Posts Tagged ‘reluctant readers’

Score with this Young Adult Mystery: Breakaway by Michael Betcherman

Posted on August 20th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts writes about young adult mystery: Breakaway by Michael BetchermanBreakaway written by Michael Betcherman
Young adult mystery published by Razorbill an imprint of Penguin Canada



Read our interview with Michael Betcherman

Those of you who visit our website regularly will know that I am a mother to two teenage boys and that one of my sons is a hockey player. Very often friends will comment about the challenges of encouraging teenage boys to read. We’ve been fortunate with our boys, they both enjoy reading and are good readers. Unfortunately, for some kids, it is not so easy. I often wonder if some reluctant readers simply have not found a book that matches their interests.

Last month, while on holiday, I had an opportunity to read Michael Betcherman’s first mystery novel: Breakaway. It was a finalist for the 2013 John Spray Mystery Award.

Set in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Breakaway tells the story of a 16 year old Midget hockey player whose father is wrongly convicted of murder. Nick Macklin’s dad (a former professional hockey player) has been convicted for killing another former NHL player who once viciously cross-checked him in the head. and ended his playing career.

Nick is devastated by his father’s conviction and is determined to uncover the truth but it is not an easy job. Nick’s anger and disappointment with his dad’s conviction results in problems at school, the loss of good friends and his involvement with minor hockey.

He remembered something his mother once told him. “Tragedy is part of life. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. The trick in life is get as much joy as you can.” As long as dad was in jail, tragedy would be part of his life.

Bit by bit, as time passes, Nick begins to recover from the shock of his dad’s conviction. He starts to focus more on his schoolwork, he becomes more social and he resumes playing hockey but his obsession with investigating the crime and finding the murderer does not falter.

Young adults, especially those who play hockey will enjoy Breakaway’s hockey theme. The book references NHL, WHL and minor hockey teams, rinks and the dynamics of playing a sport at high level. At the heart, this is a story of loyalty and determination as Nick Macklin remains steadfast in his determination to uncover the truth.

Recommended for youth aged 14 and up.

Note: This book has been published with two different covers. The cover shown above is the American cover. This photo features the Canadian cover (adjacent to a rather nice pool).Breakaway by Michael Betcherman poolside

Breakaway at Amazon.com

Breakaway at Amazon.ca



Meet Author Karen Autio

Posted on August 15th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

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Storytime Standouts interviews author Karen AutioAfter growing up horse-crazy and book-loving in Nipigon, Ontario, Canada, Karen Autio now lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, only a little less horse-crazy and far more book-loving. Karen graduated from the University of Waterloo and worked as a software developer for several years, then decided to pursue her long held dream of writing for children. She signed up for a “Writing Fiction for Children” course at the local college, joined a writers’ group, and began writing—and re-writing—her stories.



Karen is the author of a trilogy of historical novels for readers ages 10 and up: Second Watch, Saara’s Passage, and Sabotage. She loves to interact with students, sharing her journey to becoming an author and her passion for research and the resulting “jigsaw puzzle” of transforming historical facts into a fascinating story.

Author website

Author Facebook page

Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?

Sabotage by Karen AutioSabotage, enemy aliens, paranoia, and German spies… in Canada? Sabotage is the third book in my trilogy of Canadian historical novels for young readers (all standalone reads) in which the courage and wits of siblings Saara and John Mäki are put to the test. The trilogy tells the adventures and mishaps of this Finnish-immigrant family living in Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay), Ontario, in 1914-15. From travelling on the palatial but doomed Empress of Ireland steamship, to tuberculosis sanatoriums, to the compelling untold stories of the home front in Canada during the First World War, these books bring history to life. Readers discover both how much has changed since the early 1900s and what remains timeless, such as fickle friends, new-immigrant experiences, the struggle to do the right thing, and family dynamics.

Sabotage is suitable for any age of reader from grade 4 up and is of equal interest to boys and girls. Partly that’s due to the story being told by both Saara and her younger brother John, in alternating chapters. I’m delighted that through doing research I learned the truth behind what I thought was a made-up story I’d heard growing up in Nipigon, Ontario. There actually were German agents at work in my hometown in 1915 plotting to destroy the Canadian Pacific Railway bridge.

