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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.

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Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers

Filtering by Category: writing

Tip #39: The Art of the Interview

Kitty Felde

Loving kids

There was one real gift I brought to journalism: people would tell me things. Politicians, actors, firefighters, even minor league baseball pitchers: they all had some special story about themselves that they wanted to share.

Nearly all of us are hungry to share something of ourselves with others. All it takes to get someone to open up is a non-threatening line of questioning and the willingness to listen.

So why not tap into that hunger to share to get a kid to pick up a book?

Cathy Puett Miller is known as the "Literacy Ambassador." In anessay in Education World, she says asking questions of young readers helps those who struggle with reading to find a "worthwhile purpose" for the endeavor.

Ask them why they are reading a particular book or magazine or graphic novel. Nudge them toward articulating how the material connects to their own lives. If they're shy in a one-on-one discussion, initiate a small group discussion, again leading the conversation to find out how the book relates to each reader personally. 

After all, that "worthwhile purpose" is the secret reason most of us read: to find out something that will help us in our own lives or help us to better understand ourselves.

Got a tip of your own to get reluctant readers to pick up a book? Send us an email!

Tip #38: The Magic of Kwame

Kitty Felde

Newbery Award-winning writer Kwame Alexander

Newbery Award-winning writer Kwame Alexander

The very first author we interviewed on the Book Club for Kids podcast was Kwame Alexander. We booked him for the show before he won the Newbery Award and talked to him just hours after he got the news. He was still walking on Cloud Nine.

Kwame told us that he wrote "The Crossover" for a very particular audience: reluctant readers.

Steve Reichlen, library media specialist at Tyler Elementary School in Washington, DC, says Kwame hit it out of the park. Steve says  "The Crossover" is his go-to choice when he's trying to get a reluctant reader to pick up a book. The story of brothers and basketball is "a nice blend of free verse poetry in novel form with hip-hop sensibility." He says kids perk up when he shows how the verse can be put to a beat. "It's almost an instant sale."

Steve says the book has another built-in enticement for reluctant readers: lots of white space. He says space on the page makes the book less intimidating for young boys who don't like to read.

Haven't read "The Crossover" yet? Listen to kids from Watkins Elementary sing its praises - literally! They loved the book so much, they wrote a song about it and sing it for us on this episode.

Want a copy of "The Crossover" for yourself? Order one here from our friends at Hooray for Books! and they'll send one out ASAP. 

Tip #37: Clickbait for Books

Kitty Felde

Writer Dave Barry

Online, we call them "clickbait." In old time radio dramas, they were "cliffhangers." It's that compelling pitch that makes you want to know more.

Delia Ullberg is the Youth Services Manager at the Richard Byrd Library in Springfield, Virginia. Delia says when she's trying to get a young patron interested in a book, she comes up with "a hook" - something that piques the kid’s interest.

For Jennifer Holm's "Full of Beans," she holds up the novel and says, “grownups lie.”  For Dave Barry’s  "TheWorst Class Trip Ever," her hook is simply, “someone falls on the president”.*  

Give it a try. Just think of yourself as the Don Draper of kidlit.

Got a great hook for a book?
Share it on Twitter with #bookclubforkids

* The prequel to Jennifer Holm's book is featured on this episode. 

Got a reading tip you're willing to share? Send us an email.

Tip #35: Lights, Camera, Action!

Kitty Felde

Actress Jo Mei

Actress Jo Mei

It happens so often: when we ask kids their favorite books, they name the ones that have been made into movies. And then they happily debate which version is better.

YouTube is as much a part of their culture as the library. So why not use the power of film to glamorize reading and books?

Tracy King, who teaches 4th grade at Cienega Elementary School in Los Angeles, suggests adding a bit of Hollywood to the traditional book report. Tracy's idea: promise your young readers that once they've finished the book, you'll help them film a "book commercial" to send to family and friends. We'll even post them on our Book Club for Kids website!

With a smartphone and free video editing software, it's really not that difficult to turn your kitchen table into a film studio. In fact, Edutopia (funded by a fellow who knows something about film: George Lucas) has an entire page of resources to help you and your budding star get started.

If you do film a book review, please share it with us at Book Club for Kids! We'll be delighted to include it on our website, particularly if your reader tackles one of the books on our Books We Love page.

Got a reading tip you're willing to share? Send us an email.

Tip #34: Preview of Coming Attractions

Kitty Felde


My favorite part of going to the movies is the previews. I hate the commercials, but love the continuous string of movie trailers. Sometimes, I wonder what the heck it is about the movie I'm seeing today that makes them think I'd everwant to go see the movie in the trailer. But trailers do allow me to get a taste of a film I might want to spend my time watching - or warn me away from wasting my money.

The same is true for book trailers.

