our own maple syrup
In my work at the library, I often have the great pleasure of helping people, kids and adults, find things to read. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I have one particular customer who is my personal challenge reader because she is difficult to please; I love this and will never give up on finding her a book that she will relish. This is one of the best parts of what I do and I take it very seriously because I know the panic of booklessness, or even potential booklessness. Like the idea of a particular handknit sweater is what makes it itchy, according to my sons. It's a terrible thing to face an empty bedside table and the thought even makes me itchy.
Being a good listener helps. Knowing how to ask the right questions helps. Having a good knowledge of what's in our collection helps. We have tools that help (NoveList, Amazon, etc.). (Readers, check out NoveList through your library---lots of great ways to use this tool, like readalikes, books in a series in order, there is even a K-8 version.)
2nd Sunday: sewing liberation project
Sometimes I also get a trickier question: parents who are looking for books for their kids. It's harder to do my job when the reader is not in front of me, but it's still possible. There's a sense of remove though and no instant feedback.
Then there are parents of reluctant readers. These are worried parents, usually. Sometimes annoyed parents. And what they want is a magic pile of books that will make their kid a reader. (And since I'm no expert on learning disabilities, I'm talking about kids that can actually read without challenges.) Reluctant readers can be boys or girls, but it seems there are more boy reluctants than girls, according to Michael Sullivan. And he has lots of lists of books for boys; interestingly, girl reluctants will likely find books that appeal on these lists, too.
What I have learned the hard way, through lots of questions, is that often these young people actually ARE reading. Just not the way they "should" be, according to their moms (it's usually the moms that I see). "He only reads comics." "She only reads nonfiction." "He never finishes a book." "All he reads is Captain Underpants." "He only likes magazines."
So mostly I reassure them that all of this is actually reading and building important skills like vocabulary, comprehension, retention, etc. A veteran librarian just told me that it's quantity, not quality that makes a reader. I know plenty of adults who only read the newspaper (online). Or adults who are intelligent people who don't read at all (my brother is one). I send the moms home with an armload of books that might appeal to their reluctants and I try to encourage them that keeping a steady supply of books coming is a good thing, or that it's OK that their kids only read comics, or that it's lovely that their child still really prefers being read to.
As long as the reading is fun.