Sabotage is a 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile/YA Crime Book Finalist and is shortlisted for the 2015 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award.

Sabotage at Amazon.com

Sabotage at Amazon.ca

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favourite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?

Rosemary Sutcliff. Her historical novels drew me into their time periods. The characters and settings seemed so real, I felt like I was living the story. After immersing myself in one of her books for several chapters, I’d look around me, puzzled. Where am I? In particular I remember enjoying The Eagle of The Ninth and The Lantern Bearers. I’m not surprised that her writing resonated with me because of how historical fiction has become my favourite genre to read and write.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?Second Watch by Karen Autio

Two experiences come to mind. At a recent presentation to elementary school students in an Ottawa public library, the majority of them had read my book Second Watch in which my characters are involved in the Empress of Ireland shipwreck. After my presentation, a boy handed me a piece of paper. He’d been so affected by the story and the tragedy, that he’d written and illustrated a poem for me about the Empress of Ireland. What a special gift.

The other experience resulted from my presentation in a school where I did a reading from Second Watch. Afterward, the librarian told me a student who hated reading informed her he just had to get my book and read it. A couple of weeks later I received an email from the librarian saying the boy’s attitude had changed from hating reading to “I can read this!” What an honour to have been part of that transformation.

How do you stay connected with your readers?

I have a website and an author Facebook page where I regularly post information relevant to children’s book publishing and writing, my book news, and photos from my book tours. I’ve had the privilege of going on several book tours, in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario. I love meeting readers whether at school or library presentations or at signings in bookstores or at book clubs. My grade 5 student editors for Saara’s Passage became friends with me on Facebook and I still keep in touch with them that way (both just graduated from high school). Whenever a reader emails me, I’m happy to reply.

What are the joys of being an author? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?

There is certainly joy and satisfaction in the writing, but I’d say my greatest pleasure as an author is to hear from readers about how they’ve connected with my characters and stories. One of my favourite emails from a young reader included her describing my books as “real page turners” and then sharing her response to my character Saara: “I think we would be friends if she was real.” Also, it’s such a delight whenever my books and presentations inspire writers of all ages and get kids reading who were reluctant or infrequent readers.

If you weren’t an author, what sort of work do you envision yourself doing? Have you had other careers or do you have another career now?

As a kid, my future dream job alternated between children’s book illustrator and jockey! Although I still enjoy drawing, writing has become my passion. And before entering high school I’d already grown too tall to be a jockey. For several years I worked as a software developer, and since 2004 when I’m not busy writing I’m editing other writers’ manuscripts as a freelance copyeditor.

Saara's Passage by Karen AutioDo you do school or library presentations?

I welcome the opportunity to present to intermediate students in schools and libraries across Canada. I love sharing my passion for researching history and writing historical fiction, and talking about the writing process. During my 60-minute interactive presentation, I:
• engage students in Canadian history with a lively, visually appealing presentation
• spark enthusiasm for writing
• focus on the immigrant experience with curricular tie-ins
• read a brief excerpt from one of my books
• reveal how family stories inspired me to write novels
• unravel the process of publishing and book design
• include time for students to ask questions

Teacher resources are available for all of my historical novels and can be downloaded from my website. For more information, please visit www.karenautio.com/SchoolVisits.html
and www.facebook.com/KarenAutioAuthor

Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy

Posted on April 22nd, 2014 by Jody

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Good Things Come In Threes; The Ascendance Trilogy





