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.