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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 Tag: books

Tip #61: The Lure of a Desert Island

Kitty Felde

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.

Tip #28: I Believe in You

Kitty Felde

You'd never imagine that writer Lynda Mullaly Hunt was one of "those" kids. Hunt is the author of the kid-favorite middle grade novel "Fish in a Tree," among others. But when she was in grammar school, reading was impossible. Teachers gave up asking her to turn in assignments. Hunt says she knew that meant that they'd written her off as a failure. 

And then she met her 6th grade teacher, Constantine Christy. "That guy saved me," she says. "Saved me."

Mr. Christy made eye contact with Hunt, took the time to have a conversation with her and learn who she was beyond a name. As a result, Hunt says, "I fell over myself, trying to please him."

Then Mr. Christy handed her a book. It was Judy Blume's "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing." He told her he wanted her to go home and read it. "Why should I?" she asked. He leaned forward and said, "Because I think you can. And I want you to try." 

Hunt says Mr. Christy's confidence in her gave her the courage to take up the challenge. She read the book. And learned that she could read a lot better than anybody thought she could. She then picked up another Judy Blume. And another. And keep on reading. She says she learned that she loved fiction, the books that let you "see movies in your head." Mr. Christy's vote of confidence made her stand three inches taller. She jumped from the lowest reading group to the highest. She left sixth grade with a "laser focus" on becoming a teacher herself. Which she did. And went on to become a writer of the kinds of books she loved to read.

Hunt says she became a reader, "not because I'd seen the light and fallen in love with books. It was because I'd fallen in love with the connection of being able to share that love with somebody else."

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

Tip #27: Walk the Talk

Kitty Felde

We turn again to fifth grade teacher Jose Rodriguez for another reading tip. Jose teaches fifth grade at the Ambassador School of Global Education in Los Angeles.

For more reluctant readers, Jose says he has a "quick chat" with his students about what they are reading.

Jose also carves out time inside the classroom for students - and Jose himself - to pick up a book. "It's very important to walk the talk." he says.

Jose constantly refers to the books he is reading...and provides visual evidence that he actually  has his nose in a book. His tip: let the kids see you reading.
 

Tip #26: Stop the Worksheet Madness

Kitty Felde

Jose Rodriguez just says "no" to homework worksheets.

Jose teaches fifth grade at the Ambassador School of Global Education in Los Angeles. Instead of stuffing backpacks with endless pieces of paper, basically spot reviews of topics covered in the classroom, Jose asks his students to keep a reading log. Once a week, students write a journal entry that includes a summary of what they've been reading.

It's the journey, not the finish line that matters to Jose. "I don't make a big deal about having to finish every book," he says. For more reluctant readers, Jose tries to "have a quick chat" about what they are reading.

Jose carves out time inside the classroom for students - and Jose himself - to pick up a book. "It's very important to walk the talk." he says. Jose constantly refers to the books he is reading...and provides evidence that he's actually doing it. In other words, let the kids see you reading.
 

Tip #17: All the World's a Stage

Kitty Felde

Readers at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, New Jersey

Readers at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, New Jersey

Flying back to DC yesterday, I sat next to a woman devouring "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child." It's not often you find folks reading plays. It may be the first play script she's ever read. 

As a playwright, I'm very familiar with the format - character name centered, stage directions in italics, lots of empty spaces for actors to write down blocking and acting notes. Those blank spaces reminded me of something Newbery Award winning writer Kwame Alexander told us on "The Crossover" episode of Book Club for Kids.

Kwame remembered one kid who said he really loved the book, written in verse, because it "didn't have a lot of words and it had so much white space!" 

Just like plays! 

But plays are more than just an entry point for reluctant readers. Studies show that:

  • Performing texts in the classroom and the improvement of a variety of verbal skills, including especially significant increases in story recall and understanding of written material.
  • Performance of Shakespeare texts helps to improve students’ understanding of other complex texts including science and math material.
  • Drama can improve reading skills and comprehension better than other activities, including discussion.

And, needless to say, acting out a play is just fun.

Got a tip of your own? Email us! 

Tip #15: Saving Summer Brains

Kitty Felde

Readers discuss "The Great Wall of Lucy Wu" at Alexandria's Hooray for Books!

Readers discuss "The Great Wall of Lucy Wu" at Alexandria's Hooray for Books!

My brain is fried in summer. I can only imagine what a kids' brain is like after nine months of school. So perhaps the idea of picking up a book of any kind is a bridge too far.