The False Prince,  Book One of the Ascendance TrilogyThis isn’t a scientific fact but it is a completely accurate statement when applied to Jennifer Nielson’s Ascendance trilogy. After Carolyn recommended The False Prince, I wrote a post (okay, gushed shamelessly) about the book. I have never, in thirteen years of teaching, read an entire trilogy or series of books to a class. For one thing, there’s the time factor. I tend to read, at least, one book per term for read aloud. I try to do a selection of books, based on student interest. This year, we started the year with One for the Murphy’s and I planned another book for after The False Prince. I didn’t plan to finish four full novels before Spring Break. I also didn’t plan to fall head over heels for Jaron or for my class to be so captivated by his story that even my most reluctant reader, the one who claimed he would rather do anything before read, that we couldn’t focus until we knew how it all played out.
The Runaway King,   Book Two of the Ascendance TrilogyWe read through the second book, The Runaway King, even more engaged. More action unfolded and we knew Jaron now, cared about him. We read every single day, without fail. If I had a substitute teacher in for me, I wouldn’t let them read to my class. I would tuck the books away so the kids didn’t say, “Oh, she reads that to us every day.” I’ve never done that. I also made a promise to my class because they love that I hadn’t already read the books- I told them I would not read ahead. I would learn Jaron’s story along with them. Perhaps that is part of what made them connect to the story. My reactions were real and in the moment and the kids like that- they like seeing their teacher as a real person- one who gets outraged when the main character is suffering or maybe sheds a few tears when something heartbreaking happens. It gives them the freedom to attach strongly to the books as well. While we are reading, we are part of that world. Which is why, when Runaway King finished with a cliff hanger, we had no other option. We had to know. So we moved on to Shadow Throne and as much as I loved the first two, this one was my favorite. I loved watching who Jaron became, how my students reacted to what was happening, learning how it all unfolded and came together. My reluctant reader? He bought all three books and told me that he “didn’t make the same silly promise to not read ahead”. He brought them in to show me. As much as I loved these books, connected with them, the fact that they reached so many students, even the ones that did not want to be reached, made me love them more.
The Shadow Throne, Book Three of the Ascendance TrilogyI have posted before about how important I think sequels and trilogies are for reluctant readers. If you can find something they can latch onto, get immersed in, then you want to know there’s more waiting for them. Though there are no more in this series we loved, the students are now looking around the library differently. They’re looking for the next book that they will fall for the way we did these three. And while they’re looking, they’re reading. Reading is a gift. No matter how many times I tell my students this, the ones who just haven’t found the book that pulls them all the way in will never fully believe it without proof. This trilogy was proof for some of the students in my class. It spurred discussions, connections, and debates. Each book made us want more and the most important thing is, they delivered. There are many series where you read the first, love it, and then move on and the second one just doesn’t have the same draw as the original. One of the things that continuously got to me during the readings, was how far Ms. Nielsen pushed her characters and her readers. These stories are amazing tales of courage and redemption. Of making something out of nothing and of finding the way out of even the most harrowing situations. When the students look back, when I look back, these three books will be a large piece of what made this year special.

The False Prince at Amazon.com

The Runaway King at Amazon.com

The Shadow Throne at Amazon.com

The False Prince at Amazon.ca

The Runaway King at Amazon.ca

The Shadow Throne at Amazon.ca

The False Prince – Delivers Adventure, Mystery and Suspense

Posted on August 21st, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen - terrific middle grade fiction



Storytime Standouts recommends terrific middle grade fiction including The False Prince

The False Prince written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Juvenile fantasy/adventure novel, the first book in The Ascendance Trilogy published by Scholastic

There’s nothing better than enjoying a terrific book while on holidays and I had the good fortune to tuck The False Prince into my bag when we went away last month. We were headed camping and our beach site was gorgeous. It wasn’t long before I sat down on and entered the captivating world of The False Prince.

King Eckbert, Queen Erin and Crown Prince Darius all die under very mysterious circumstances and one of their noblemen initiates devious plan. His intention is to substitute an orphan for the king’s long lost son and only remaining heir. Conner envisions the orphan will impersonate Prince Jaron, return “home” and ascend to the throne. Once installed, he imagines the orphan will have no choice but to do his bidding.

Conner scoops up four orphans from the streets and takes them to his vast residence. Once there, they share a room as they learn to sword fight and ride horses. The boys are schooled in King Eckbert’s family history and are taught to read. In short, Conner will not be satisfied until each of the boys learns to behave as a prince should.

Sage is the most outspoken and defiant of the orphans. He challenges and annoys Conner whilst outwitting the other potential impostors. Sage moves about secret passageways while his rivals are sleeping and he is punished repeatedly for his misdeeds.

Connor lifted my face and inspected it for cuts and bruises. “You’re none the worse after a stay in my dungeons. I hope the experience humbled you.”

He took the blank expression on my face as an answer and continued, “You’re a difficult young man, Sage, but I suspect that comes from your lack of discipline and supervision, which means I can train it out of you.”

