Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers
We continue our focus on summer reading - this time highlighting a few places where young readers can earn cash, free books, free movies, or other rewards just by reading. Greed may be a vice, but it can also be a strong motivator for literature!
Read 10 books and get free money. Keep track of your books on the TD form, bring it into a branch, and get $10 in a savings account.
Read 8 books and write about them in B&N's Summer Reading Journal, show up at a B&N in August with a completed journal and claim one of the free books on their list.
Again, read 8 books, but no book report is required. Bring your list to a bricks and mortar Amazon Bookstore before September 2 and get a Star Reader Certificate worth a dollar off your next book purchase.
Parents can set reading goals and keep track on a printable calendar. The prize is 10 play points to use while you're waiting for your pizza.
It may sound counterintuitive: read books to see a free movie, but that's the idea behind this movie theatre chain's program. Fill out their book report form and it's your ticket to a free Wednesday matinee. Adults accompanying kids also get in free and don't have to write a book report.
Next time, we'll be checking in on the loot available for summer readers at public libraries around the country.
We'll be focusing on Summer Reading over the next few weeks, providing lists of themed book selections, highlights of library programs, and road trip worthy reading activities. But first, let's start with a trip to the library or bookstore with your young reader.
As you stand there pointing to the stacks and your reader's eyes are distracted by library computers or all the toys and games surrounding the bookstore cash register, how do you get her to leave the building with a book in her hands?
Anne Blanchard is head librarian at St. Aloysius Catholic School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Anne is a great believer in using past preference to predict future interest. She starts by asking, "What was the last book that you read that you liked so much that you wouldn't mind reading it again?" She then finds that particular book on the shelf (or sends the young reader to find it herself) and begins her detective work.
Anne looks for clues. "Is it a sports book? A graphic novel? Is it one that has a lot of white space in it?" She then finds similar books.
If you don't want to play matchmaker yourself, many libraries use NoveList, a database that is rather like Match.com for book lovers.
And don't forget the staff at your local library or favorite independent bookstore. These book lovers positively light up whenever you ask for book suggestions. Their enthusiasm is contagious as they dash over to the shelf to find your reader's next favorite book.
I dare you!
That's a schoolyard taunt that still has the power to provoke action. Can it get a kid to read a book?
Mimi Powell develops the young adult collection at an Orlando library. One of her most loyal patrons checked out stacks and stacks of books every week. His twin brother would also visit the library every week, plopping down at the circulation desk and looking bored. Mimi finally asked him why he never checked anything out. "I don't like to read," he told her.
Mimi asked the age old question, "So what do you like?"
His answer? "Violent video games."
Mimi says he was trying to challenge her, daring her to find a book. Mimi didn't blink an eye. "I found a five part series that was about these kids who got trapped in a video game and they had to fight aliens to make their way out." That particular book is part of a series by Dustin Bradly called "Trapped in a Video Game."
It was the challenge posed by the non-reading twin that excited Mimi. You can tap into that competitive streak by issuing your own challenge to a less than enthusiastic reader. Here's a terrific list of reading challenges - everything from reading books with titles from A-Z to a Book to Screen challenge (read the book AND watch the movie) to reading only books on a particular topic like wars or animals. Pick a challenge and then challenge your would-be reader to play it with you this summer. You could even offer prizes. (We'll send you bookmarks and stickers. Just email us your address!) Let us know which challenge worked for you.
I double dare you.
Running out of ideas about how to keep kids reading when their brains are totally focused on the last day of school? How about the five letter word BINGO.
Pattie Billings is a librarian at the Quapaw Tribal Library in Quapaw, Oklahoma. She designed a reading bingo card for her readers. There's a free spot in the middle, and then she filled in the other squares with reading-related tasks like "read one chapter in a new book" or "read to a stuffed animal" or "read to an adult" or "read with a flashlight." If readers got one bing, Pattie says they got an "itty bitty prize." Two bingos earned a slightly better prize. Tackle every task in every square - known in bingo circles as a blackout - earned the biggest prize.
