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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: literacy

Tip #71: More Binge, Less Complaints

Kitty Felde

Keeper of Lost City readers

"It's not that kids don't like to read. It's that they don't like feeling like they're forced to read." That's Eric Berman's mantra. 

Eric is Teen Services Coordinator for the Alameda County Library in California. He says the key is getting reluctant readers hooked on SOMETHING. Anything works, he says - comic books, graphic novels, even "those dreadful Minecraft books where people are trapped in the Minecraft world."

Don't laugh. The building block adventure game is so popular, more than 50,000 people buy the game EVERY DAY. Eric says kids are "super-passionate about whatever they're into right now. They'll just consume everything." Five year olds will read every dinosaur book in the library. Twelve year olds are into Minecraft.

Eric says there are more than two dozen Minecraft books. Once they read one, he says, "they're going to read all of those." Let them binge, says Eric. It's a book. Rejoice. "Encourage them. Because if they're excited about that, they're going to go on to the next thing."

If teachers want to take it one step further, there are lesson plans using the game of Minecraft for literacywriting exercises, and problem solving. EvenScientific American weighed in on the value of Minecraft in the classroom.

Let them binge, says Eric. It leaves less time for complaining.

Tip #41: Back to School Success

Kitty Felde

San Gabriel kids at Podcast Movement taping of Book Club for Kids.JPG

It's not just back-to-school TV ads that strike fear into the hearts of kids. For some, it's the prospect of another year of reading. For book lovers, it's hard to imagine someone who views books as a torture device. But for the kids we call "reluctant readers," reading is hard.

Gayle Wagner is the children's librarian at the Watha T. Daniel Neighborhood Library in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Gayle is a big fan of Hi-Lo Reading Books. These are the so-called "high-interest, low readability" books - complex themes for more mature readers written at lower reading levels. The selection is vast -Saddleback Publishing alone offers everything from non-fiction on 3-D printing and drones to novels about video gaming and transplants. 

Montgomery County Schools have a terrific list of Hi-Lo books broken down by grade. The American Library Association has its own recommended reading list for upper elementary grades.
 

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 #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 #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 #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."