Well suited to middle grade readers, including reluctant readers, The False Prince is an exciting, accessible fantasy/adventure that will have special appeal for boys. Highly recommended.

The False Prince is available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook and ebook formats.

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy at Amazon.com

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy at Amazon.ca

The False Prince won a 2012 Cybil Award in the Fantasy & Science Fiction Category

Pet-loving friends highlight generously illustrated chapter book: The Great Dog Disaster

Posted on June 24th, 2013 by Carolyn Hart

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image of cover art for generously illustrated chapter book, The Great Dog DisasterThe Great Dog Disaster written by Katie Davies and illustrated by Hannah Shaw
Generously illustrated chapter book published by Simon and Schuster

Suzanne and Anna are great friends who live next door to each other. The wall between their two homes is so thin that, if they try, they can hear each other’s family discussions. When Suzanne’s mom inherits Great-Aunt Deidra’s dog, the two girls are thrilled until they actually meet Beatrice. It seems Great-Aunt Deidra’s dog is old and slow and smelly. Undaunted, the girls are determined to make Beatrice behave like they believe a proper dog should before medical bills and incontinence cause Suzanne’s dad to do something drastic.image of a spread from The Great Dog Disaster, a generously illustrated chapter book

This generously illustrated chapter book will appeal to both boys and girls (aged 8-12), especially those with a fondness for dogs. At times, poignent, The Great Dog Disaster will encourage readers to consider the relationship between Great-Aunt Deidra and Beatrice, how neighbours and community can be important and how the girls’ determination to make a difference has far-reaching implications. Ms. Shaw’s charming illustrations and amply-spaced text will appeal to reluctant readers.

Note: Throughout the book, Anna refers to “Me and Suzanne.” If grammar mistakes are a problem for you, The Great Dog Disaster will not be a good choice.

Website for the Great Critter Capers series of generously illustrated chapter books.

The Great Dog Disaster at Amazon.com

The Great Dog Disaster at Amazon.ca

10 Ways to help upper elementary students enjoy reading

Posted on May 25th, 2013 by Jody

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10 Ways to help upper elementary students enjoy reading

There’s a great quote by Oscar Wilde that says: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”. It’s a powerful quote and similar to the question: “Who are you when no one’s watching?” Both quotes/questions, I think, speak to being yourself, in your actions and in your choices. This includes reading and writing. One of the best ways to get middle grade students involved in reading and writing is to encourage them to learn more about themselves and go with what interests them.

What are some other ways to engage your middle grade / upper elementary students? Here’s what’s worked for me this year:



1. Get to know your students and their interests. Most kids who say they don’t like to read haven’t found a book that fits with who they are. Sometimes they are a little unclear on what appeals to them. They might not realize how many genres there are or that even if they are into sports, they might prefer mythology to sport related books. Case in point: I play absolutely no sports and have no athletic ability, but love to read books and watch movies where atheletes are the main characters.Storytime Standouts' guest contributor shares an Oscar Wilde quote and 10 ways to help middle grade students enjoy reading

2. Choose with them. Students like attention and we don’t get much chance for one on one or small group. When you go to the library with them, utilize the library time. Look through the shelves with them. Ask what some of the kids have chosen, show interest, show them some you’ve found. Check in with them or pick a few you think they might like. It gives you a chance to connect with them and get some insight into how they choose.

3. Take their suggestions. It is a big thing when a reluctant reader comes to you and says, “I think you would like this book I read.” READ IT. They read it and now are furthering their connection with you; even if you don’t like it, you can discuss the parts you did or didn’t enjoy with them and engage them in comprehension, oops, I mean conversation.

4. Be honest about your struggles and strengths as a reader. I have two struggles that constantly come up: I am a terribly slow reader and I don’t read aloud very well. Picture books are one thing but I stumble a lot reading novels aloud. The kids feel more relaxed about not being perfect if we’re honest about the fact that we aren’t either. We don’t encourage kids to only play sports they excel at if they get true joy from a certain one. Likewise, you don’t have to be ‘the best’ at reading to enjoy it.