Pattie says her own grandson is a reluctant reader, but he's working his way through the bingo card, determined to earn the grand prize.
Goodreads has its own bingo competition open to adults. Here's a free downloadable bingo card from the A Love for Teaching website. And Pinterest has dozens and dozens of other examples.
As to prizes? Book Club for Kids is happy to mail you a stack of bookmarks. Just email us your address!
Want to be a millionaire? The amazing James Holzhauer has racked up more cash more quickly than anybody in the history of the TV show "Jeopardy." His secret: non-fiction kids books.
Holzhauer told "Publishers Weekly" that he'd order stacks of books on all sorts of topics from public libraries in the cities where he lived: Seattle, San Diego, Naperville, Illinois, and Las Vegas. "All had excellent library resources," he said.
His favorites? Zachary Hamby’s books on mythology, and the Classics Illustrated series of literary adaptations.
It makes sense: non-fiction for young readers - everything from picture books to biographies to science - are well-written, with lots of infographics and illustrations. Information is often broken down into bite sized morsels. And they're fun to read!
So watch an episode or two of "Jeopardy" with your young reader. They may do better in certain categories than you! (Holzhauer says kids non-fiction didn't help much with popular culture questions.) Take notes of the categories that frustrate them and take them to the library to check out books on those topics. You can even create your own "Jeopardy"-style quiz. Here's afree version online.
The pitch to your reluctant reader: you, too, can be a "Jeopardy" millionaire!
I've never been a teacher, so I've never known the terror of standing in front of a room full of kids with the mission of holding their attention for several hours a day. However, I'm currently on book tour and that means I read from "Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza" to a bookstore audience of friends, family...and KIDS. Yikes! Those short attention spans mean I have to add something extra to the readings.
Dominique Corpus says that "something extra" is what's needed to tempt a reluctant reader to pick up a book. Dominique is an elementary school librarian in Webster, Texas. He says when it comes to reading aloud, performance counts. "I'm not a guy who's about puppets or anything, but I try to be as animated as I can." Dominique says he sees the payoff of extra effort when the book gets checked out of the library. "Once the kids see that you're into the story, they'll fall right into place."
Here's some read aloud tips from Education World:
Prepare: review the text, looking for words or concepts that might be confusing.
Set the stage. Close the door, dim the lights, tune up their listening skills by asking them to look for something specific in the story.
Read just the title. Or just the chapter title. Ask students to predict what the section will be about.
Use character voices or at least use inflection and expression and energy. You're on stage!
Ask followup questions. Encourage students to use sentences starting with "I noticed" and "I wonder."
I'm taking Dominique's tip to heart, calling on my ten years of acting to put on a performance for the kids in my bookstore audience. It seems to be working: no walkouts yet!
Oakland Public Librarian Kate Hug refuses to be discouraged by young patrons who hate books. She asks a series of questions, trying to find something they might enjoy. One particular day, the answer to all of her questions was, "Everything sucks."
End of discussion? Not for Kate. She kept asking questions. "Do you like spiders?"
That got a reaction. "No! Spiders are icky."
Kate's response, "Let me show you how icky they can get."
She led them to a shelf full of spider books and at least one of them went home with that patron. Kate says icky stuff works. "Whether it's a disgusting bug that they want to know more about or something that eats you from the inside," kids love the ick factor.
There are lots and lots books out there to gross out kids of all tastes. Here's a great list of disgusting books that kids love - everything from animal puke to blood and guts. Or perhaps dog breath and cockroaches are more your taste indisgusting. Maybe roadkill appeals to your ick appetite. Or the historic ick: vampires and Typhoid Mary.
It's not my taste and may not be yours. But that's the one truth I've discovered by talking to kids on the Book Club for Kids podcast: my reading taste is not that of everyone's. It's why we let the kids (okay, sometimes it's their teachers or librarians...) pick the books we talk about on the podcast. Otherwise our episodes would be filled with historic fiction and earnest family stories. To each his or her own.
As long as they're reading.
