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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 Reluctant Readers

Filtering by Tag: kidlit

Tip #42: Starve Them

Kitty Felde

Italian Book Club for Kids fan

There is something about being surrounded by a foreign language that makes you crave something in English. Anything will do - a newspaper, a Facebook post, a menu - but most especially, a book.

I was fortunate to tag along with my husband on a nearly three week long trip to Italy this month. He had speeches on the European Union to deliver. I had a Kindle full of novels and a stack of magazines I’ve been meaning to get to for months.

In less than a week, I ran out of things to read.

My Italian is limited to greeting strangers and ordering wine. I was drawn to the news stands – all in Italian. I watched the cooking shows – all in Italian. After about a week, I was hungry for English language anything. I was starved for English - perhaps because it was so scarce. According to the Harvard Business Review, success belongs to those who create something scarce. I got to thinking: will this sense of scarcity work on kids?

Overseas travel is one of the more expensive reading tips, but if you have such an adventure planned with your kids, use it to your advantage. Tablets are cheap and the public library has a vast selection of e-books available for download for free.

Before you leave town, load up the tablet with a variety of books:

  • fiction and non-fiction set in the country you will be visiting
  • a foreign language phrase book designed for kids
  • books you’d like your kid to read
  • fun books – the kid version of a beach read 
  • include at least one all-time favorite – a book your kid has read a hundred times or more. There is something comforting about having something familiar and predictable to turn to when moving around in a place that is both unfamiliar and unpredictable.

Need some suggestions? The New York Public Library has a terrific list of book suggestions for overseas travel. 

One more tip: pack a few paperback books as well. There’s likely to be a family fight to use the adaptor to recharge everybody’s electronics, so there will be times when that tablet runs out of power.
 

Tip #29: If It's Good Enough for Warren Buffet

Kitty Felde

Gordon Korman

Writer Gordon Korman turned a class assignment into a career.

Gordon says his middle school ran out of English teachers. So they sent in the track and field coach. The coach knew all about calf cramps, but had no clue about teaching reading and writing and literature.

Perhaps in desperation, Coach turned to the class and said, "Okay. Work on whatever you want for the rest of the year."

This was in February. That meant Gordon and his classmates had five months of unstructured time. And it was there, in that middle school classroom, that Gordon Korman wrote his first book, "This Can't Be Happening in Macdonald Hall."

Not every middle schooler will go on to have a 40 year career as a New York Times best-selling author. But as noted in Psychology Today, some of the most successful folks in business have found writing to be an important part of their success:

  • Warren Buffet says writing helps him refine his thoughts 
  • Richard Branson says his most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook which he uses for regular writing
  • Bill Gates says writing lets him sit down and re-evaluate his thoughts during the day

Writing has a much more direct effect on reading. An article in K12 Reader notes that writing helps a student "analyze the pieces that they read." Writing helps a student "language, text structure or content to better understand a professional author’s construction of his or her texts." In other words, the action of putting sentences together on the page helps a young reader understand the rules of written communication.

So maybe hand that reluctant reader a blank book next time and ask them to tell YOU a story.

You can hear more from Gordon Korman on this episode of his book UNGIFTED.

Tip #24: A Resolution to Read

Kitty Felde

Wouldn't it be nice to simply create everybody else's New Years Resolutions instead of trying to follow your own? Can't I just outsource my desire to lose ten pounds? Why is creating a new habit so darned hard? 

I spotted an interview with National Medal of Science winner and MIT Professor Ann Graybiel that helps explain the science of creating habits - both good and bad. 

Graybiel says we learn new behaviors in a package - a ritual that includes beginning and ending markers. This is basically so that our lazy brains can stop thinking about the details of an action over and over again. (This is why I can't keep that box of Sees candy around: if I see it, my brain automatically tells me to go have three or four pieces...)

But markers can help create good habits as well. Like reading. 

If you want your kids to read more in the new year, create the ritual. That means:

  • Pick a regular time of day when you and your kids will read together*. This can be at breakfast, dinner, before bed, whatever fits into your schedule
  • Set aside a sacred, silent 20 minutes when phones are in another room, the TV is off, all music is put on pause
  • Keep the books or magazines you'll be reading in the same place, ready to pick up where you left off last time
  • Set a timer for 20 minutes
  • GO!
  • When the timer goes off, take one more minute to tell each other ONE thing from your book or magazine - the best line, the funniest joke, the wierdest bit of fact
  • Keep going all month!
  • And by the way, if 20 minutes is way too short for you, take a look at a habit created by a Los Angeles family

*Why read together? That same Forbes article cites no less than Warren Buffett who says it's all about the mentoring: copying the behavior traits of people you admire. If you want them to read, let them see you reading.

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