assigned reading and pick up details about the book from the other students and the teacher. I remember such discussions from my days in school. The teacher pointed out the literary terms, provided text examples, and reinforced her interpretation of the book. It did not take an English degree to determine what would be on the end-of-unit test!

Round robin or popcorn reading—Fake readers are often good at decoding. When they are called on to read out loud in front of the class, they can word call their way through a short piece of text. Since round robin reading does not require readers to comprehend an entire reading selection, fake readers can, once again, depend on the understanding of other students and information provided by the teacher to build meaning.

I tutored a sixth-grade girl with excellent decoding skills and virtually no comprehension. I also worked with a sixth-grade boy who couldn’t decode. He was a great guesser, however. I was supposed to make him read. It felt cruel.

About Joanne


  1. Andromeda says:

    See if you can get him tested for reading disabilities.

  2. Could this child have an undiagnosed reading disability? “I fake read in your class.” Dyslexia advocates have pointed out that you only know if a child can read by hearing him or her read out loud. Sustained silent reading is a problem, as there’s no way to know if a child is really reading. Just think of sitting in class, pretending to read, turning pages at the right intervals…

    He did list books he liked, and would read again, such as Huck Finn, Hatchet, and Margaret Haddix’s books. (If he’s dyslexic, he could prefer rereading a book, to encountering entirely new material.) It could also be a lack of interest in the particular books on offer. If the selection of books in class does not appeal, the selection should be changed. This kid is at least honest. How many others feel the same way, but don’t make a fuss? As a parent of boys, many of the current books to read in school strike me as not that interesting for boys.

    I think this warrants a longer, private discussion with the boy. If you ask him to read a page or so of a book out loud, you should be able to quickly tell if he is a fluent reader. If he does read fluently, then it’s the choice of reading material which needs to be changed.

  3. This is why we should seriously consider bringing back the old-fashioned technique of narration. A student who is asked to narrate cannot hide behind “fake reading”. If he/she has not understood what was read, he/she will be unable to produce a decent narration.

  4. Yes, fake reading is exactly the point.

    For far too long, we have taught reading (or decoding) in the first grade and then assigned it for the rest of school. Reading still needs to be taught, and fake readers must be held accountable for acquiring a necessary skill other than being a good listener to class discussion.

    Two excellent sources in this respect are the books “I Read It, but I Don’t Get It” by Chris Tovani and “Mosaics of Thought” by Ellen Keene. They are two Denver-area teachers whose organization PEBC is on the cutting edge of literacy instruction.

    I highly recommend both books to all teachers.

  5. I have I Read It, but I Don’t Get It but didn’t find it very helpful. Most of it seemed just common-sensical. I will give it another shot and see what happens.

  6. The student that wrote the note is on an IEP. He was in Reading Recovery in first grade. He has had some sort of intervention every year since. He also gets extra help from an Educational Specialist. The fact that he even knows about fake reading shows that it has been discussed in his classes (Chris Tovani visited our district three years ago).

    Interestingly enough, the best hook so far is the read aloud each day of Sachar’s A Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom. This student has decided that he isn’t a monster, so he is trying his hardest. His home life is pure hell, so school is the best thing he has going for him right now.

    Without a doubt, a student like this is what makes teaching a great career. He will probably teach me more that I could ever teach him.

  7. Sounds like you read it but didn’t get it, BadaBing. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist — I haven’t read it myself.)

  8. Part of the problem with struggling readers is that the level they can read at is often targeted to much younger kids. This can make them feel that they are reading “baby” books. I would love to see a series aimed at struggling readers with smaller words, but with more sophistication in theme.

    Another helpful option for kids who struggle and hate reading are the stories that are in comic book form. My special ed kid will sit around and read comics all day. They aren’t particularly challenging for him (he still needs to be pushed at school), but he will read for pleasure if it’s in comic form.

  9. Amy in Texas says:

    The 100 Book Challenge is a reading program that does just that. We use it in ESL classes and it’s extremely good.

  10. This is an interesting situation Mr. McGuire is dealing with, though not surprising. International Dyslexia Association research shows that as many as 15-20% of Americans have a language-based learning disability. Many students as early as 3rd and 4th grade learn to skim by when it comes to reading and writing if they haven’t developed basic skills. Unfortunately, many overcrowded, understaffed school systems lack the resources to really be able to help these kids…even through an IEP. Private schools focused on students with language-based learning differences can be expensive, may have long waiting lists, and are not readily available around the country.

    Verticy Learning Academy is the first complete home-based education program for students with language-based learning differences. The program is easily implemented whether you are a first time educator or a seasoned home school parent. The program uses specialized learning strategies, flexible pacing by subject, and technology-based tools designed to assist students with language-based learning differences or dyslexia in overcoming obstacles to learning.

    The program allows students to customize their daily study of individual subjects to match their skill level in different areas. No longer is your student required to study all subjects at one grade level.

    For more information visit http://www.verticylearning.org or call 888-544-7116. Help your student gain the confidence you know can be his!

  11. When I was in college, I volunteered at an adult reading program, Project Learn. We used the phonics-based Laubach method. I originally thought it was unnecessary to go over the basics, but I did, on the second day, asking “this is a d – what sound does a d make?”. I expected the student to respond, but she froze, and I realized that she honestly didn’t know.

    Try sounding out unfamiliar words if you don’t know basic things like that. You can’t do it. She couldn’t, until she finished the first book in the series. At that point, she had the bare basics, and could have gone on to learn to read.

    But, she quit. Never was able to get her to come back. The progress she made was real, but, for her, it was 20 years too late. I think of her every time I hear a teacher pityingly explain that phonics is “included” in her approach to teaching reading, and that phonics-based programs don’t work.

    For her, they did. At least, until she became discouraged, and used her 3 kids as an excuse to quit.

    What I still don’t understand, after 20 years of teaching high school, is why, with all the poor readers and non-readers in secondary education, there are NEVER reading classes. Oh, they have “language arts” classes, where they try to shore up weak skills, but NEVER any actual reading classes, where they use intensive phonics, and, you know, actually get the kids to read.

    Which they can learn to do – but everybody has already given up on them. So, they let them leave school virtually illiterate.

  12. my mom was a teacher and each year she brought school papers home to correct and we were appalled by what kids did in their maths paper, one I remember the whole paper was full of hindi alphabets(Math paper) and that also the first three ones. The child aparently had not developed any skills nmow I wonder whether it was negligence of teachers or if she was dyslexic. SO many girls of sixteen years wrote letters to her in the paper pleadingher to pass them this time in the exam as their marriage had been fixed by their parents and they didn’t want their fiancee or his family know that they failed.