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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: literature

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 #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

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