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.
Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers
Filtering by Category: literature
I 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!
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?
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.
Kids growing up in Southern California shared one secret dream: to spend the night on Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island. We plotted ways to be "accidentally" left behind as the last raft left for the mainland so that we could live the life of a pirate among the sycamores and secret caves. The island was large enough to almost get lost, but just a short swim to civilization. It's the only attraction designed by Walt Disney himself. And we loved it.
That siren call of adventure can also lure reluctant readers to pick up a book.
Kathleen Guinnane is the librarian at Lakewood Elementary School in Luling, Louisiana. She says when students have no interest in reading, she steers them towards titles like "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen or "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George or - as she puts it - "anything wilderness/nature/hunting related." Once they've read those, she says, "then they want the next one and the next one and then they branch onto other things."
I never did manage to spend the night on Tom Sawyer Island. But at least I can curl up with Mark Twain's classic tale ... and dream.
If you're looking for more adventure titles, here's some from Common Sense Media and Outdoor Life magazine.
Nearly 100,000 kids are signed up for Portland's summer reading program at the Multnomah County Public Library. Young readers who participate can earn tee shirts, theatre tickets, and other prizes. Libraries across the country have similar programs. But what about us grownups?
Fear not, there's a growing number of adult summer reading programs with some pretty creative prizes. Over in Washington County, Oregon, grown up readers can win a Kindle. At the Bozeman, Montana library, adults readers can earn cooverdue fine forgiveness coupons. At the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the grand prize is a free night at a nice hotel.
But there's a grander prize: when you read in front of your kids, you help turn them into readers.
Carrie Carlson is the media specialist at Oakwood Elementary School in Minneapolis. She says summer reading is the perfect time to model reading for your kids, showing how much you love books. "I think it's important for kids to see adults reading and liking reading," she says.
Carrie says it doesn't really matter what you're reading - sports pages, beachy novels, self-help books. Or you can read along with your kid, taking turns reading what they've chosen to read. "Because I'm a children's librarian," Carrie says, "I actually read the same books they do so then I can really get excited and talk about the books."
She adds a caveat: "I have to be careful not to talk too much about the books I didn't like because that might be the book they love!" Instead, she says she just shuts her mouth and lets the kids tell her what they think.
What are you reading? Do you have a summer reading list you're willing to share? Tweet it to us @bookclubforkids with the #BCKSummerReads.
I'm not a big golf fan - unlike my dad, who spent Fathers Day weekend glued to the TV, watching the U.S. Open. I just don't see the point. (Or maybe it was hitting myself in the head with a 9 iron during my one and only golf lesson...) But I do love baseball.
It's the same with books.
Leslie Smith is the school librarian at Trinity Episcopal Day School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She says when a child tells her they're not interested in books, she asks them to tell her their favorite TV show or movie. "It will give me insight into their personality," she says. "Knowing what they like to watch will tell me what kind of books they like to read."
For my dad, she might hand him the obvious: sports books. But human beings have a lot of passions, so she asks her readers to give her a list of their viewing habits. If they're interested in watching realistic TV programs like National Geographic, she might hand them a few animal books. Mysteries? Easy. If they like to watch silly, goofy shows, they might like really silly, goofy books.
And then? "Once they're hooked," she says, "it's usually easier to get them interested in other things."
Leslie says initially, she tries to pair the child with something that's more popular because it's 'cooler'. "People recognize it," she says, "and they're like, 'Oh, you're reading that? I've read that. It's cool!'" Later, she steers them toward titles that are less popular.
On a recent Bonus Episode, we asked kids from Virginia to tell us their favorite book. Their answers broke down into two categories: books with characters they could relate to and books full of adventure.
Patrick Eibel says those two qualities are especially important when looking for books for reluctant readers. Patrick is the library and media specialist at Kramer Middle School in Washington, D.C. He says the perfect book is one that is "interesting, not intimidating, and has action."
Not intimidating means graphic novels, but Patrick says "you don't want to get just any old graphic novel, you have to find things that are interesting."
For fans of "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, Patrick recommends something similar, but very different: "The Last Kids on Earth." He describes the series by Max Brallier as "a post-apocalyptic story, with lots of picture support, and an easy read. So it's exciting."
Another of Patrick's "go to" books appeals to readers who want both a character they can relate to AND adventure. The book is "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder. The main character is a 12-year-old African-American girl who is "super smart" and bonds with a time traveling giant red dinosaur. "How's that not going to be cool?"
If you're looking for the perfect book that will inspire a lifetime love of reading, don't forget our Books We Love section on the website. We ask everyone on the show - kids, writers, celebrity readers - to tell us their favorite book. The list is most eclectic. Check it out!
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."