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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: read together

Tip #53: The Five Finger Rule: Tip for Younger Readers

Kitty Felde

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is our celebrity reader for “The First Rule of Punk”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is our celebrity reader for “The First Rule of Punk”

We often bring you reading tips for older readers. But what about the newbies - kids picking books for the first time?  It can be a heartbreaking discovery that learning to read doesn't mean that you immediately possess the vocabulary and skills to read everything. At least not yet.

Jill Schechter is the librarian at School Within A School, a public school on Capitol Hill. Jill says she has students who "look at the bright, shiny sparkly cover and go and pick up a book that is much too hard for them."

Jill says she uses the "5 Finger Rule." She opens the book and asks the student to read a page to her. "See how many words on the page you don't know," she tells them. "And if you don't know more than five words, that's not a good book for you."

Here's a Wisconsin teacher's cheat sheet on the "5 Finger Rule."

Some argue that reading is a process of making sense out of the whole paragraph. In a Scholastic article, Dr. Louise Bridges says, "In the grand scheme of a whole text, each individual word that makes up the text is relatively unimportant." But for a brand new reader, a paragraph of unfamiliar words can stomp on that new-found enthusiasm for reading. 

Jill says when faced with the challenge of a page full of new words, students usually decide to try a different book. If they are unwilling to part with the volume, Jill appeals to their sense of fairness. She reminds them that they attend a school with students from grades Pre-K to 5th and says, "If I checked out all the big books to the little kids, the big kids wouldn't have any books to check out."

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!