5. Challenge them in unique ways. Kids love competition (well, most kids). Do a teacher vs. student challenge for who can read the most, give prizes or reading points when milestones are reached, celebrate reading at an individual and classroom level. I do Reading Bingo with my class and depending on how many bingos they get, they can get out of an assignment or choose a brand new book from scholastic. The bingo is mandatory but what they do with it (bare minimum or all out) is up to them.

6. Read a book to your class for the simple pleasure of reading. For my read aloud, I tend to shy away from making them do writing activities or exercises. I want them to see that books can be just for fun and the excitement of getting involved in the character’s story. Generally, if I have a writing assignment, I will use our read aloud as an example. This week, we made character pamphlets. I chose the character from our read aloud to demonstrate the process but they chose from their guided reading books.

7. Read them picture books. Kids of all ages (and adults) love picture books. They have strong messages, great rhythm, and are often funny. They enjoy looking at the pictures and there are endless activities at the upper grades you can do using picture books.

8. Teach them how to decide if a book is not working for them. Kids think that adults expect them to finish everything they start and lots of times, we do. But, I’m unlikely to finish a book that I really don’t connect with or enjoy. If it’s curriculum related and it must be finished, then that’s just life. But, if it’s for silent reading or read aloud, it’s perfectly fine to pick up a book, realize it’s not for you, and take it back. In fact, it shows strength as a reader to recognize what appeals to you.

9. Just let them read. We focused on non-fiction a lot this year as an intermediate team at my school. Until this year, I’ve always said that silent reading was for reading our ‘within our reading level’ books. Once we started focusing on how to teach non-fiction and how to get kids to choose these books, I wondered why, especially when I just want kids to READ, I was limiting them. Now, they can read anything that is appropriate at school. We do need to make time for their ‘grade-level’ reading but in the end, if they read, they improve at reading.

10. Show them the connection between reading and writing. In my class, we use writing every day to do this. They have become stronger readers and writers through the process. Those that struggled with reading out loud are getting stronger. They are recognizing errors in their writing, finding topics to write about because they have broader interests, trying new genres like poetry and non-fiction. They don’t have to write something every time they read but ask them to think about and share the connection they see between reading and writing.

My goal is for students to realize the amazing journeys they can have just from reading a book. We live in a digital age and yes, technology is essential and important. However, if we can get kids curled up with a good book, turning pages, reaching for the sequel, we are encouraging them to become stronger at a skill that is not only essential but can bring them endless enjoyment. Never underestimate the power of a great book.

Interviews with Two Reluctant Readers

Posted on December 10th, 2012 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Conducts Interviews with Reluctant ReadersThis year, I have a few students who don’t love to read. They and their parents have been honest about this. Of course, when a nine or ten year old tells me they don’t like to read, I wonder “How is that possible?” For those of us who love to read, or find it easy, it seems impossible. It’s not; if reading is difficult for you, it becomes a chore. For parents, it becomes an argument with your kids because you know they need to be reading, but it’s hard to make them. Over the years, the students in my class that haven’t enjoyed reading are not being denied the opportunity to read. They have access to books, loving parents (who enjoy reading and model it), they live in print rich environments, and have capable oral language skills. So, it is not for any of these reasons, necessarily, that they have become reluctant readers.

Engaging students in conversation is a very simple and easy way to learn more about them. They like conversing with their teacher; telling stories and sharing information. I asked two of my reluctant readers ten questions on Friday.

1. Did you like reading when you started the school year?

2. Why or why not?

3. Do you like reading now, at least more than you did? Why or why not?

4. What makes you not like a book?

5. What makes you like a book?

6. Do you think reading is important?

7. Why or why not?

8. What makes you stop reading a book?

9. What makes you not want to put a book down?

10. Do you have any particular books you enjoy?

I asked this of one boy and one girl who I knew had some reading struggles but in the past month have increased their time spent reading considerably.

The answers were surprisingly similar. Obviously, the sample size is small and the conditions are not “test worthy” but I found the results made me wonder “Are they really reluctant?”Storytime Standouts' Guest Contributor Interviews Reluctant Readers

1. They both admitted to not liking reading in September. It wasn’t something they wanted to do when they had free time.

2. Answers ranged from it wasn’t fun to it was boring.

3. In the last month, they have both started to enjoy reading and said it was because they’d found books that they liked and enjoyed.

