Tips for Creating Lifelong Readers
Filtering by Tag: reading tips
We'll be focusing on Summer Reading over the next few weeks, providing lists of themed book selections, highlights of library programs, and road trip worthy reading activities. But first, let's start with a trip to the library or bookstore with your young reader.
As you stand there pointing to the stacks and your reader's eyes are distracted by library computers or all the toys and games surrounding the bookstore cash register, how do you get her to leave the building with a book in her hands?
Anne Blanchard is head librarian at St. Aloysius Catholic School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Anne is a great believer in using past preference to predict future interest. She starts by asking, "What was the last book that you read that you liked so much that you wouldn't mind reading it again?" She then finds that particular book on the shelf (or sends the young reader to find it herself) and begins her detective work.
Anne looks for clues. "Is it a sports book? A graphic novel? Is it one that has a lot of white space in it?" She then finds similar books.
If you don't want to play matchmaker yourself, many libraries use NoveList, a database that is rather like Match.com for book lovers.
And don't forget the staff at your local library or favorite independent bookstore. These book lovers positively light up whenever you ask for book suggestions. Their enthusiasm is contagious as they dash over to the shelf to find your reader's next favorite book.
I dare you!
That's a schoolyard taunt that still has the power to provoke action. Can it get a kid to read a book?
Mimi Powell develops the young adult collection at an Orlando library. One of her most loyal patrons checked out stacks and stacks of books every week. His twin brother would also visit the library every week, plopping down at the circulation desk and looking bored. Mimi finally asked him why he never checked anything out. "I don't like to read," he told her.
Mimi asked the age old question, "So what do you like?"
His answer? "Violent video games."
Mimi says he was trying to challenge her, daring her to find a book. Mimi didn't blink an eye. "I found a five part series that was about these kids who got trapped in a video game and they had to fight aliens to make their way out." That particular book is part of a series by Dustin Bradly called "Trapped in a Video Game."
It was the challenge posed by the non-reading twin that excited Mimi. You can tap into that competitive streak by issuing your own challenge to a less than enthusiastic reader. Here's a terrific list of reading challenges - everything from reading books with titles from A-Z to a Book to Screen challenge (read the book AND watch the movie) to reading only books on a particular topic like wars or animals. Pick a challenge and then challenge your would-be reader to play it with you this summer. You could even offer prizes. (We'll send you bookmarks and stickers. Just email us your address!) Let us know which challenge worked for you.
I double dare you.
Running out of ideas about how to keep kids reading when their brains are totally focused on the last day of school? How about the five letter word BINGO.
Pattie Billings is a librarian at the Quapaw Tribal Library in Quapaw, Oklahoma. She designed a reading bingo card for her readers. There's a free spot in the middle, and then she filled in the other squares with reading-related tasks like "read one chapter in a new book" or "read to a stuffed animal" or "read to an adult" or "read with a flashlight." If readers got one bing, Pattie says they got an "itty bitty prize." Two bingos earned a slightly better prize. Tackle every task in every square - known in bingo circles as a blackout - earned the biggest prize.
Pattie says her own grandson is a reluctant reader, but he's working his way through the bingo card, determined to earn the grand prize.
Goodreads has its own bingo competition open to adults. Here's a free downloadable bingo card from the A Love for Teaching website. And Pinterest has dozens and dozens of other examples.
As to prizes? Book Club for Kids is happy to mail you a stack of bookmarks. Just email us your address!
I've never been a teacher, so I've never known the terror of standing in front of a room full of kids with the mission of holding their attention for several hours a day. However, I'm currently on book tour and that means I read from "Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza" to a bookstore audience of friends, family...and KIDS. Yikes! Those short attention spans mean I have to add something extra to the readings.
Dominique Corpus says that "something extra" is what's needed to tempt a reluctant reader to pick up a book. Dominique is an elementary school librarian in Webster, Texas. He says when it comes to reading aloud, performance counts. "I'm not a guy who's about puppets or anything, but I try to be as animated as I can." Dominique says he sees the payoff of extra effort when the book gets checked out of the library. "Once the kids see that you're into the story, they'll fall right into place."
Here's some read aloud tips from Education World:
Prepare: review the text, looking for words or concepts that might be confusing.
Set the stage. Close the door, dim the lights, tune up their listening skills by asking them to look for something specific in the story.
Read just the title. Or just the chapter title. Ask students to predict what the section will be about.
