Saturday, April 9, 2011

Being a struggling reader all over again

by Pam Withers

          If I’ve always been a keen reader, that means I can never truly understand someone who is a struggling reader, right?
          Wrong.  I just spent the past two months struggling mightily with reading a young adult novel, never mind that its vocabulary was supposed to be at a fourth grade reading level. I had to use a dictionary to look up words I didn’t know several times per sentence. It took up to an hour to get through each of its very short chapters. Numerous times, I nearly gave up. Never mind that it was a novel written specifically for reluctant readers. And never mind that I wrote the novel myself.
          When Orca Soundings had my novel Breathless translated into Spanish – Respira*, I was delighted. I decided to take on the challenge of reading it in Spanish. With two years of Spanish classes under my belt, I thought I was up for the task.
          Here’s what I have to report: The novel took me two weeks to write back in 2005, but two months to read in Spanish just now. I jotted down each Spanish word I didn’t know as I went along, and they added up to more than 200! Still, I finished it, and the victory was sweet. Now I just have to read it another half dozen times until it starts to come smoothly, right? Exactly as struggling readers have to do. (It helps to have short sentences, short chapters and a plot that moves. I guess that’s why they’re called reluctant reader books.)
          I can now recommend that anyone who finds their patience dwindling while working with a struggling reader, try what I just did to get it all into proper perspective.
          And no, I’m not going to tackle Breathless in Serbian, nor my Orca Currents novel The Daredevil Club (Les Casse-Cous) in French, though I’m pleased they’re out there.


1 comment:

  1. What a great way of putting yourself into the shoes of a reluctant reader (though I assume you didn't start out with that intent). You're braver and more patient than I am (though maybe reading one of my books in translation is something to put on my bucket list).