Posts Tagged reluctant readers

The Five Different Types of Readers: What Authors and Educators Can Learn From them

As an author, I’ve found that it’s useful to understand different types of readers, so I can better understand for whom I might be writing my stories.

I’m going to offers up some definitions I created based on the work of literacy scholar Kylene Beers, who breaks readers into five distinct groups: Avid Readers, Dormant Readers, Uncommitted Readers, Unmotivated Readers and Unskilled Readers.

The Avid Reader—This is someone like myself and my older son Jonah. My husband has been known to pull the cereal boxes off the table to get us to eat. But that doesn’t stop Jonah and me. Oh no. We’ll happily read the back of any brand of orange juice carton. We are even known to flip over the napkin holder because it has interesting warnings in both Spanish and in English that it would be a bad idea to eat the napkin holder.

The Dormant Reader—This is a reader who might enjoy reading but doesn’t have time. In the case of a child, she or he might be overscheduled or it’s not the highest thing on their priority list of things-to-do. They’ve heard a certain book is good and think it’s cool and do want to get there. Eventually.

The Uncommitted Reader—This person feels ambivalent towards reading. They believe that someday they’ll read but that day isn’t quite today.

Unmotivated Reader—This reader never reads for pleasure and finds reading a big, fat ugly chore.

Unskilled Reader—This reader doesn’t yet have the skills to decode text.

These definitions have helped me to be understand reluctant readers and to climb out of my own experience.
I was one of those voracious readers, so I didn’t understand why everyone else was not like me.

Take my younger sister growing up. She really would be practicing her lacrosse goalie skills or watch TV or hanging with oodles of friends. But rarely ever reading.

I didn’t get her. And she didn’t get me.

I was that shy kid always playing pretend or reading books about girls from another century.

While I never bothered to try to coax my sister to pick up one of my thick novels, my mother never gave up on my sister as a reader. She bought her the Choose Your Own Adventure books, as well as read aloud to her quite a bit. When my sister got into music of the Doors, she bought a book on the band.

Today, my sister is a librarian and probably reads more than me. My mother understand that the unmotivated reader can become the uncommitted reader who then can become the avid reader.

So the lesson here is just because a kid is currently in one category, it doesn’t mean they will stay there. And it doesn’t mean that an avid reader will always stay there either. For example, I found that when my kids were babies my reading really dropped. I was lucky to have enough time to read the back of the cereal box. When it comes to reading status, things can be fluid. This can be true for authors in terms of their intended readers as well.

My recent middle grade novels, Apple Pie Promises and Pumpkin Spice Secrets, obviously target reluctant readers. However, the first titles in my new chapter book series, Ellie May on Presidents’ Day and Ellie May on April Fools’ Day are hybrids. I tried to write it for both the young avid reader and the uncommitted one. But I’m ever hopeful that the unmotivated reader will also be charmed by Ellie May’s personality and antics. Since I don’t write beginning readers, I can’t hope to hook an unskilled reader, except as a read aloud. And if it that were the case, I would be very happy indeed.

What sort of reader were you as a kid? Where are you now? Teachers, do you see a huge spread in your classrooms. And authors, whom do you write for?

Hillary Homzie is the author of the forthcoming Ellie May chapter book series (Charlesbridge, Dec 18, 2018), as well as Apple Pie Promises (Sky Pony/Swirl, October 2018), Pumpkin Spice Secrets (Sky Pony/Swirl, October 2017), Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009) as well as the Alien Clones From Outer Space (Simon & Schuster Aladdin 2002) chapter book series. She can be found at and on her Facebook page as well as on Twitter.

Pitchers & Catchers


“It’s like a—a country or somethin’,” Joey-Mick went on. “Baseball, I mean. A place where everybody’s crazy about the same thing.” – KEEPING SCORE by Linda Sue Park

Pitchers and catchers report!

It’s that time of the year again. Spring training time. Baseball time! Those are magic words to a baseball person.


Baseball at Night by Morris Kantor, 1934 (Photo credit: American Art Museum on

It’s in my blood. It’s been that way since I was old enough to walk. A bat in my hand feels as natural as a clarinet or a trumpet to a musician. To folks who don’t really enjoy or understand sports, that’s about as well as I can explain the importance of sports to sports kids. It’s part of who they are.

Softball and baseball-crazed kids are my kind of kids. I can identify with their love of the game. I also firmly believe this love of sports can help these kids on their road to becoming lifelong fans of another important activity…READING!

Sports books can be used as gateways to draft the reluctant reader onto the reader team. They give familiar and safe subjects to the reader; subjects they can understand even if the text or the narrative is a challenge.

Pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training signals the start of the Major League Baseball season. It also means it’s time for middle-grade baseball books to report to the shelves of middle-grade readers.

To get some of your favorite middle-grade readers off the bench and in the batter’s box, here’s a short list of middle-grade-ish book titles with a baseball component.