Use character voices or at least use inflection and expression and energy. You're on stage!
Ask followup questions. Encourage students to use sentences starting with "I noticed" and "I wonder."
I'm taking Dominique's tip to heart, calling on my ten years of acting to put on a performance for the kids in my bookstore audience. It seems to be working: no walkouts yet!
Oakland Public Librarian Kate Hug refuses to be discouraged by young patrons who hate books. She asks a series of questions, trying to find something they might enjoy. One particular day, the answer to all of her questions was, "Everything sucks."
End of discussion? Not for Kate. She kept asking questions. "Do you like spiders?"
That got a reaction. "No! Spiders are icky."
Kate's response, "Let me show you how icky they can get."
She led them to a shelf full of spider books and at least one of them went home with that patron. Kate says icky stuff works. "Whether it's a disgusting bug that they want to know more about or something that eats you from the inside," kids love the ick factor.
There are lots and lots books out there to gross out kids of all tastes. Here's a great list of disgusting books that kids love - everything from animal puke to blood and guts. Or perhaps dog breath and cockroaches are more your taste indisgusting. Maybe roadkill appeals to your ick appetite. Or the historic ick: vampires and Typhoid Mary.
It's not my taste and may not be yours. But that's the one truth I've discovered by talking to kids on the Book Club for Kids podcast: my reading taste is not that of everyone's. It's why we let the kids (okay, sometimes it's their teachers or librarians...) pick the books we talk about on the podcast. Otherwise our episodes would be filled with historic fiction and earnest family stories. To each his or her own.
As long as they're reading.
Don't you hate those click bait "top 5" lists? When it comes to reading, we couldn't resist. We present our top five questions for young readers who can't find that second book to fall in love with.
Heidi Vonmayrhouser is a children's librarian in Milpitas, California. Her system to keep kids reading is to help them fall in love with new books over and over again.
Heidi is one of those investigative librarians. She likes to "dig into the interests" of her readers by asking lots of questions and then finding the perfect next book that fits the reader's interests and passions.
She shares her top 4 queries. And because this is a Top 5 list, we had to include our favorite question on Book Club for Kids.
Top 5 Questions for Readers Looking to Fall in Love with Another Book:
What do you do for fun?
Which books have you read recently?
Is there a book that you couldn't put down?
What book would you read in the summer for fun?
What's your favorite book of all time...and why?
It's that time of year when you can't escape Christmas carols. I'm not quite there yet, so instead of "let it snow" I'm singing "let them read, let them read, let them read."
Janise Buck from the Sacramento Public Library has a similar mantra: "all reading is good reading." Librarians have the motto emblazoned on their tee shirts. "There's something that interests everybody," says Janise.
But it may not be what you have in mind.
Don't sigh when they bring home a graphic novel. Janise says if your kid wants to read graphic novels, find them more. These days, there are more choices: historical, informational, even literature. "I recently read a Sherlock Holmes and a Jane Austen in graphic novel form," she says. It's a format that's interesting to them. It's all "real reading" The finger quotes are hers.
"Check out what other media they're consuming," she says. If it's the Jason Bourne films or "Mission Impossible," steer them toward James Patterson. "
"Don't try to pull them away from things that they're enjoying to give them things that you think are important. Instead, meet them where they're at and turn them on to things that are in their genre and in their interest."
A big topic at the National Council of Teachers of English convention was Family Book Clubs.
The program is voluntary. Kids and their parents read the book of the month and join other families at their child's school or public library to discuss the novel. The actual meeting is short by book club standards: at Auburn's elementary school, groups meet for half an hour either at 7 AM for doughnuts and juice and book talk, or at a noontime gabfest over pizza. Middle schoolers and their folks meet at the Auburn public library in the early evening hours. There are often book themed decorations and a fun quiz to kick things off.
Shannon Brandt, an instructional coach for Auburn City Schools, says parents in particular love the program. "It's like bringing back their bonding time," she says, "the days when they would crawl into bed with their kids and read aloud." Shannon says one parent confessed she was "heartbroken" when her kids outgrew the bedtime ritual and wanted to read on their own. Now, she says, the family has a shared experience again, rekindling the bonding she had missed.
It's not just the parents who enjoy the shared reading experience. According to Scholastic's biannual Kids & Family Reading Report, 80% of tweens and teens admit that they still like being read to by an adult.
