The book hopper.

Every classroom seems to have at least one. These are the kids who never seem to really settle into a book. Instead they hop from book to book to book. They read a few pages here, a few chapters there. They might finish shorter length texts, but chronically abandon anything of length and substance. They can read. They just can’t seem to commit.

Sometimes book hopping is simply a bad habit.

Sometimes it’s a result of not taking book selection seriously.

Sometimes it’s a sign that kids need more strategies for getting the brain breaks they need.

But always, it is an urgent call for our support and attention.

 So how do we help our book hopping readers?

  1. Name it and offer to partner for success. The first step on the road to more engaged reading is to name the problem. Let the reader know that you’ve noticed they’re struggling that there is hope, and that you’re there to help.
    • “I’ve noticed you’re having a hard time engaging with the books you’ve chosen. I’d like to partner with you to figure out what’s getting in the way.”
  1. Learn as much as you can about what’s going on. Next, you’ll want to gather information so that you and the reader can start to form a theory about what’s getting in the way.
    • Provide a good-fit check-up. This is your chance to consider the type, readability, and variety of texts the student is choosing.  It’s also a great chance to ask questions.
      • Which books have turned out to be a good-fit. Why or why not?
      • How does the student decide to choose a book?
      • How do they decide to abandon a book?
    • Use the reading log to look for patterns. If the student is using a reading log, it will be a great source of information. (Check out the online Appendix D from Simple Starts for sample reading logs).
      • With what type and length of books has the reader been successful?
      • What type / length of books are usually abandoned?
      • How far into a book does a student usually get before abandoning?
  1. Provide book selection support. Engagement is impossible without the right books. So, book hoppers can usually benefit from some extra support with finding truly great books.
    • Hold a conference in the library – Instead of going to the student’s reading spot for a conference, meet the student in your classroom library and dedicate the conference partnering to find great books.
    • Provide a customized book stack. This idea originates with Donalyn Miller. By using what you know about the reader, you present a stack of about 6-10 books that you think are likely to be great matches for the student. You say, “I was thinking of you . . .” and prepare him or her to systematically peruse the stack, looking for potential good fit(s).
    • Continually teach book finding strategies. Different book finding strategies work for different students, so we need to keep feeding all of our students new strategies (and reminders of those we’ve already taught). This can be done whole group, small group, and individual instruction. Simple Starts is packed with these strategies and routines for making sure kids develop skills for finding a steady stream of amazing books to read.
  1. Teach readers to learn from past book choices. Whether we love a book and read it three times or hate it and decide to abandon it after the first chapter, every book choice can potentially teach us something about ourselves as readers. So, all readers can benefit from tools to help them reflect on their book choices.
    • Focus on the positive. Help students identify what makes them want to stick with a book.
      • Which books have they loved so much that they never considered quitting?
      • What was it about the book(s) that made them so appealing?
      • What could be learned from these “winners” in the past?
    • Mark the spot. When students decide to abandon a book, encourage them to use a sticky note to mark the spot of the decision. On the note they can jot the main reason decided this book wasn’t for them. Then, rather than putting the book back in the library, ask them to keep it with them until their next reading conference. This sticky might often becomes a valuable nugget of conversation. A thoughtful teacher is often able to flip a book abandoning reason into a teaching point for future book selection success.
    • Create a separate record of books abandoned. In the intermediate grades, this can be a powerful strategy for habitual book abandoners. The Books That Didn’t Work for Me log can be used with the entire class or with select individuals. Keeping this list separate from the regular reading log makes it simple to see frequency and patterns of book hopping.
      • Date
      • Title
      • Pages read/total pages
      • What can this book help me learn about myself as a reader?
    • Use reader’s response entries. The response journal can also be a great place to capture a reader’s thoughts about why certain books do and don’t work for them.
      • I’m the kind of reader who likes books that ________________.
      • I might abandon a book if ____________________.
      • I chose this book because _________.
      • Some of the things I considered before choosing were ________.
      • I’m considering abandoning this book because _______.
      • Next time I choose a book, I want to find one that will ________________.
      • The most important thing for me to focus on when choosing a book is ____________.
  1. Teach reset strategies. Sometimes a book really isn’t right for a reader and abandoning it is the right choice. But sometimes readers just need to reset before continuing with the text.
    • Brain break from reading. Some readers simply need to break up reading with other activities. Sand timers can be a great tool to help kids take a short break to sketch or stretch and then get back to reading.
    • Alternating types of texts.  Some readers benefit from making a plan to alternate genres.  Switching, for instance, from a novel to a highly visual nonfiction text provides a brain break while still building reading capacity.
    • Backtrack to reengage. When we lose our way as readers we sometimes need to reread not just words or sentences, but entire pages or chapters. When readers lose concentration, they have to learn how to go back and find the last place where they were last engaged.  Some readers think as soon as they’ve lost their way, it’s time to give up or go to another book.  So teaching them to backtrack can be powerful!
  2. Be patient. Some readers may just need a little nudge or a few additional shopping tips to turn their book hopping habits around. But many book hoppers need much, much more. They need extra time, extra patience, and extra effort in the hunt for that one book, genre, or strategy that will help them hop less and read more. Hang in there with them.  They need you.

Untitled (16)The goal of this work is not to teach kids to avoid abandoning books. All smart readers abandon books from time to time. The goal of this work is to help students learn about themselves as readers from every book they pick up and to so they can become more strategic in their book related decisions. When they do, the likelihood of book hopping goes down and the likelihood of joyful and engaged reading goes up!

What book hopper successes, ideas, and wonderings can you share?

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