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Book Club for Kids is a podcast where middle school readers discuss the books they love with host Kitty Felde. The author answers questions. A celebrity reads from the book.

Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers

Tip #56: Survey Says

Kitty Felde

Changing Hands Bookstore Readers

We always ask students who appear on the Book Club for Kids podcast to fill out a "customer satisfaction" survey. It's our way to get real feedback from real kids about how we can improve the show. Of course, we're not the only ones who use surveys to get customer comments. I dare you to order anything online these days without getting the followup email requesting your input.

But surveys can be a terrific tool for teachers, parents, and librarians trying to find the right book for the right kid. 

Vernastene Black is an ELA teacher at Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C. She says it takes "a lot of poking and prodding" to get some kids to pick up a book. To help cut to the chase, she gives them a survey.

Vernastene is a big fan of Donalyn Miller, author of "The Book Whisperer," and her free quiz The Reading Interest-A-Lyzer. This two-page survey asks kids about their reading habits - do they read for pleasure? Which three books would they take on a month-long trip? Do they like to read more than one book at a time? Vernastene posts the Interest-A-Lyzer in a Google Doc and kids fill it out online.

The survey covers more than just reading-related activities. "You find out what they like to do in their spare time." Then, it's up to Vernastene to put in "the elbow grease to find the book that fits the bill." She continues the feedback loop, asking students to write her a letter about what they have read. "It's going to take a while," she warns. "But once you have their trust, and they know you're not making them do some kind of reading for a test, they'll be more willing to open up."

The biggest threat, she says, is killing the love for reading - when kids think the only reason to pick up a book is to prepare for a test. The key is getting them to think of reading as something enjoyable "that can take you to a new world."