August 14, 2009

Guest Author Pam Ripling: Keeping Young Readers Motivated

Keeping Young Readers Motivated

By Pam Ripling

I wish it were as simple as typing those words. True, some kids devour books, avidly reading nearly everything they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, there are some children and teens for whom reading is merely a chore, and still others that struggle with below-grade level skills. These are the ones on whom we need to focus our attention.

We all know that reading can be six-kinds-of-ways boring. Between history books and math word problems, kids get pummeled with words from all sides. Some even develop shorthand comprehension, skimming for key words but never fully reading the material. And that ain’t readin’! Steering young minds away from the written word, even unintentionally, is simply a crime.

For most of these would-be-great-readers, it’s all a matter of subject and interest. Reading about the U.S. Constitution is not the same as reading about zombies descending on the local shopping mall.

I mention this because zombies did converge at our big regional shopping center this week, and you can bet even reluctant readers were all over Facebook the next day, soaking up the story with gory delight. When Six Flags opened up their latest and most terrifying coaster this summer, news of its harrowing twists and turns were posted, texted and tweeted all over town.

Great, but what about those math and history textbooks? No walking dead, no thrill rides grace those pages. But students with better reading skills are less reluctant to suffer through the dry stuff. Good comprehension and vocabulary actually make reading less of a dreaded event. Therefore, it makes sense for educators, parents and students alike to focus on reading improvement by going to the material that holds the most interest!

When I wrote LOCKER SHOCK! for young adolescents, I discovered something interesting.

The subject matter, guns in school, had a broad appeal amongst young teens and tweens alike. Because I was focused on the story, which is set in an average California middle school, I didn’t try too hard to aim the reading level at any particular age. As a result, the book is enjoyed by younger, voracious readers and middle-schoolers who don’t want to be too challenged. It’s also a fairly quick read, and that almost always appeals to reluctant readers.

Our blog host, Christine Verstraete, has written Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, a mystery with great elements: a mischievous Dachshund and a missing, museum-quality, miniature Van Gogh painting! Kids love dogs as characters, and teeny-tiny anythings. It’s all about grabbing their interest before they even realize they are reading a book.

Last, it’s important to start early. Kids need and like to be read to, all the way into sixth grade. Some school districts have instituted “Read With Me” programs, involving community members such as seniors and future educators to help students improve their skills. Matching interests with reading matter will go a long way toward keeping young readers motivated.

Pam Ripling is the author of middle-grade mystery, LOCKER SHOCK! Buy it at Quake, Fictionwise or Amazon today! E-book version now available for your Kindle! Visit Pam at


  1. I devoured Harry Potter and got my then-seven-year-old daughter to do the same but the younger son, now 17, would say, "I'll wait until the movie comes out." Now he enjoys reading but then, it wasn't an activity he relished by any stretch. I'm glad there are interesting books for teens to get them into reading. My oldest daughter, 19, went in with a guy friend to buy the Twilight books!


  2. I noticed you said kids like to be read to, even up to sixth grade. I taught seventh grade for over 25 yrs and those kids also loved to be read to. I constantly try to persuade readers to read to their classes, but some say they are too busy. My question: What could be more important? -Marlis Day

  3. Very insightful, Pam. LOCKER SHOCK is a quick read with a comtemporary topic. (I read it too, before giving it to a young reviewer I'm cultivating.) (See his comments at:
    I'm also reading James Patterson's "Daniel X" Sci-Fi series for YA, so I know what you mean about Zombies.
    Can't wait for your next YA, Pam.

  4. You're so right, Pam. One book can make a reader for life!

    Since boys are more notorious reluctant readers, Locker Shock should have even broader appeal to both boys and girls.


  5. Appreciate the comments, guys. For the record, the next book has a female protag. OLD ENOUGH has the same group of characters, but centers more the girls than the boys.

    LOCKER SHOCK seems to have as many girl fans as boys, BTW.



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