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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Being told what to read

July 5, 2011

We're experiencing a strange phenomenon in our house this summer. Molly, who turns 11 in August, has two books she's required to read before she starts 5th grade this fall. The two books are Little Women and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book 1: The Mysterious Howling.

This required reading list marks the first time Molly has ever been told what to read outside of school. The result? No interest. Absolutely none! In fact, she's completely ignoring both books. They've been on the kitchen ledge for two weeks.

I think Molly's reticence to read Little Women stems from its being a "classic," which in her mind translates to boring! I know her opinion will change once we crack the book — IF I can get her to crack the book. All of this from the girl who will willingly read for hours on her own when she's allowed to choose what she's reading! I find the situation very interesting.

Borrowing some tips from the research on motivation, here's our plan for enticing our nonreader (and former reader) to read her required books. Wish us luck!

  • We're going to read Little Women as a family read aloud. This will give us a chance to talk about the story, and promote deeper understanding of the book. Our discussions will hopefully enhance Molly's interest in the story.
  • I've promised that we'll watch the movie adaptation when we're done reading. I think Molly will prefer the Winona Ryder version to the original June Allyson one, but we'll see. It will be fun to compare the two, and will hopefully keep us talking about the book!
  • I'll continue to provide lots of opportunities for Molly to choose her own books to read in addition to her required ones. Guthrie's research on motivation (also a classic!) reminds us just how important choice is in engaging and motivating a reader.


Hi. Thanx for your post. I must now stop telling my boys what to read. I do that because they are more interested in books with dinosaur and mystery themes. Perhaps I might start a read aloud session with them too. I used to just read to them books of my choice but now i suppose reading books of their choice may improve their English and increase their interest in reading.

our local library has a video copy of anne of green gables - perhaps watch that in advance (of possibly reading it together) and then read little women together - they're never to old to be read aloud to! You could even alternate reading the chapters aloud (and if she wants to "go off on her own" and read it in her head, let her :)

We had required reading, too - 4th grade. She hates being told what to read so I got the books on CD and we listened in the car. Sure enough, after one chapter, she was hooked! Just had to give it a chance.

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"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." — Margaret Fuller