Well, here's some good news: listening can make you learn even better. In an ATLANTIC article, Emma Rodero, a communications professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain says that “listening, unlike looking at a written page, is more active, since the brain has to process the information at the pace it is played.”

Even better news: there is a growing number of new podcasts out there designed specifically for kids - not just about books, but about science and music and all of their interests. Want to know what's out there? Check out the new organization Kids Listen.

So give in to summer brain: grab a cool drink, put on the headphones, and enjoy!


Got a tip of your own? Email us! 

Tip #14: Create a Craving for Story

Kitty Felde

Summer is always a challenge: how do you keep kids' brains engaged? Every local library seems to have a Summer Reading program. Here in Washington DC, the library offers prizes like tickets to the Washington Nationals and coupons for Chipotle to those who complete 8 hours of reading. 

The Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs, Colorado kicked off its summer reading program by inviting kids to record their favorite book recommendations. Those voice memos will show up on a future bonus Book Club podcast. (Your kids can be on the show, too: just email for easy instructions.)

We asked Sarah Kostin, the youth services librarian in Steamboat Springs, for her best tip for engaging reluctant readers. Her answer: get your child to fall in love with "story." Sarah suggests starting by reading aloud or telling the stories that you love to your child. Next, get the kids to tell their own stories, using their own words. Have them describe the things they've seen today or the adventures they've experienced. Sarah says the telling and listening gets kids "to love and engage in story so much that they HAVE to read more books in order to get more story in their life."

Sarah's story mantra reminded me of a blog in Scientific American about the very human need for story. The article says the human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor. We figure out life through the medium of story. So getting your kids hooked on stories not only improves their reading, it helps them figure out life!


Got a tip of your own? Email us!

Tip #13: Reading Tips from Washington - the Secretary of Education

Kitty Felde

U.S. Education Secretary John King

U.S. Education Secretary John King

Our newest celebrity reader is a man who knows something about getting kids to pick up a book. The new Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. has been a history teacher, a school principal, and even served as Commissioner of Education for the state of New York.

We asked him to read from Kristin Levine's "The Lions of Little Rock" for our back to school episode. He says he and his 12 year old daughter read it together, which prompted a discussion of both the historic fight for school desegregation, as well as the issues of diversity and race and class in America today. 


Secretary King's tip for reaching out to reluctant readers: read together. "The key is to find the thing that hooks a kid," he says. "What's the thing they're most interested in?"

He says after picking the book, start reading it together. Then take turns. He says reading together allows a child to spend "a little more time hearing and thinking about the story or the historical period or the idea that the book is about rather than maybe having to work so hard reading it themselves." The shared experience, he says, allows a kid to take ownership of the story.

Got a tip of your own? Email us! More great tips at the website!

Tip #12: Word of Mouth

Kitty Felde

These Thomson Elementary readers loved the Origami Yoda series so much, they formed their own club to write letters to author Tom Angleberger, begging him to write more in the series!

These Thomson Elementary readers loved the Origami Yoda series so much, they formed their own club to write letters to author Tom Angleberger, begging him to write more in the series!

Our tip comes from Jaminnia States, the librarian at Thomson Elementary School in Washington, DC. Jaminnia plans to use the podcast in the library's listening center with her students. "I think it will really help them to hear other students talking about books and how much they love them."

She cites the power of personal recommendation - peer approval. It affects more than just which sneakers are the bomb this year. It also works with books. She says when a friend tells you, "hey, look at page seventeen, let me tell you about this character!" kids respond.

"The kids who don't stop talking about the book," she says, "are the kids who get other kids to read." She says kids trust each other "way, way, way more" than they trust librarians.

Hack this technique to jumpstart your kids' reading! Play a podcast episode on the way to the library and put a copy of the book being discussed in the hands of your child. Use the power of peer approval to get them to open a book.

 

Got a tip of your own? Email us! 

Tip #11: Create a Culture of Reading

Kitty Felde

The readers at Lafayette Elementary School in Washington, DC

The readers at Lafayette Elementary School in Washington, DC

We’re hearing from educators that literature and poetry are getting squeezed out by social studies during reading hours in the classroom these days. So how do you inspire that life-long love of reading for pleasure?

Kathy Echave, a reading specialist at Lafayette Elementary School in Washington, DC describes a carrot and stick approach. “Make reading fun for kids,” she says, by putting “really good books in their hands.” The school publishes a summer reading guide with what Kathy describes as the “best books  – classics that never go out of style as well as things that are brand new." The list is shared with students and parents and is also available in local libraries and bookstores.

