Are You A Reluctant Novelist? Try Writing For Reluctant Readers.

Dear Reader,

I recently read The Rabbit Tattoo, a young adult fantasy novel written by Susannah Brin for 9-12-year -old readers. It’s a 4 x 7, 67-page paperback—a short novel. Its topic, a boy’s new neighbor who performs magic tricks, is easily grade appropriate, but its language and sentence structure is for a lower grade. That’s because it’s intended to entertain “reluctant readers,” below grade level readers who find reading more work than fun. It is part of a subgenre called Hi/Lo books—high interest, low reading level (also ‘low vocabulary’ or ‘low ability’).

Good Hi/Lo novels possess the same qualities as good novels for fluent readers. In her article “Hi/Lo Books: Writing for Reluctant Readers,” Eugie Foster says Hi/Lo good novels have “strong characterization, featuring realistic protagonists that readers truly care about, with exciting and up-to-date storylines about interesting topics.” She also says:

  • characters must be immediately distinct from each other
  • readers should be able to use context to define longer vocabulary words
  • it is best to keep sentence structure “short, simple and clear”
  • plot and storyline progression need to be chronological and straightforward
  • the story has to be fast-paced.


The length of The Rabbit Tattoo impresses me: 67 pages. And I wonder if “67” could become the magic number for reluctant novelists. “You must to jump in and climb out of your story, construct a taut, full-speed-ahead novel, and you may use only 67 pages. Are you up for the challenge?” And I wonder what would happen if all reluctant novelists used Foster’s guidelines to write novels which convert reluctant readers into fluent readers. I think there’d be a lot more fluent novelists.


1 Response to “Are You A Reluctant Novelist? Try Writing For Reluctant Readers.”

  1. 1 Max Elliot Anderson 03/04/2009 at 2:17 pm

    I always appreciate finding others who are concerned about helping children become readers.

    That’s because I grew up as a reluctant reader. And my father was the author of over 70 books. Now I write Hi/Lo action-adventure and mystery books especially for tween boys. My blog, Books for boys, is # 4 on Google today.

    Keep up your good work!

    Max Elliot Anderson

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March 2009
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Photo Credits: Header - Barbara McNichol, Author - Bernadette Garcia

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