My son loves Pokemon cards.
He got hooked on the game in the way reading should progress. It started on the bus with other kids, reading as a low-pressure way to get his feet wet in a high-interest “content”-driven (decontextualized or unfamiliar) world of strange creatures. No tests or drills in skills, just reading surface-level text to understand each creature.
This progressed into a Pokemon card collection which he categorized based on criteria he determined from understanding of the text and input from his peers. He compared and contrasted dozens of little characters of different varieties with different powers, and of course read several handbooks and the comic book series.
He built background knowledge and confidence in the content area. He used those schematic constructs to show off what he knew with friends in a social way. With Aspergers, looking other children in the eye or playing less structured games makes him feel nervous. With a high-interest content area he feels knowledgeable about, he can make friends and engage confidently with peers.
As he traded cards with friends, he used co-textual support to evaluate and draw conclusions. He proudly justified his trades with peers using text evidence for support.
He was reading deeply and narrowly in a high-interest content-area…
Until the bus stopped and he got to school. There, the teacher handed him a textbook.
Granted, there are more appropriate texts for classrooms. But too often our desire to “do school” gets in the way of reading. Instead of building skills, when and how we want them to be built, let children come to text naturally through a love of reading.
Instead of building skills, find what children love and build them up.