Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Quest


Several months ago my husband and I started a book club for older kids at the homeless shelter where I have been reading to little kids for several years.  It seemed so easy in concept:  We would supply the books for the 7 kids (ages 10-14) and then we would meet with them after several weeks with plenty of snacks.  Everyone would have a chance to talk and we would maybe take home some new ideas.
The first book was The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a graphic novel that hooks you from the first page.  It worked exactly as planned.  We elicited their ideas for successive books.
But by the third meeting, it was clear that my husband and I were the only ones who had read the book.  Eating pizza together was no substitute for a good book discussion.  We went around the table reading paragraphs of the book they should have read.  Then it became clear that several of the kids had trouble pronouncing the words and even more had trouble understanding what they meant.  No wonder they had trouble reading a book that was on maybe a 5th grade reading level.
So we backed off to short stories for a couple of sessions.  Some of them were flash fiction, only a page long.  This was a big improvement in terms of getting them to read.
But we are still searching for the perfect book that is easily read and understood without being too juvenile.  It seems difficult to satisfy all these requirements.  I’m heading over to Arlington’s Central Library today to talk to people in Youth Services who probably have dealt with similar kids.  Maybe they will be able to make some good suggestions.
We intended the book club to be purely fun, not another assignment that required too much work.  I’m hoping to get them hooked on reading to the point where they will turn to books instead of electronics at least sometimes for entertainment!
Feel free to offer your suggestions of books that might appeal to our kids.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't what you asked for, but my first thought was, "Maybe they could collaboratively write their own short-short story"...

F.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon F -- We actually gave the kids notebooks and pens to write their own flash fiction during our last 2 sessions, offering to write for anyone who needed help. What we learned is with one exception they seemed able only to talk about their own experiences.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first thought is that 10-14 is too wide of an age range. The"hook" books will be different. I have had the best luck with reading the books out loud, at least until they are hooked - then send them home with a copy and see if they will continue on their own - next meeting see what you get and if necessary continue reading out loud - even if they don't READ the book if they keep coming back, you know they must be enjoying it.

2:21 PM  
Blogger karen said...

Hi Barbara
I was going to actually say what Anon said just before me here. I think there is nothing like reading out loud to kids, to get them interested in reading. I'm speaking from experience with my 2 stepsons, mainly. Sadly, for so many kids these days reading is an alien concept of entertainment, and reading out loud is a good transition from the electronic/visual stuff till eventually gradually learning to read it on their own. I had great results with books that had sequels, or part of a series of book.. i will try and think of some of the ones we enjoyed most in our reading sessions, when the kids were that age, and will write them down for you, in case this is helpful!

4:43 AM  

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