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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: writing tips

Tip #39: The Art of the Interview

Kitty Felde

Loving kids

There was one real gift I brought to journalism: people would tell me things. Politicians, actors, firefighters, even minor league baseball pitchers: they all had some special story about themselves that they wanted to share.

Nearly all of us are hungry to share something of ourselves with others. All it takes to get someone to open up is a non-threatening line of questioning and the willingness to listen.

So why not tap into that hunger to share to get a kid to pick up a book?

Cathy Puett Miller is known as the "Literacy Ambassador." In anessay in Education World, she says asking questions of young readers helps those who struggle with reading to find a "worthwhile purpose" for the endeavor.

Ask them why they are reading a particular book or magazine or graphic novel. Nudge them toward articulating how the material connects to their own lives. If they're shy in a one-on-one discussion, initiate a small group discussion, again leading the conversation to find out how the book relates to each reader personally. 

After all, that "worthwhile purpose" is the secret reason most of us read: to find out something that will help us in our own lives or help us to better understand ourselves.

Got a tip of your own to get reluctant readers to pick up a book? Send us an email!

Tip #33: Be a Thespian

Kitty Felde

Congressman Mark Takano

A fellow podcaster brought his 3 year old over to our place last weekend to see the Cherry Blossom Festival fireworks. He confessed that his young son Vinny loves to have books read to him "in character." Not the characters in the book. Vinny wants dad to read the book using the voice of one of his stuffed animals.

Apparently this is not unusual.

Librarian Camille Ray at the East Rancho Dominguez branch of the LA County Library says using odd and unusual voices is always a crowd pleaser - and the perfect way to make reading fun. For younger patrons who show no interest in books, she says she'll "read a recipe out like like an opera singer or the TV guide listings like a parrot." She says letting kids know that everyday print can be fun leads them back to the stacks where they'll discover "how engaging a book can be!"

Reading aloud isn't just for pint-sized readers. One of Book Club for Kids' celebrity readers, former teacher and current Congressman Mark Takano from California, says it worked particularly well with his high school English students. 

You can hear more from Rep. Takano on the episode FLYING THE DRAGON.

Tip #31: Would You Read Them With a Fox? Would You Read Them in a Box?

Kitty Felde


Why do I still have "Green Eggs and Ham" stuck in my brain? I haven't read it in years. But it's there. Forever. I do not like green eggs and ham." I do not like them, Sam I am.

But the power of poetry can be used for good as well. Children's librarian Pam Rogers is host and producer of the Buttons & Figs podcast, which uses great works of nonsense to inspire kids to create nonsense of their own.

To inspire kids to love reading prose, Pam suggests: try poetry. "Our language is like music," she says, "full of rhythm and sound." Which means read a poem out loud. "Don't hesitate to select a passage with difficult vocabulary," she says, "just be sure it includes language that soars: musical to the ear and challenging to the mind."    

A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology concludes that our brains are hard wired to appreciate the rhythms and patterns of poetry. But does this translate to the brains of young readers? Pam Rogers says when she hears kids repeating passages from a shared poem, hears them playing with the sounds of our language, hears them asking a librarian where to find similar stories, "I know, at a minimum, I have expanded their orbit."

So I guess I'll have Dr. Seuss with me for a while.

PS: Of course, it's not just poems that get stuck in our heads. If you've ever wondered why songs get stuck in our ears, here's a fun NPR story. The explanation: an earworm is our brain singing.

Tip #30: Give Them Your Job

Kitty Felde

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Writer Lynda Mullaly Hunt was a reluctant reader until a wonderful teacher helped her fall in love with books. Her passion for literature led her to her first career as a teacher. 

Lynda says she discovered a trick for turning her students into careful readers: let them be the teacher.

She handed out some of her own stories to her students - stories with lots and lots of mistakes. "They were terrible," she says. "Off topic, deadly boring." Lynda would go out of her way to make them awful.

Then she handed each of her students a red pen and invited them to mark up her work. "You be the teacher," she told them. "Fail me if you like, but you'd better explain why."

She says her students gave her "a lot of F minuses." They had a great time circling various problematic sections. They'd write, "why don't you try this?" and "could you think about this?" up and down the page.

Lynda encouraged them to be honest. And they were. Brutally honest. Playing teacher to a page of poor writing made them more conscientious about their own work - and more appreciative of reading material that followed the rules. It became more pleasurable to pick up a book when you didn't have to fight your way through bad grammar and purple prose.

You can hear more from Lynda Mullaly Hunt on the episode of her book FISH IN A TREE.

Tip #18: Writing = Better Readers

Kitty Felde

Readers from Chicago's Carter G. Woodson Charter School

Readers from Chicago's Carter G. Woodson Charter School

We talk a lot about the link between writing and reading. Good readers make better writers. But writing also makes better readers.

The challenge? Writing is hard. And scary.

We have a few suggestions from the professionals about getting started.

  • Try something familiar. Write an "old school" letter. Or send an email.PBSKids has a simple "how to" guide.
  • Remind kids that every writer faces the terror of a blank page. And survives. Writer Sally Kerrigan has a terrific blog post. She says thinking is key.
  • Esther Goldenberg is the author of "Hypatia Academy," the book we're tackling on the newest Book Club for Kids podcast. She says everybody tells you to write "what you know." And we all "know a lot of things." For example, Esther knew how to memorize the digits of pi. So she put it in her book. She says kids know lots of things - things they may not think are at all important, but that would be fascinating to anyone else. "Pick one particular day or one particular incident," she says, "and start from there."

    Got a tip of your own? Email us! More great tips at the website!