Lafayette has created a culture of reading by requiring every student to read for 20 minutes every single night. “If you’re only reading while you’re in school,” says Kathy, “you’re never going to become a lifelong reader or someone who’s really a good reader.”

There are no reading logs to be signed and teachers don’t actively check up on students, but Kathy says the reading homework has become part of the culture of the school. Kids just read.

 

Got a tip of your own? Email us!

Tip #10: Book Club in a Bag

Kitty Felde

Broomfield, Colorado offers a Book Club in a Bag

Broomfield, Colorado offers a Book Club in a Bag

Book Clubs can be powerful motivators to get folks of all ages to read regularly. But how do you start one? How do you get enough books for everyone in the group? How do you kick off the discussion? 

The Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library in Broomfield, Colorado has come up with a brilliant idea: they've put together Junior Book Club Kits.

Children's Librarian Susan Person says the library has lots of programming for little kids and teens, but needed to find something just for tweens. Their on-site Junior Book Club for 4th and 5th graders was a hit "almost from the beginning," she says. (And you'll hear those kids on an upcoming podcast discussing Lisa Graff's "Absolutely Almost.)

But what about other kids? And what do you do with 13 copies of one particular middle grade novel?

Person started putting together book club kits - a complete book club in a box - or rather, in a lime green canvas satchel.  Inside, each kit contains a dozen copies of the book for readers, plus one more for the group leader. Families or neighborhood group can use the book club in a box to host their own Junior Book Club. Kits are checked out with a library card, just like a single book or DVD. 

What about your classroom or library? Why not start your own Book Club in a Box?


Got a tip of your own? Email us! More great tips at the website!

Tip #8: Writing Makes Better Readers

Kitty Felde

Writer Meg Medina with a pair of her readers.

Writer Meg Medina with a pair of her readers.

Our young readers often ask our writers how they can become authors. The answer is always the same: read, read, read.

It works the other way as well. To become a better reader, write, write, write!

Looking for a quick writing assignment for your kids?
 
Have them write us a review on iTunes.

We have a lot of adult reviews - like this one from "botheredandbewildered" who said she appreciates how the show "expertly directs the literary conversation among these young women to probe into how the novel relates to their lives."

But we'd LOVE to get feedback from more kids. Challenge them to tell us how to make a better show! Just go to Book Club for Kids iTunes, click on "review" and have them write a few lines. Oh, and give us some stars!

Tip #7: Wisdom from a Substitute Teacher

Kitty Felde

Students from St. Lucy's Elementary School in Long Beach, California tape an episode with host Kitty Felde.

Students from St. Lucy's Elementary School in Long Beach, California tape an episode with host Kitty Felde.

Wisdom From a Substitute Teacher

They are the bravest people I know: substitute teachers. They're more fearless than Indiana Jones as they march into unknown territory. My mother abandoned the profession, deciding she'd rather care for drug-addicted quadriplegic veterans than face a classroom full of new faces every day.

John Leslie braves classrooms all over the Los Angeles Unified School District. He doesn't wear a fedora or carry a bullwhip. But he does have a secret weapon: a book he turns to whenever chaos threatens to take over. It has never failed.

The book is "The Houdini Box" by Brian Selznick.

Mr. Leslie says one time he walked into a room full of 5th grade boys. "None of them were seated when I came in," he says. He tried to teach the lesson plan, which became "a complete failure." So he reached for his secret weapon and started reading aloud from "The Houdini Box." One by one, every one of those kids sat down. They were still seated when their teacher returned to the classroom. She was astonished.
Mr. Leslie says the kids are fascinated equally by the magic and how Houdini died.

Do you have a "go to" book that mesmerizes your students? 
Got a tip of your own? Email us at bookclubforkidspodcast@gmail.com.

Tip #6: Literary Spies

Kitty Felde

Readers from Newport Mill Middle School in Maryland

Readers from Newport Mill Middle School in Maryland

 

Our latest tip for coaxing reluctant readers comes from Jessica Snyder, media specialist at Newport Mill Middle School in Kensington, Maryland.

Jessica says you have to know your patrons, whether they are fans of manga or fantasy, or whether they're following a series and desperate for the next book.

Jessica says she keeps up with the literature about new releases, but her best intelligence about the next hot book comes from the kids themselves. Jessica says she taps the kids in her library book club (you can see them: it's the group of girls facing my microphone at the top of this newsletter.) Jessica says she's also created a sort of library advisory group - kids who regularly report to her about what's new and what's coming out soon. 

Jessica is fortunate to have a budget that allows her to acquire the latest titles, though she does have to wait for approval before the books are available to the kids. Then, she tweets out the news: come and get it!