4. A book disengages them when the story isn’t good or it’s hard to follow. If they aren’t interested in the topic, they don’t want to read it.

5. Much like myself, one of the first things that draws them is the cover. Then the story and what’s inside. Are there graphics? Is it fast paced? Is it funny?

6/7. They both agreed that reading is important because you learn things and need to do it for school. Sadly, neither of them said that it’s important because it can transport you to a new world or because it can change the way you look at someone or something. Or because it is important to do things you enjoy. We’ll get there.

8. A boring plot line and a lot of words are enough to make them silent stare rather than silent read.

9. They both found books that appealed to them individually, which revealed a bit about who they are. The boy loves hockey and has recently discovered books like Rink Rats. The girl is a curious sort (though she’ll admit to the term ‘snoopy’) and has begun reading through Carolyn Keen’s graphic novel version of Nancy Drew. She has read seven in the last two months. This is proof that we read what appeals to us as people; what compels us personally.

10. As mentioned, books on hockey, mysteries, and graphic novels are on the list. Books that are long can be intimidating. A series, such as Nancy Drew, keeps them hooked because they know there’s more on a character they’ve already connected with.

It’s not exactly a research-based understanding of what makes kids turn away from or toward reading, but it gave me valuable information. I don’t want to overwhelm them. I gauge their reactions and am honest about it being okay to not have a book appeal to you. I share my own reading struggles (I read painfully slowly) and tell them what makes me want to read. I know, now, that I’ve opened a doorway and we need to go through it now, while they’re engaged.

How does this transfer to reading the science text book and getting valuable information? If they’re reading for their enjoyment, they’re reading! They’re practicing and decoding and comprehending. This is powerful and will eventually transfer. In addition, the skills we learn as readers (to question, predict and connect) will hopefully transfer too. Once they are not stalled at the actual process of reading, they are free to move forward, enjoy, and learn.

 

 

 

Our School Book Fair – A winning opportunity

Posted on December 2nd, 2012 by Jody

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Cover art for Line ChangeToday was the end of the Book Fair at our school. I love the Book Fair (perhaps a little too much). I love walking in and just browsing the tables, running my hand over the covers (I’m sure the librarian loves that), reading the backs of the novels, flipping through the picture books, and seeing all of the different books, just sitting there, waiting to be chosen.

I had already made several purchases this week and had promised myself I would not buy anymore. Luckily, I was able to keep that promise because at the end of every book fair, one student wins $25.00 worth of books for their family and $25.00 worth of books for their classroom. That student was in my class this year.

I’m sure it was mostly amusing to the students to see how excited I was over the books, but it was genuine, so it’s okay. Winning something always feels good; winning books felt great. I took two students with me and we chose a ‘boy book’, a ‘girl book’ and a ‘class book’. Truthfully, I think all three books will be enjoyed, regardless of gender. It was very gratifying to have students pick out books they thought we’d all like. Was it just the cover that appealed? Was it the synopsis? The author? In the end, I think it was a combination. An inviting cover always gets your attention. A good summary of what the book is about will make you want to know more.

Cover art for Genius FilesWe chose Line Change by W.C. Mack, The Genius Files by Dan Gutman and Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Having two students help me choose made me realize how much they are learning about each other. It’s one thing for me to know them and find ways to help them achieve success, but it was very powerful for me to realize that they know their classmates as well. They chose Line Change because they know a couple of the boys are reluctant readers but love hockey. They chose Breadcrumbs because they thought we might all enjoy it as a teacher read aloud. We also started learning about fables and morals in fairytales today so it was very fitting (Breadcrumbs starts with Hazel and Jack, best friends, who meet some trouble in the woods. It is based on a Hans Christian Anderson story). The Genius Files was a rather amusing pick; it does sound like a funny story but really, they chose it because the main characters are named Pepsi and Coke. I may have a slight addiction to Diet Pepsi that my students like to tease me about. They decided it was a must have for our class. I guess they know their teacher pretty well too.

Cover art for BreadcrumbsBack in the class, we excitedly shared our choices. The student who actually won, shared his $25.00 with his brother. This boy had fun picking out his book, even though reading might not be his top choice activity because he was caught up in the class excitement. Both he and his younger brother chose a novel and some fun scholastic trinkets.