Don't you hate those click bait "top 5" lists? When it comes to reading, we couldn't resist. We present our top five questions for young readers who can't find that second book to fall in love with.
Heidi Vonmayrhouser is a children's librarian in Milpitas, California. Her system to keep kids reading is to help them fall in love with new books over and over again.
Heidi is one of those investigative librarians. She likes to "dig into the interests" of her readers by asking lots of questions and then finding the perfect next book that fits the reader's interests and passions.
She shares her top 4 queries. And because this is a Top 5 list, we had to include our favorite question on Book Club for Kids.
Top 5 Questions for Readers Looking to Fall in Love with Another Book:
What do you do for fun?
Which books have you read recently?
Is there a book that you couldn't put down?
What book would you read in the summer for fun?
What's your favorite book of all time...and why?
"It's not that kids don't like to read. It's that they don't like feeling like they're forced to read." That's Eric Berman's mantra.
Eric is Teen Services Coordinator for the Alameda County Library in California. He says the key is getting reluctant readers hooked on SOMETHING. Anything works, he says - comic books, graphic novels, even "those dreadful Minecraft books where people are trapped in the Minecraft world."
Don't laugh. The building block adventure game is so popular, more than 50,000 people buy the game EVERY DAY. Eric says kids are "super-passionate about whatever they're into right now. They'll just consume everything." Five year olds will read every dinosaur book in the library. Twelve year olds are into Minecraft.
Eric says there are more than two dozen Minecraft books. Once they read one, he says, "they're going to read all of those." Let them binge, says Eric. It's a book. Rejoice. "Encourage them. Because if they're excited about that, they're going to go on to the next thing."
If teachers want to take it one step further, there are lesson plans using the game of Minecraft for literacy, writing exercises, and problem solving. EvenScientific American weighed in on the value of Minecraft in the classroom.
Let them binge, says Eric. It leaves less time for complaining.
Remember when moms complained about the amount of TV their kids watched? Now, it's YouTube.
It's a complaint I hear from parents over and over again: their kids aren't reading, but it's not because they're distracted by video games or binge-watching Netflix series. Their eyeballs are glued to YouTube videos.
Not that there's anything wrong with it. I've learned how to edit photos, sew welt pockets, and hook up my Roku by watching YouTube videos. Candace Williams says YouTube can also be a tool to get reluctant readers to pick up a book.
Candace is Teen Services Library Assistant in Tracy Public Library in California. Candace says plenty of YouTube stars have written books - "about their life, about their show, about their beauty tips." Whatever the topic, she pulls their book off the shelf and watches her patrons' eyes light up. "Oh, I know that person!" they tell her. And then they go home with the book.
Here's a few titles that might tempt your YouTube fan:
"This Book is Not On Fire" is by a couple of awkward Brits named Dan Howell and Phil Lester, aka 'danisonfire' and 'AmazingPhil.' Never heard of them? Their quirky videos are followed by more than 8 million subscribers.
Robby Novak - otherwise known as Kid President - has a book "Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome."
Lilly Singh, aka YouTuber 'superwoman' wrote a series of motivational essays in "How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life."
Common Sense Media put together its ownbooklist by YouTube stars.
Of course, YouTube is also a place where you can watchauthor interviews, book trailers, and even book reviews.
Oh, and by the way, Book Club for Kids has its ownYouTube channel, too.
My mother always told a story about tete-a-tete, which as a young woman she pronounced "teety teety." These were the days before YouTube. Today you can type in an unfamiliar word and hear pronunciations. Mom was still embarassed half a century later.
Embarassment over vocabulary can stop a reader cold.
Freda Carraway teaches 9th graders with reading deficiencies at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas. Some read at a 7th grade level. Some read at 1st grade level. Her strategy: start with vocabulary.
In elementary school, kids are taught to "use their context clues" when they encounter a new word. But Freda says that often translates into: "I don't know a word, I skip it." Freda says when a student gets to the bottom of a page and they've skipped five words, that means there's five sentences on that page that they didn't understand. "So I retrain them to notice what they don't know." In other words, using metacognition to give kids a strategy to succeed.
