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“Maniac” Mike
Shopping for Books with Struggling Readers

“Maniac” Mike

December 11, 2015 0

Imagine this scenario …

 

Teacher: Hey Mike, come on back to the library, I see you need a new book. Do you want to read realistic fiction or fantasy fict…

Mike: I want to read The Hunger Games.

Teacher: Oh, an excellent book, but…

Mike: Yeah, I know, I just saw Mockingjay Part 2. It was so good.

Teacher: …but The Hunger Games is a Level Z book, and you’re not there yet, but you could be by the end of the year.

Student: But I saw the movie and already read the first 50 pages of the book. My mom has a copy at home. I totally understand it.

 

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Have you ever taught a student insists on reading books that are too hard for them? Try the “goal book” strategy.

 

 

We’ve all had students who think they can read a book three years above their level. They’ll re-assure you that it’s no problem – they’ll say they will read carefully, they’ll read diligently, they’ll re-read when they don’t understand something. DON’T BELIEVE THEM! THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT.

 

However, you can use their desire to your advantage; it’s called the “Goal Book” strategy. You offer up the desired book, in this case The Hunger Games, as a worthy goal to strive towards, and you show them, via reading ladders, how they’ll arrive at that book eventually and successfully. Here’s how it works. Let’s rewind our dialogue from earlier and use our “Goal Book” strategy instead:

 

Teacher: Hey Mike, come on back to the library, I see you need a new book. Do you want to read realistic fiction or fantasy fict…

Mike: I want to read The Hunger Games.

Teacher: Oh, an excellent book. That’s such a great goal to have. But, you’re on a Level V now, right?

Mike: I guess, but I want to read The Hunger Games. I just saw Mockingjay Part 2. It was so good.

Teacher: Hmm, I can tell that you really like fantasy books with a lot of action and suspense. Is that true?

Mike: Yes!

Teacher: Hmm, I know we’re working towards getting up to a Level Z, but for now, I really think Gregor the Overlander is a great pick. Do you know who wrote it?

Mike: No …

Teacher: Suzanne Collins, the same person who wrote The Hunger Games. Gregor the Overlander is a great V series that is going to prepare us to read The Hunger Games later this year. After we read the Gregor, our next series can be either Percy Jackson or Among the Hidden. Then, we’ll be pretty close to being able to read The Hunger Games. How does that sound?

Mike: Okay …

Teacher: Thanks for trusting me. How ‘bout you get started on Gregor and I’ll check in with you in a few minutes to make sure it’s a good fit.

 

Rob and I have taught tons of Maniac Mikes. Usually, they are really good kids who fall in love with a cover or with the idea of reading a certain book even if it’s above their level. Our goal is to harness their enthusiasm, but direct their focus towards a book that they may not know about, but that’s actually perfect for them.

 

Unfortunately, this situation can also hurt a kid’s feelings. If you are a bit brusque, and point out that they’re nowhere near a level Z, then you’ll unintentionally deflate them. They’ll feel bad and not want to take your advice. Using the “Goal Book” strategy can help you dance around this awkward problem and keep the reader on track.

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