Marcie Atkins, the library specialist at Belvedere Elementary School in northern Virginia says book trailers "really get the kids pumped about books." Marcie says she uses them to introduce her Virginia Readers Choice books and the Mock Newbery books every year.

Here's the book trailer for one of our favorite books on Book Club for Kids: Tracey Baptiste's "The Jumbies".

And here's our discussion of the book THE JUMBIES.

Tip #33: Be a Thespian

Kitty Felde

Congressman Mark Takano

A fellow podcaster brought his 3 year old over to our place last weekend to see the Cherry Blossom Festival fireworks. He confessed that his young son Vinny loves to have books read to him "in character." Not the characters in the book. Vinny wants dad to read the book using the voice of one of his stuffed animals.

Apparently this is not unusual.

Librarian Camille Ray at the East Rancho Dominguez branch of the LA County Library says using odd and unusual voices is always a crowd pleaser - and the perfect way to make reading fun. For younger patrons who show no interest in books, she says she'll "read a recipe out like like an opera singer or the TV guide listings like a parrot." She says letting kids know that everyday print can be fun leads them back to the stacks where they'll discover "how engaging a book can be!"

Reading aloud isn't just for pint-sized readers. One of Book Club for Kids' celebrity readers, former teacher and current Congressman Mark Takano from California, says it worked particularly well with his high school English students. 

You can hear more from Rep. Takano on the episode FLYING THE DRAGON.

Tip #32: Let Them Vote

Kitty Felde

Rep. Jeff Denham is celebrity reader on our episode  THE WORST CLASS TRIP EVER .

Rep. Jeff Denham is celebrity reader on our episode THE WORST CLASS TRIP EVER.

I was shocked to hear that voter turnout in last month's LA mayoral election was an embarrassing 11.45%. Just one in ten registered voters turned up at the polls! Compare that to 1969 when 76% of registered voters cast a ballot. 

Yikes! Yet, a Stanford University study shows that civic engagement has a long lasting impact on voter turnout at least 15 years following graduation from high school. 

Can voting in middle school create the same habit? Why not let them vote on what they want to read?

Margaret Kinsbury suggests in an article in Bookriot that voting on individual books or themes gives reluctant readers the power to make decisions about their reading lists. She suggests themes like "The World in Ruins, Kissing and Making Up, Sticking Swords into so-called Monsters." She says students could vote on classics and contemporaries to read for each theme.

And maybe, just maybe, voting early (and often!) can lead to a habit that will last a lifetime.

Tip #31: Would You Read Them With a Fox? Would You Read Them in a Box?

Kitty Felde


Why do I still have "Green Eggs and Ham" stuck in my brain? I haven't read it in years. But it's there. Forever. I do not like green eggs and ham." I do not like them, Sam I am.

But the power of poetry can be used for good as well. Children's librarian Pam Rogers is host and producer of the Buttons & Figs podcast, which uses great works of nonsense to inspire kids to create nonsense of their own.

To inspire kids to love reading prose, Pam suggests: try poetry. "Our language is like music," she says, "full of rhythm and sound." Which means read a poem out loud. "Don't hesitate to select a passage with difficult vocabulary," she says, "just be sure it includes language that soars: musical to the ear and challenging to the mind."    

A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology concludes that our brains are hard wired to appreciate the rhythms and patterns of poetry. But does this translate to the brains of young readers? Pam Rogers says when she hears kids repeating passages from a shared poem, hears them playing with the sounds of our language, hears them asking a librarian where to find similar stories, "I know, at a minimum, I have expanded their orbit."

So I guess I'll have Dr. Seuss with me for a while.

PS: Of course, it's not just poems that get stuck in our heads. If you've ever wondered why songs get stuck in our ears, here's a fun NPR story. The explanation: an earworm is our brain singing.

Tip #30: Give Them Your Job

Kitty Felde

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Writer Lynda Mullaly Hunt was a reluctant reader until a wonderful teacher helped her fall in love with books. Her passion for literature led her to her first career as a teacher. 

Lynda says she discovered a trick for turning her students into careful readers: let them be the teacher.

She handed out some of her own stories to her students - stories with lots and lots of mistakes. "They were terrible," she says. "Off topic, deadly boring." Lynda would go out of her way to make them awful.

Then she handed each of her students a red pen and invited them to mark up her work. "You be the teacher," she told them. "Fail me if you like, but you'd better explain why."

She says her students gave her "a lot of F minuses." They had a great time circling various problematic sections. They'd write, "why don't you try this?" and "could you think about this?" up and down the page.

Lynda encouraged them to be honest. And they were. Brutally honest. Playing teacher to a page of poor writing made them more conscientious about their own work - and more appreciative of reading material that followed the rules. It became more pleasurable to pick up a book when you didn't have to fight your way through bad grammar and purple prose.

You can hear more from Lynda Mullaly Hunt on the episode of her book FISH IN A TREE.