When students encounter a word they don't understand, Freda has them stop, take out their vocabulary log, and write it down. Then, she has them immediately find the definition - ask a friend, Google it, ask a teacher, or even use the dictionary. "Whatever you have to do to understand that sentence right now," she says. "Not later."
Reinforcement is key. The reader may understand the word in the context of the book ("Yay! That's a win," she says), but may not remember the word forever. So Freda helps the student find a personal connection with the unfamiliar word - link it to a familiar word, draw a picture of it, or just talk to her about it. "You're going to have some sort of hook to hang that on in your brain," she says.
That expanded vocabulary gives a reader confidence, she says.
There are a number of studies that look at the relationship between reading and vocabulary. And Reading Rockets has a number of articles and videos about teaching vocabulary.
It's that time of year when you can't escape Christmas carols. I'm not quite there yet, so instead of "let it snow" I'm singing "let them read, let them read, let them read."
Janise Buck from the Sacramento Public Library has a similar mantra: "all reading is good reading." Librarians have the motto emblazoned on their tee shirts. "There's something that interests everybody," says Janise.
But it may not be what you have in mind.
Don't sigh when they bring home a graphic novel. Janise says if your kid wants to read graphic novels, find them more. These days, there are more choices: historical, informational, even literature. "I recently read a Sherlock Holmes and a Jane Austen in graphic novel form," she says. It's a format that's interesting to them. It's all "real reading" The finger quotes are hers.
"Check out what other media they're consuming," she says. If it's the Jason Bourne films or "Mission Impossible," steer them toward James Patterson. "
"Don't try to pull them away from things that they're enjoying to give them things that you think are important. Instead, meet them where they're at and turn them on to things that are in their genre and in their interest."
A big topic at the National Council of Teachers of English convention was Family Book Clubs.
The program is voluntary. Kids and their parents read the book of the month and join other families at their child's school or public library to discuss the novel. The actual meeting is short by book club standards: at Auburn's elementary school, groups meet for half an hour either at 7 AM for doughnuts and juice and book talk, or at a noontime gabfest over pizza. Middle schoolers and their folks meet at the Auburn public library in the early evening hours. There are often book themed decorations and a fun quiz to kick things off.
Shannon Brandt, an instructional coach for Auburn City Schools, says parents in particular love the program. "It's like bringing back their bonding time," she says, "the days when they would crawl into bed with their kids and read aloud." Shannon says one parent confessed she was "heartbroken" when her kids outgrew the bedtime ritual and wanted to read on their own. Now, she says, the family has a shared experience again, rekindling the bonding she had missed.
It's not just the parents who enjoy the shared reading experience. According to Scholastic's biannual Kids & Family Reading Report, 80% of tweens and teens admit that they still like being read to by an adult.
The Auburn groups are multi-generational. One grandmother attends book clubs with all three of her grandchildren. And no one is left out: kids without a parent can bring a teacher.
Do you have a Family Book Club at your school or library? Tell us about it!
When you pick up a book, read a few pages, and just can't get into it, do you feel you're responsible to finish it anyway? Maybe it's twelve years of Catholic school, but I still feel guilty about quitting in the middle of a book.
I'm not the only one. In a 2013 article in The Atlantic about the "quiet shame" of the half-book reader, clinical psychologist Matthew Wilhelm says such guilt is normal. "There is a tendency for us to perceive objects as 'finished' or 'whole' even though they may not be. This motivation is very powerful and helps to explain anxiety around unfinished activities."
Sereena Hamm disagrees. Hamm is the librarian at Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington, DC. She casts a vote for free choice - particularly for younger readers. "Let them pick up new books and read them and quit," she says. "As many times as it takes for them to find the right one."
Hamm says forcing readers - particularly reluctant readers - into a book they're just "not into" actually makes it worse. The key, she says, is to keep looking for the book that speaks to them, a book they can fall in love with. "I think if you let them know that as long as they keep trying till they find the right thing, you can make a reader."