So how do her spies get their intelligence? Social media, of course. Jessica says the kids follow their favorite authors on Twitter and elsewhere.

Speaking of social media, you can follow Book Club for Kids on TwitterFacebook...and even Pinterest. (Okay, true confessions: we just started on Pinterest...)

Got a tip of your own to coax reluctant readers? Email us at bookclubforkidspodcast@gmail.com.

Tip #5: Put Those iPads to Work

Kitty Felde

Readers from Gunston Middle School in Virginia.

Readers from Gunston Middle School in Virginia.

This tip comes from Jenny Shanker, librarian at Gunston Middle School in Virginia. She suggests printing out the QRL codes provided here and pasting them to the back cover of the book discussed in the podcast. Or put it on a poster in the library. Students point the QRL reader on their tablet at the back of the book and immediately, they can listen to the 20 minute podcast...and check out the book.

Such a great suggestion! 

QRL codes are now available on our website for every episode.

Don't have an iPad? No problem. Download one of the many free QRL Reader apps for your smartphone at iTunes or the Google Play Store.


Got a tip of your own? Email us at bookclubforkidspodcast@gmail.com.

Tip #3: Know Your Audience

Kitty Felde

Readers from Sequoyah School join host Kitty Felde in Pasadena, California

Readers from Sequoyah School join host Kitty Felde in Pasadena, California

This tip comes from Dornel Cerro, head librarian at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, California.

Dornel says her biggest success in encouraging young readers has come from getting to know her students as much as possible. She says talking to kids in small groups, or one-on-one, helps her discover a student's interests and reading level. She also uses reading surveys - either because a particular teacher wants something on paper, or because a particular student feels more comfortable communicating in writing.
 
Dornel says it's "lots of hard work to keep tabs on kids," and admits she has an advantage at Sequoyah where there are only 300 students. She says she mostly keeps track of her students' reading information in her head, but sometimes tells them, “just remind me, I’m getting old.” 

Please do email us YOUR tip for turning reluctant readers into lifelong book lovers: bookclubforkidspodcast@gmail.com.

Tip #2: Expand Their Horizons

Kitty Felde

This book club in Maryland discuss historical fiction and seventh grade boys.

This book club in Maryland discuss historical fiction and seventh grade boys.

This week's tip comes from Chrystal Graham, librarian at the Takoma Education Campus in Washington, DC. She says her students "tend to shy away from" historical fiction. But she persuaded a group of girls (pictured at the top) to read Laurie Hulse Anderson's novel about an African-American girl enslaved during the Revolutionary War.

The girls confessed they disliked the genre because it was too much like homework. But they found the novel Chains a real page turner and even sought out the followup novel Forge to find out what happened next.

Now, Graham plans to use the podcast to tempt other students to pick up not just that Chains, but other dreaded historical fiction as well. 

It's like brussel sprouts: how do you know you don't like it if you don't try it? 

Tip #1: Read Aloud

Kitty Felde

Former English teacher and current California Congressman Mark Takano

Former English teacher and current California Congressman Mark Takano

These days, Congressman Mark Takano spends his days on Capitol Hill. Before stepping into the political arena, Takano stepped out in front of a classroom. He was an English teacher.
 
Takano says he learned the hard way that it would take more than repetition to teach subject/verb agreement and other grammar basics. Despite weeks of drilling his students, the failure rate on exams was disappointing.
 
A fellow teacher suggested that he read aloud to his students. Takano read "To Kill A Mockingbird" to his 9th graders and "Pride and Prejudice" to his high school seniors. He says he delivered a pretty good Mrs. Bennet.
 
Reading aloud, he discovered, allowed kids to model the language, to hear its proper usage. It also helped students get past the slow start to even the best of literature. “Often the first two pages of a book are the hardest,” he says, “you have to get your students over that hump.”
 
Takano says he’d stop after chapter three to leave his students wanting more and encourage them to pick up the book to find out what happened next.
 
One other tip: he says he accidentally left the subtitles on when he was showing “Sense and Sensibility” in class. The class begged him to leave the subtitles on; those English accents made Austen sound like a foreign tongue. Just how engaged were those students? When they watched that final scene where Willoughby is alone on the hillside, left out of a happy ending of his own, one boy shouted at the screen, “That’s what you get, fool!”
 
Takano says he still enjoys his job as a congressman, but “these are wistful moments to think back on my days in the classroom.”

Congressman Takano is our celebrity reader for Episode 7: "Flying the Dragon."