In my 10 years of writing children’s books I have experimented with different ways of reaching the reluctant readers and helping them experience the joy of reading.
Early in my career I realized that my direct style of writing and my dynamic illustrations appealed to reluctant readers and as I began to research the phenomenon, I learned that my books made a big difference in these kids’ lives. This is why I’ve devoted my authorship to developing methods and creating stories that reach reluctant readers.
In many countries around the world the educational systems spend a great deal of resources trying to help these readers. Here are some Characteristics of Reluctant Readers from the Ministry of Education in Canada:
– Readers who tend to be unmotivated often lack self-esteem regarding their ability to read.
– Often they have a sense of hopelessness. When the reluctance of these students to participate in activities is interpreted as defiance or laziness, their underlying reading problem may not be identified or addressed.
The LINK system, which is discussed below, I have developed in collaboration with professional reading teachers, and it effectively deals with the above issues to provide the reader with an experience of succes through an uninterupted flow in their reading.
In the educational system it has become clear that mainly boys lack the interest in reading:
- Boys typically score lower than girls on standardized tests in the language arts. (The results for mathematics do not show similar gaps.)
- Boys are more likely than girls to be placed in special education programs.
- Boys are less likely than girls to go to university.
This is why most of my efforts are aimed at boys, and with books sold in 14 countries, I feel that my concepts have proven themselves. Over the years I have received countless mails from kids and parents saying that my books were the first to make them want to read. This is my proof that I have achieved my goal and receiving these wonderful letters is the most rewarding thing about writing children’s books.
I want to share my experience here, so whoever reads this can get inspired to help kids read. Below you will find the tools necessary to achieve it.
THE LINK BOOKS (6-8 y.o.)
The first reading system I created is called LINK due to the unusually close relationship between text and illustrations. It’s targeted towards the 6-8 year-olds. I use comic book panels to catch the readers’ attention, and as you’ll see the visual language of comics has other strengths that are useful when aiming at the reluctant readers.
LINK is a mix of text and comic book illustrations and each panel is thoroughly composed to contain as much information from the surrounding text as possible.
Here is an overview of the 6 mechanics at work in the LINK books.
The LINK books may appear to be ‘just’ action-packed comic books
– but great care has been taken to create a unique link between text and illustrations, thus ensuring easily readable text. This defines the system.
The LINK books have been published in 7 countries.
THE MANHUNTER series (9-11 y.o.)
The Manhunter series,focusses mainly on boys aged 9-11. It is based on a singular insight: Boys enjoy reading non-fiction more than fiction. In the Manhunter series I have placed ‘fact boxes’ into the layout. This may seem disturbing to adult readers, but my research has shown that kids/boys actually enjoy reading the factual bits and it makes them explore the universe of the book closer.
Although it is a Fantasy book, everything that the main character learns about tracking and manhunting is taken from real life and are based on books such as “The SAS Guide to tracking” by Bob Carss.
The whole topic of hunting other people is of course ‘incorrect’ and taboo-like, which makes it all the more perfect for this type of book, as topics like this always trigger curiosity and interest.
THE TAYNIKMA series 8-12 y.o.s – in collaboration with Merlin P. Mann
The Taynikma series is also a mix of text and comic book panels. It looks very much like the LINK books, but in fact the idea is almost opposite of the LINK books.
These books are aimed at children who have already learnt to read, but haven’t yet developed a liking for it – a classic ‘reluctant reader’.
With 3-4 illustrations per spread the series is overly illustrated. The artwork is dynamic, full of action and emotional facial expressions. There are a lot of establishing shots, which erases the need for long (boring) descriptions, which this target group tend to veer away from.
In the LINK books the illustrations serve the text, however, in the Taynikma series the comic book panels carry the story with equal weight as the text, meaning the drawings aren’t actual illustrations (as in illustrating the text) but real story carrying comic book panels. If you remove these panels the story no longer makes sense, as important information is missing.
The Taynikma-concept has proven its worth long ago. More than 500,000 copies have been sold and it’s been published in 13 countries.
ACTIVATING THE READER
Another thing that I always do in my books is include extra content that activate the readers. I’ll make a separate blog update on that, so more about that later. In the meantime I hope these samples of my approach to creating children’s literature have been helpful and inspiring.