Reading Ahead: Books for Ages 9 to 12 (March/April 2008)

These are the new books we’ll be reviewing in a few months that caught our eye.

Champion Sleeper! by Tim Young. The book cover is a Bassett hound sleeping on a pillow next to a trophy. Thumbing through it, the illustrations just made me smile. This is a text-heavy picture book that looks to have potential for reluctant and remedial readers. (Murphy’s Bone Publishing, 2008)

Coraline (Graphic Novel Adaptation) by Neil Gaiman (adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell). I am not usually a fan of graphic novels, but the “verbatim adaptation” of this classic intrigues me. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Do the Math #2: The Writing on the Wall by Wendy Lichtman. I admit I am allergic to math, but I don’t want my daughter to be. I love the idea of a math-loving eighth grade girl as our heroine! (Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy (Book 1: The Hero Revealed) by William Boniface. This has the feel of a great summer paperback. It’s a chapter book, but there are some great comic-like illustrations, too. Looks like it might be a fun read for a reluctant reader. (HarperTrophy, 2006)

The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper. I loved Shakespeare … not sophomore English in high school, I mean college. William Shakespeare was one of those writers who made the pursuit of a degree in English seem relevant. It will be interesting to see if this fictional tale will draw a younger generation to the Bard’s great works. (Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

My Dog May Be a Genius by Jack Prelutsky. April is National Poetry Month, so it only seems fitting to include one book. Kids need to learn about and appreciate poetry, and this illustrated book looks like it could be just the right hook. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

MySpace/Our Planet by the MySpace Community with Jeca Taudte. This is a how-to guide for teens about going “green.” It is jam-packed with informatin and suggestions. I’ll be curious to see what the teens think! (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

No Sisters Sisters Club by Linda Salisbury. This is the second title in the Bailey Fish Adventure series. Its very topical: how would you react if your long-lost dad knocked on the door … and brought siblings you didn’t even know you had? (Tabby House, 2006)

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French. The woman on the cover (and her discription on the back) will remind you of Cruella de Ville. This is a chapter book for 7- to 9-year-olds, but is VERY lightly illustrated. I am looking at it for its potential as a title for reluctant or remedial readers. (Candlewick Press, 2008)

The Sisters Club by Megan McDonald. The story looks interesting (four very different sisters), but what really catches my eye is the setup. There is traditional narrative AND play dialogue. I like the idea of giving “parts” to the kids to read. I’ll be curious to see how it plays out (no pun intented)! That offers real potential for reluctant and remedial readers alike. (Candlewick Press, 2008)

The Sky Village (Kaimira, Book 1) by Monk Ashland and Nigel Ashland. I am intrigued by the idea of a story with its base set in Asia. The cover image is captivating and mysterious. The back cover says 13-year-old Rom is trying to survive in the “ruins of Las Vegas.” That, alone, is a pretty interesting visual! (Candlewick Press, 2008)

Reading Round-up

Last week I started organizing my virtual life … and finally “launched” my Google Reader. It was a wonderful journey, with lots of hours spent reading through all the posts I felt like I “should have been” reading all along.

The result is a new column here at What Happens Next. Every Monday I’ll put together a collection of reading- and literacy-related posts from the previous week. When it comes to reading, there is no single place or no single person with “the” answer, so I’m happy to share other people’s thoughts … and give them all the credit.

Turn Off TV Week. You can Read about Turn Off TV Week at the official site, or, better yet, go over to A Wrung Sponge and see some of Cloudscome’s great ideas.

Reading with Kids: A Gender Gap? On Saturday, the Well-Read Child talked about a recent poll in the UK that focused on whether/not dads read with their kids. Jill offers her perspective on parents sharing a book with a kid. Read it here.

Audio Books: An Argument worth listening to.
Back in March, Jen Robinson wrote about a new Audio Booksite for kids books called Audible Kids. Here is her post. I missed it. [Remember, I didn’t have my blog reader set up!] Thankfully, I learned about it when I read Jill’s post about her experiences. I am an admitted audio book skeptic. Now I’m not so sure. If I wear my read-aloud-to-your-kids hat, is it all that different? Audible Kids also has a page of free downloads to promote Reading is Fundamental and literacy.

Keep Kids Reading this Summer: Start a Book Club

I was walking down the hall at a local elementary school where I tutor, and happened to catch the morning announcement. “Today is the 145th day of school.” That means, there are only 35 days left until … yep … SUMMER!

What’s a parent to do? We want the kids to have fun (like we did), but we don’t want them to forget about school completely. After all, we have big plans for (their) college! They need to keep practicing their skills … especially their reading.

One way to keep kids reading this summer is to get them involved in a book club. With a little bit of research, you may discover some local youth book clubs. If they want to join an existing group, your job is done. But many of us don’t feel comfortable being the “new kid,” so let them start their own. If they can read with their friends, they’re more likely to keep up the activity … and if they get to pick the books (and don’t get quizzed about them), you can bet they’ll keep reading. Not sure where to begin? Start with these pointers.

Let them decide on their club’s identity. The best way to get kids interested in reading is to find out what interests the kids. If they like magic, let them start a group where they read books about magic.

Let them pick the books. Summer is the perfect time to let kids read the things THEY like. They have had their fill of the stuff the have to read for school. Now give them space to pick their own stuff. It can be magazines, it can be graphic novels. It DOESN’T have to be a 150-page tome.

Keep it simple. Keep the rules to a minimum … and let the kids set the guidelines. You may or may not have a moderator. They may or may not all read the same thing at the same time. The club may just be a set time where a group of kids get together with their reading material to read and chat. As parents, we might hope they’re reading stuff that has real characters or meaningful stories. But it isn’t about us. It’s about them.

Keep it short.
Even in the summer, kids keep their schedules loaded with activities. The club’s activities need to be planned, but they don’t need to be onerous. Does everyone go to the pool everyday? Get them to “book it” at the pool … or for 30 minute before/after practice. Reading together one or two days a week is a good start.

Make sure everyone is on the same page. Float the idea with your kids and see what they think. If it gets a lukewarm response, that’s Okay. Drop it and come back in a day or two. Start by asking questions and see if it moves up the “cool” scale. If they can think of three or four friends who they want to ‘club’ with, then call or email their parents.

If you are already in a book club, we’d love to hear from you … tell us what has worked for you and what hasn’t.. Our goal is to help kids become lifelong readers. So if you’ve got pointers, we’re happy to share! Just leave a comment.