Polo & the Reluctant Reader

There are times that the devil English teacher in me thinks nasty thoughts such as, "Of course you read two books in one day; they were graphic novels." or "You need to read on grade level; this Lexile is too low for you." or "Stop being so petty and just sit down and read!" That is when I have to pause and consider the big picture.

Unfortunately, some of our students have limited or no experience with reading. Imagine walking into a classroom where the teacher is excited about polo (yes, I mean the horseback sport that looks like frenzied and dangerous golf). Most of the other students look like they are into polo and are at least doing it a bit.

The teacher comes up to you and says, "Hi!!! It's polo time!!! Let's get started!!" She has a crazy little gleam in her eye and clearly believes that polo is the be-all end-all to existence.

You're thinking: What in the free world is polo?! I've never done this before. I'll fail. I'll look like an idiot. I don't know how to get on a horse, let alone wield a mallet! I hate this. I hate her. I hate school. I hate my life because everyone around me "gets" polo and I don't even know how to begin.

You need to save face and so you say, "Polo is stupid. I'm not doing it. Only losers play polo."

Or if you'll indulge me to extend this metaphor a little longer, maybe you say, "Polo just isn't my thing. I'm not into it, but thanks."

One would never expect a person to start playing polo before riding a horse. Classroom libraries must have books that are accessible and enjoyable to non-readers. We cannot expect a non-reader to jump into complex texts immediately. We must scaffold through short texts, graphic novels, high-interest low-level books and engaging articles.