The Auburn groups are multi-generational. One grandmother attends book clubs with all three of her grandchildren. And no one is left out: kids without a parent can bring a teacher.
Do you have a Family Book Club at your school or library? Tell us about it!
When you pick up a book, read a few pages, and just can't get into it, do you feel you're responsible to finish it anyway? Maybe it's twelve years of Catholic school, but I still feel guilty about quitting in the middle of a book.
I'm not the only one. In a 2013 article in The Atlantic about the "quiet shame" of the half-book reader, clinical psychologist Matthew Wilhelm says such guilt is normal. "There is a tendency for us to perceive objects as 'finished' or 'whole' even though they may not be. This motivation is very powerful and helps to explain anxiety around unfinished activities."
Sereena Hamm disagrees. Hamm is the librarian at Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington, DC. She casts a vote for free choice - particularly for younger readers. "Let them pick up new books and read them and quit," she says. "As many times as it takes for them to find the right one."
Hamm says forcing readers - particularly reluctant readers - into a book they're just "not into" actually makes it worse. The key, she says, is to keep looking for the book that speaks to them, a book they can fall in love with. "I think if you let them know that as long as they keep trying till they find the right thing, you can make a reader."
No, this is not about a Supreme Court nominee. It's all about persuading boys to pick up a book.
Perrine Punwani is an 8th grade English teacher at Hardy Middle School in Washington, DC. She doesn't pass judgement on what her students choose to read - as long as they're reading. Lately, she says she's been shopping for books of particular interest to her male students. She picked up some sports titles, but she's also been stacking her shelves with books on war and peace.
"I'm kind of obsessed with war in some ways," she says. Before she was a middle school teacher, Punwani was program director for conflict and environmental change at the International Rescue Committee. "I've always been obsessed with the idea of war and peace and how do we get there?" she says. "Especially in these times."
Punwani's passion has spread to her students - particularly the boys in her class who have fallen in love with historical fiction. She frequently recommends her favorite authors Steve Sheinkin and Nathan Hale. Books about war help students understand "the depths of humanity" and helps them navigate conflicts closer to home. "I think they gravitate to war because they're always kind of at war with what they're doing in school," she says. "You need your armor to survive."
Here on Book Club for Kids, we've tacked several novels with war as a central topic:
Tales From the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (Trojan War)
A Little Wicked by Janet Macreery (17th century Scottish clan wars)
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (U.S. Revolutionary War)
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (World War II)
I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (the 1970's military coup in Chile)
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (Sudanese civil war)
Pax by Sara Pennypacker - (a fictional war)
Need some more ideas? If your readers are interested in the Civil War, here are some suggestions. Here are some titles about World War II appropriate for young readers. There are also a number of books for kids about the Cold War.
We've been asked to share a few Book Club for Kids secrets. Specifically, how do we get kids to open up to us on the podcast about their hopes, dreams, fears, complaints, and anything else on their minds?
Our "secret sauce" for the Book Club for Kids is that we start with the book and wait for the moment when the conversation takes a left turn. And it always does. Then we follow wherever it leads.
Those sideways discussions are always the most enlightening. On one episode, kids in one of the safest suburbs in America confessed their concerns about security. Another day, seventh graders explained that dystopian novels are actually quite hopeful because their protagonists are female and the boys in the book treat them with respect. A pack of fifth grade boys admitted that while they resented and fought regularly with older siblings, they actually missed them when they went away to college. All of these conversations began with the book and took that left turn.
In some ways, it's easier for us to get kids to open up. We're not their parents or teacher or other authority figure. But you can do it, too! You can turn those carpool trips into real conversations.
So here's our top five ways to use a book to get a kid to talk to you.
Read the book. Borrow it after they go to bed or get your own copy. You can cheat and read the summary online, but it's harder to have a rich conversation when you're working from someone else's notes. Read the book and allow it to resonate with your own life experiences - stories you can share with your child.
Your kid is the expert. Think back to when you were 12 years old. If only an adult would treat you like you had a brain in your head, you'd tell them anything. Your young reader will welcome the opportunity to show you how much she/he knows about the book and the world at large. Start the conversation by asking about something in the book that puzzled you. Are rules of the dystopian world too confusing? Is there a back story for that flying dragon who shows up on page 72? Is there a pop culture reference that makes no sense? This is a good place to begin the conversation with your young reader.
Ask a followup question. You're getting warmed up now. Keep the conversation going.