So, because of my natural enthusiasm for 1) winning anything and 2)  reading, the students had the opportunity to get caught up in the simple pleasure of books. They took part in adding to our classroom library after considering our class needs. As most of the class had to stay behind while we visited the Book Fair, I left with the expectation that I would return to a quiet room. A bit surprisingly (they’re ten year olds), I did! They were quietly, and patiently, waiting to find out what we bought. I know that on Monday, when the students who were away today return, they will relive that enthusiasm and want to share our new books.

It’s good for kids to see us enjoy something and be excited. Having it be related to reading is a bonus.

 

A reader’s dream…

Posted on October 21st, 2012 by Jody

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Imagine if you didn’t just love to wrap yourself up in a book and all of its characters; imagine if you loved the simple look and presence of books; if you loved the different sizes and shapes and the different graphics on the covers. If you just loved the feel of sliding your hand over a brand new cover.

I’ve missed these things because I am bound to my Kindle. And I do LOVE my kindle. It’s got just as many positives for reading as my library of books, but because I spend so much time reading it, I forgot the simple pleasure of walking amongst stacks of books. I relived that pleasure this weekend at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. But there’s a second part to the amazing dream I described above; what if, surrounded by these books you love, you were also surrounded by the authors who wrote them? Well, that was just over-the-top incredible. Truly. I sat across the room from Diana Gabdalon, Chris Humphreys, Michael Slade, and Sam Sykes. I walked by and got to smile and head nod at Eileen Cook, Sean Cranbury, and Linda Gerber. I got to sit down and talk to and share work with Tanya Lloyd Kyi, whose books I had not read but bought two of before the end of the day. I got to shake hands with literary agent Michael Carr and talk with Carly Watters. As I said, it was a reader’s, but also a writer’s, dream.

What amazed me, as I wandered past the various tables and sat waiting my turn in a room full of authors, agents, and publishers, was that I don’t read nearly as much as I thought I did. I’m a 3-4 books at a time kind of reader; I can’t help it. I currently have 5 books on the go. I jump back and forth and depending on my mood, might even backtrack and reread a favourite in the middle of all of these. Fair to say, I read a lot. And despite popular opinion, I read a wide variety of genres. But looking around the conference, seeing all of these authors or the lists of authors to later appear, I realized how much is truly out there. There were, literally, dozens of authors I had not heard of before. Prior to this weekend, I felt like I had a good grasp of current authors and the latest fiction; our librarian introduces new books several times a month. I expect there to be many authors and books I’m unaware of in different genres, but since I spend a fair amount of time immersed in fiction for children and young adults, I was blindsided by how much more there is available.

Attending professional development workshops is an important part of being a better teacher; staying current and being on top of what propels student success is vital. Sometimes you walk away from a conference with useful strategies and tips for the classroom or ideas on how to further engage your students. Even if it adds one small positive to your teaching, it is time well spent. For me, this weekend was incredibly valuable but one of best parts is knowing how much MORE there is for the kids. Reluctant readers, powerful readers, and those in between have so many more choices than I ever could have imagined. It goes beyond our school library and the Scholastic catalogue and it’s important for us, as teachers, parents, and as readers, to know what is out there.

What I will take back to my classroom next week, is the new author I had the pleasure of speaking with, Tanya Lloyd Kyi. As I browsed the stacks of books, several of her titles caught my eye; Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood, 50 Underwear Questions, 50 Poisonous Questions
and Rescues! (True Stories from the Edge). Blood, underwear, poison, and danger? That’s right up the alley of a fifth grade boy. The boys in my class will be happy to learn about the first autopsies performed and the girls will enjoy the graphics and facts in 50 Poisonous Questions. They will be excited, once again, to get their hands on new books, by a new author, and for a little while, they will forget reluctance or the idea of ‘having to read’ and just lose themselves in stories and facts and fascinating tidbits of information. They will get lost in a book and really, what could be better?

Another new start…

Posted on October 9th, 2012 by Jody

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Still searching for “my” reluctant reader this year…but I have a plan

Unbelievably, we are already six weeks into another school year. I enjoyed writing Journey of a Reluctant Reader last year, but like to switch things up. I am still looking for “my” reluctant reader this year, but so far, seem to have a very enthusiastic class when it comes to reading (even if I happen to be teaching at the time).