And now, for today’s starting lineup,

MUDVILLE by Kurtis Scaletta
KEEPING SCORE by Linda Sue Park
SUMMERLAND by Michael Chabon
HOTHEAD by Cal Ripkin, Jr.
THE BATBOY (or anything else) by Mike Lupica
CHAMP by Marcia Thornton Jones
SAFE AT HOME by Sharon Robinson
SOAR by Joan Bauer
CLUTCH by Heather Camlot
ONLY THE BALL WAS WHITE by Robert Peterson
PROMISES TO KEEP by Sharon Robinson

As evidenced by the number of times I struck out in my baseball playing days, I know I missed more than a few great middle-grade baseball books to recommend. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. 

(And while you’re at it, can you suggest some middle-grade softball books? I know a bunch of young softball players who are searching for some softball books.)

The Drake Equation: Bart King Interview and a Giveaway!

Welcome to From the Mixed Up Files, Bart! We’re happy to have you. Congratulations on the release of The Drake Equation!


I have to admit that I am such a birdbrain myself that I jumped at the chance to read a book about a bird-watching kid, and to interview you, and to give away a copy of your book to one of our lucky readers. Are you ready? Here we go!

MUF: Did you get the idea for this character because of an interest in birdwatching yourself, or did it come from another place?

Bart: “I love all animals (seriously!), birds included. But while I’m not a birdwatcher myself, I have the greatest respect for birders. They tend to be the most wonderful, civic-minded, polite people among us.

I also love reading. About two years ago, I finished a book about black swifts, and was amazed to learn about this mysterious, rare little bird that nests behind waterfalls. So I imagined a boy-birder (who’s based on my nephew) who thinks he *might* have seen a black swift… and the story took off from there!”

MUF: Love this inspiration, thanks for sharing. And okay, birdwatching… with – um… some strange twists. I’m all about protecting endangered species, so this story spoke to me. I’ve read many books on this topic, but I must say, this is the first one I’ve ever encountered with – erm… yes, well, no spoilers here! But seriously, where did you get this sci-fi birdwatcher mash-up idea, anyway?

Bart: “Well, since we humans are quietly watching birds, why wouldn’t there be other beings that are quietly watching us humans? Maybe they even have field guides on how to best observe us.

And if extraterrestrials really ARE watching us, it’s a little scary thinking about what conclusions they’d draw about our species!”

MUF: Now I’m feeling a little nervous…

Say, I’m always curious about how authors find their writing paths. What made you choose to write for a middle grade audience?

Bart: “The short answer is “teaching.” See, I taught middle school language arts for many years, and reluctant readers were my primary focus. Since I was constantly searching for just the right book for those kids, at some point I thought: “Hey, why don’t I just WRITE one?”

Those reluctant readers have been a terrific motivation for me. I ended up writing a dozen nonfiction titles with them in mind, and now I have a novel that I hope they like, too. :-)”

MUF: How wonderful! I think readers at many places in their reading journey will love it, for sure.

Do you have any other titles in progress right now?

Bart: “Yes! The Drake Equation was conceived with a large story arc with a natural halfway point. That point is where the novel ends. If the story attracts enough readers, then I’ll get a chance to finish the tale I envisioned. (Oh please oh please)

I’ve also just finished a funny novel called Three Weeks to Live (Give or Take). Among other things, it’s a “SickLit” satire about a teen girl named Jackie who nearly gets hit by a meteorite in her PE class. (Her tennis partner is not so lucky.) Jackie finds herself becoming a reluctant celebrity—but she may not be around long enough to enjoy her new status.

Lastly, I’m writing a book of poems about some well-known teenaged franchise characters who must—for the moment—go unnamed. :-)”

MUF: We’ll be watching for those for sure!

And now for one last question. I always have to ask authors about their own reading lives, and books that might interest our readers, so here we go: can you please share a few of your favorite middle grade titles with us?

Bart: “I have a soft spot for funny MG and YA books, but I don’t like to read too many of them. This isn’t because they’re not great (they are). But it’s really intimidating to read other authors in the field, because it’s like, “They’re SO good, who do I think I am? Oh, just forget the whole thing!” 😛

That said, one recent MG book I really liked was Dave Barry’s Worst Class Trip. In a more YA vein, I was very impressed by Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here.”

Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing with us.

You can find Bart in a variety of places: Website/Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram  

Now we’d love to give away a copy of your book, so it’s time for a little fun! I see you’re ready, Bart!


Often we use Rafflecopter around here to draw a winner. Instead,  I’m going to use an “Alien Landing” to choose the lucky winner of a copy of Bart King’s The Drake Equation.  

To enter: 

Comment on this post by 5 p.m. Pacific Time Thursday, May 12 to enter. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, by sharing our “Alien Landing” in a bonus post. 

In fourth grade, Valerie Stein touched an ancient artifact from an archaeological dig. Though she never got to travel the world in search of buried treasure, she ended up journeying to new and exciting places between the pages of books. Now she spends her time researching history, in museums and libraries, which is like archaeology but without the dirt. Valerie’s book, The Best of It: A Journal of Life, Love and Dying, was published in 2009.  Both her current work and an upcoming middle grade series are historical fiction set in Washington State. Valerie is Publisher at Homeostasis Press, and blogs at Gatherings, the blog of Gather Here: History for Young People