Listen. Is your reader getting excited about a particular topic? This is your left turn signal. The conversation is about to take off in an unexpected direction. Follow your instincts!
Be willing to share something personal when appropriate. Listening is always better, but a willingness to be vulnerable and open is gold. It's an opportunity to communicate person to person, rather than adult-who-knows-better to child-who-should-listen-to-me.
And if all else fails, listen to Book Club for Kids together. Use the discussion in the episode as a jumping off point for your own discussion. Good luck!
Here are some other suggestions about kicking off book discussions from Book Riot, I Love Libraries, and BookBub.
For me, it was white lipstick. Everybody in 8th grade was either wearing it or talking about it and I had to have it. Oh, sure, it made you look half-dead. Call it early Goth. It was a fad.
Kate Funderburk says reading fads can turn an ordinary book into the “must have” accessory of the school year. Kate is the librarian at Codman Academy Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She says all you have to do is think back to the “Harry Potter” mania that spread through schools around the world. Kate says she sees a similar demand surge for anything by Raina Telgemeier. “You get one kid to read a book,” she says, “and get excited about it and start talking about it, and all of a sudden your whole class wants to read it.”
And then there’s “Eloise.”
The 1955 picture book by Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight was one of Kate’s favorites when she was a kid. After reading it to a group of third graders, Kate says it suddenly became “the” book of the year. For some reason, Kate says, the kids were fascinated and horrified by the tale of the sassy little girl who lived at the Plaza Hotel – though not for the reasons you’d think. “Does she have a phone?” the kids would ask. Kate says she had to explain the ancient technology known as a land line. The kids were particularly shocked that the nanny was smoking cigars indoors. Kate explained that back in the dark ages, people didn’t know much about the dangers of smoking. “Well, did they do it in cars?” they asked and on and on. Kate couldn’t keep the book on the shelves. She says any book can start a fad, particularly if it’s “kind of wacky and fun and you push it the right way.”
Here’s a wonderful blog post about “Eloise.”
Of course, if "Eloise" doesn’t work, maybe you can find your own fad book. Or perhaps this new generation would be fascinated and horrified by that white lipstick you still have in the back of your makeup drawer…
Did you see this article about kids and reading? It’s full of statistics that we already instinctively knew: that one in three teens do not read for pleasure. But 82% percent of high school seniors do find the time to check out Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. It’s why we’re all trying to instill the habit of reading for pleasure early in life. If you have suggestions or tips about how to get a kid to pick up a book, please share it with us.
I hate it when the book on my "want to read" list is checked out. Hate it. And I'm not the only one. When a desired book is missing from the library shelf, some kids would rather just go home.
While numerous studies have shown the importance of reading to reduce summer reading setback, Gina Bingham says the popularity of a library's summer reading program can actually turn off some readers. Gina is the assistant branch administrator at the Montclair Community Library in Dumfries, Virginia. She says the library's summer reading program can wipe out vast sections of the library. "A lot of our popular titles such as 'Big Nate' or 'Dog Man' - they're out!" Other times, she says, there are holds on those titles so it could be the end of summer before she can get these books into the hands of the kids who want them.
Gina says she tries to keep similar books on hand so the young reader can take home something to read. "And then the next thing you know, those kids come in and they're hooked on a new topic and it really does expand their reading list. They learn more."
She admits that it actually challenges the librarians. "You gotta be ready," she says, "especially when summer reading books are out."
One tool she relies on is Novelist - a data base available at most libraries. "You can type in the last book you read or the last book you loved and it will create a list," she says. Goodreads also has a book matchmaker. So does the Contra Costa Library.
Lucky me, I didn't have to look for a read-alike: a copy of Jesmyn Ward's "Salvage the Bones" just showed up from the library on my Kindle.
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.
I'm not a big golf fan - unlike my dad, who spent Fathers Day weekend glued to the TV, watching the U.S. Open. I just don't see the point. (Or maybe it was hitting myself in the head with a 9 iron during my one and only golf lesson...) But I do love baseball.
It's the same with books.
Leslie Smith is the school librarian at Trinity Episcopal Day School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She says when a child tells her they're not interested in books, she asks them to tell her their favorite TV show or movie. "It will give me insight into their personality," she says. "Knowing what they like to watch will tell me what kind of books they like to read."