No, this is not about a Supreme Court nominee. It's all about persuading boys to pick up a book.
Perrine Punwani is an 8th grade English teacher at Hardy Middle School in Washington, DC. She doesn't pass judgement on what her students choose to read - as long as they're reading. Lately, she says she's been shopping for books of particular interest to her male students. She picked up some sports titles, but she's also been stacking her shelves with books on war and peace.
"I'm kind of obsessed with war in some ways," she says. Before she was a middle school teacher, Punwani was program director for conflict and environmental change at the International Rescue Committee. "I've always been obsessed with the idea of war and peace and how do we get there?" she says. "Especially in these times."
Punwani's passion has spread to her students - particularly the boys in her class who have fallen in love with historical fiction. She frequently recommends her favorite authors Steve Sheinkin and Nathan Hale. Books about war help students understand "the depths of humanity" and helps them navigate conflicts closer to home. "I think they gravitate to war because they're always kind of at war with what they're doing in school," she says. "You need your armor to survive."
Here on Book Club for Kids, we've tacked several novels with war as a central topic:
Tales From the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (Trojan War)
A Little Wicked by Janet Macreery (17th century Scottish clan wars)
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (U.S. Revolutionary War)
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (World War II)
I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (the 1970's military coup in Chile)
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (Sudanese civil war)
Pax by Sara Pennypacker - (a fictional war)
Need some more ideas? If your readers are interested in the Civil War, here are some suggestions. Here are some titles about World War II appropriate for young readers. There are also a number of books for kids about the Cold War.
We've been asked to share a few Book Club for Kids secrets. Specifically, how do we get kids to open up to us on the podcast about their hopes, dreams, fears, complaints, and anything else on their minds?
Our "secret sauce" for the Book Club for Kids is that we start with the book and wait for the moment when the conversation takes a left turn. And it always does. Then we follow wherever it leads.
Those sideways discussions are always the most enlightening. On one episode, kids in one of the safest suburbs in America confessed their concerns about security. Another day, seventh graders explained that dystopian novels are actually quite hopeful because their protagonists are female and the boys in the book treat them with respect. A pack of fifth grade boys admitted that while they resented and fought regularly with older siblings, they actually missed them when they went away to college. All of these conversations began with the book and took that left turn.
In some ways, it's easier for us to get kids to open up. We're not their parents or teacher or other authority figure. But you can do it, too! You can turn those carpool trips into real conversations.
So here's our top five ways to use a book to get a kid to talk to you.
Read the book. Borrow it after they go to bed or get your own copy. You can cheat and read the summary online, but it's harder to have a rich conversation when you're working from someone else's notes. Read the book and allow it to resonate with your own life experiences - stories you can share with your child.
Your kid is the expert. Think back to when you were 12 years old. If only an adult would treat you like you had a brain in your head, you'd tell them anything. Your young reader will welcome the opportunity to show you how much she/he knows about the book and the world at large. Start the conversation by asking about something in the book that puzzled you. Are rules of the dystopian world too confusing? Is there a back story for that flying dragon who shows up on page 72? Is there a pop culture reference that makes no sense? This is a good place to begin the conversation with your young reader.
Ask a followup question. You're getting warmed up now. Keep the conversation going.
Listen. Is your reader getting excited about a particular topic? This is your left turn signal. The conversation is about to take off in an unexpected direction. Follow your instincts!
Be willing to share something personal when appropriate. Listening is always better, but a willingness to be vulnerable and open is gold. It's an opportunity to communicate person to person, rather than adult-who-knows-better to child-who-should-listen-to-me.
And if all else fails, listen to Book Club for Kids together. Use the discussion in the episode as a jumping off point for your own discussion. Good luck!
Here are some other suggestions about kicking off book discussions from Book Riot, I Love Libraries, and BookBub.
For me, it was white lipstick. Everybody in 8th grade was either wearing it or talking about it and I had to have it. Oh, sure, it made you look half-dead. Call it early Goth. It was a fad.
Kate Funderburk says reading fads can turn an ordinary book into the “must have” accessory of the school year. Kate is the librarian at Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She says all you have to do is think back to the “Harry Potter” mania that spread through schools around the world. Kate says she sees a similar demand surge for anything by Raina Telgemeier. “You get one kid to read a book,” she says, “and get excited about it and start talking about it, and all of a sudden your whole class wants to read it.”
And then there’s “Eloise.”
The 1955 picture book by Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight was one of Kate’s favorites when she was a kid. After reading it to a group of third graders, Kate says it suddenly became “the” book of the year. For some reason, Kate says, the kids were fascinated and horrified by the tale of the sassy little girl who lived at the Plaza Hotel – though not for the reasons you’d think. “Does she have a phone?” the kids would ask. Kate says she had to explain the ancient technology known as a land line. The kids were particularly shocked that the nanny was smoking cigars indoors. Kate explained that back in the dark ages, people didn’t know much about the dangers of smoking. “Well, did they do it in cars?” they asked and on and on. Kate couldn’t keep the book on the shelves. She says any book can start a fad, particularly if it’s “kind of wacky and fun and you push it the right way.”
Here’s a wonderful blog post about “Eloise.”
Of course, if "Eloise" doesn’t work, maybe you can find your own fad book. Or perhaps this new generation would be fascinated and horrified by that white lipstick you still have in the back of your makeup drawer…
Did you see this article about kids and reading? It’s full of statistics that we already instinctively knew: that one in three teens do not read for pleasure. But 82% percent of high school seniors do find the time to check out Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. It’s why we’re all trying to instill the habit of reading for pleasure early in life. If you have suggestions or tips about how to get a kid to pick up a book, please share it with us.
Most of the teachers I know are heading back to the classroom this week – if not to meet their new students, then to sit for hours and hours of meetings and training and organizing. A few of us lucky sorts get to still savor the corn on the cob and afternoons at the beach and the end of guilt-free summer reading.
I’ve given up on reading anything serious this summer. Instead, I’m indulging myself by reading the entire catalogue of Kerry Greenwood. In addition to her wonderful Phryne Fisher mysteries, she’s created another heroine: the zaftig Melbourne baker and reluctant invesigator Corinna Chapman.
Monica is a youth librarian from Michigan. We met at the American Library Convention in New Orleans this summer. Monica says you’ve got to let kids – and grownups - read what they want to read. “If you try to tell them what they should be reading, you’re not going to create a lifelong reader.”
I asked her to tell me the weirdest book a kid has ever requested. That book is “Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfectly Pink Animals” by Jess Keating. Monica’s reaction to the request? “This exists?” Turns out, it’s a 2016 non-fiction book about pink animals. Monica calls it “awesome.” There’s even a trailer for the book, complete with a blockbuster motion picture soundtrack.
I hate it when the book on my "want to read" list is checked out. Hate it. And I'm not the only one. When a desired book is missing from the library shelf, some kids would rather just go home.
While numerous studies have shown the importance of reading to reduce summer reading setback, Gina Bingham says the popularity of a library's summer reading program can actually turn off some readers. Gina is the assistant branch administrator at the Montclair Community Library in Dumfries, Virginia. She says the library's summer reading program can wipe out vast sections of the library. "A lot of our popular titles such as 'Big Nate' or 'Dog Man' - they're out!" Other times, she says, there are holds on those titles so it could be the end of summer before she can get these books into the hands of the kids who want them.
Gina says she tries to keep similar books on hand so the young reader can take home something to read. "And then the next thing you know, those kids come in and they're hooked on a new topic and it really does expand their reading list. They learn more."
She admits that it actually challenges the librarians. "You gotta be ready," she says, "especially when summer reading books are out."
One tool she relies on is Novelist - a data base available at most libraries. "You can type in the last book you read or the last book you loved and it will create a list," she says. Goodreads also has a book matchmaker. So does the Contra Costa Library.
Lucky me, I didn't have to look for a read-alike: a copy of Jesmyn Ward's "Salvage the Bones" just showed up from the library on my Kindle.