For my dad, she might hand him the obvious: sports books. But human beings have a lot of passions, so she asks her readers to give her a list of their viewing habits. If they're interested in watching realistic TV programs like National Geographic, she might hand them a few animal books. Mysteries? Easy. If they like to watch silly, goofy shows, they might like really silly, goofy books.
And then? "Once they're hooked," she says, "it's usually easier to get them interested in other things."
Leslie says initially, she tries to pair the child with something that's more popular because it's 'cooler'. "People recognize it," she says, "and they're like, 'Oh, you're reading that? I've read that. It's cool!'" Later, she steers them toward titles that are less popular.
Some books fly under the radar screen. Leave it to the reading experts to find a book that gets even the most reluctant reader to check it out of the school library again and again and again.
The book is "Yummy, the Last Days of a Southside Shorty" by Jean Neri. It's a graphic non-fiction that examines the life of a young man in Chicago who fell into the gang life and committed a murder. The story is told through the eyes of a classmate.
Tasara Redekopp says, "This is a book that can save a life."
Tasara is the librarian at DC's Alice Deal Middle School. She says it's tough subject matter, but kids know that it's real life - and the reality resonates. "They think so much about it," she says. "They think deeply, they reread it, and then they read it again."
She says readers ask the big questions about Yummy. "Was he destined to end up this way? Could something have changed? Was he innately a bad person or was it because of his situation?"
The book includes quotes from a Time magazine article about the case. Tassara says that allows her to talk about creating fiction from fact. "Sometimes we have looked at the original non-fiction journalism and seen how it translates into the book." Then she and her students can explore how the imagination of a writer shapes the text.
Librarian Tassara says it's appropriate for fifth graders.
We always ask students who appear on the Book Club for Kids podcast to fill out a "customer satisfaction" survey. It's our way to get real feedback from real kids about how we can improve the show. Of course, we're not the only ones who use surveys to get customer comments. I dare you to order anything online these days without getting the followup email requesting your input.
But surveys can be a terrific tool for teachers, parents, and librarians trying to find the right book for the right kid.
Vernastene Black is an ELA teacher at Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C. She says it takes "a lot of poking and prodding" to get some kids to pick up a book. To help cut to the chase, she gives them a survey.
Vernastene is a big fan of Donalyn Miller, author of "The Book Whisperer," and her free quiz The Reading Interest-A-Lyzer. This two-page survey asks kids about their reading habits - do they read for pleasure? Which three books would they take on a month-long trip? Do they like to read more than one book at a time? Vernastene posts the Interest-A-Lyzer in a Google Doc and kids fill it out online.
The survey covers more than just reading-related activities. "You find out what they like to do in their spare time." Then, it's up to Vernastene to put in "the elbow grease to find the book that fits the bill." She continues the feedback loop, asking students to write her a letter about what they have read. "It's going to take a while," she warns. "But once you have their trust, and they know you're not making them do some kind of reading for a test, they'll be more willing to open up."
The biggest threat, she says, is killing the love for reading - when kids think the only reason to pick up a book is to prepare for a test. The key is getting them to think of reading as something enjoyable "that can take you to a new world."
We all have guilty pleasures. Mine include re-watching the Colin Firth comedy "What A Girl Wants" and eating half a bowl of raw cookie dough.
For readers at Pinchbeck Elementary School in Henrico, Virginia, the guilty pleasure is "Bad Kitty."
Dawn Johns is the 5th grade teacher at Pinchbeck. She's a big fan of letting kids pick their own reading material - without stressing too much about the reading level. Dawn says that includes book choices that may be too difficult or too easy for the reader. "You can't tell a child they're not allowed to read 'Harry Potter,' you have to let them choose and decide for themselves." She says if the student gets a few pages in and doesn't understand what they're reading, they'll move on to something else.
At the other end of the scale, Dawn says she has a lot of readers at all reading levels who love the "Bad Kitty" series by Nick Bruel.
For the uninitiated, "Bad Kitty" is a lot like my cat - cranky, selfish, and completely irresistible. It's a picture book, but Dawn says even the kids who read at grade six levels love this series and want to read it over and over again. "I can't tell them that they can't read something that they enjoy," she says. It's their guilty reading pleasure.
Dawn says kids relate to the character. It make them laugh. She says she keeps introducing them to other books, but doesn't look down her nose at the ones who keep coming back to "Bad Kitty." "They have to read something they enjoy reading," she says.
Do your readers have a guilty pleasure book? Do you? Tweet it to us @bookclubforkids with the #GuiltyReads!
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."