After a great workshop by Cindy Strickland last summer, I used Reading and Writing Bingo in my classroom last year. I used it term by term and the students had a goal to work toward. This year, I am focusing on the Reading Bingo as a preemptive strike against anyone showing signs of becoming a reluctant reader. Each of the Bingo squares has a specific reading goal that, when met, will introduce the students to different types of writing, different authors, and different genres. For example, some of the goals include reading a novel by Andrew Clements (that you have not read before), or reading a book of poetry by Shel Silverstein. The goal is to expose the kids to new styles and authors that they may not have tried otherwise.

And yes, my preemptive strike involves bribes. We all work a little harder with incentives and I see nothing wrong with showing appreciation for hard work in different ways. So for one Bingo line (which is necessary for their reading marks for each term) they receive a small prize from the prize bin. For an X, they receive a “get out of one assignment free” card. For a 7, they get a Scholastic book. What surprised me, and pleased me, was that when I asked the kids what they thought would be an awesome reward if anyone got a Blackout, they didn’t say Slurpees or movie days. Instead, they suggested that if they get a Blackout, they get three more of the prizes they already received. So if a student does get a Blackout, they basically get 2 prize bin items, 2 get out of one assignment cards, and 2 books from Scholastic.

I’ll see how this works this year and maybe do it again, or maybe not. What I love is that the kids (and I know there’s at least one reluctant reader there, even if they’re quiet about it) are already excited about reading. They know they have to read, most of them love to read, but those that need a little nudge will be more inclined to do so, even if it’s just to achieve the line. Those that are enthusiastic about reading by default, have the added opportunity and challenge of working toward a harder goal, like the Blackout.

My focus this year is getting the kids to understand themselves and their own learning. This will be a great opportunity for me and the students to see what motivates them. We are all motivated by something. Intrinsic motivation is essential and I am in no way suggesting reward for meeting expectations, but I think that extrinsic motivation has its place as well. I’m going to make them read. They know this. I’m going to make them do Math and Science, tests, reports, and research. They will do this because they undersand their jobs as students. But if providing a bit of fun, entertainment, or challenge gets them reading even more, perhaps their journey will be one with less reluctance and more enjoyment.

I hate when things are over…summer reading beckons

Posted on June 28th, 2012 by Jody

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Storytime Standouts’ guest contributor reflects on the school year and looks forward to summer reading



One of my favourite lines from the song Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something is “And I hate when things are over/ when so much is left undone”. At the moment, it sums up how I feel about the end of the school year. Though I look forward to the summer, the break, the rest, and the, hopefully, nice weather, I know I’ll spend time thinking of all the things I didn’t manage to do this year.

Rather than think about all of the things I could have done better or more of, I thought I’d recount some of my favourite books from this year and share my summer “to read” list. The books I like most from this year are the ones that excited the kids. So while they may not have been MY favourite books, the following is a list of books that engaged my students, hooked my reluctant readers, and caused many classroom discussions.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

Warriors by Erin Hunter (actually a pseudonym for a number of contributing authors)

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein

Wayside Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Holes by Louis Sachar

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

The Fire Ascending by Chris D’Lacey

There were others. Many, many others. My students from this year loved to read. They read a variety of genres and authors and tried books their friends loved or that I suggested. They were open to new books and different types of writing, such as Poetry.

Tomorrow I will say goodbye to this group and in September, I will have a new class. I look forward to the reading adventures they will take me on and the books they will introduce me to. Of course, I have a few of my own that I plan on introducing them to as well. Some I have read already, such as Riding Freedom, but others, I will read over the summer. My “to read” list for this summer includes:

My life as a Book by Janet Tashjian

Slob by Ellen Potter

United We Stand by Eric Walters

Middle School, the Worst Years of my Life by James Patterson

The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (I’ve read this one but am looking forward to reading it to my nine year old this summer).

I could go on…and on…and on because there are so many different books I’d like to read before the summer ends. However, in addition to Children and Young Adult fiction, I plan on reading a number of other books as well. So here’s to a summer of reading, re reading, and relaxing.

A common greatness…. Journey of a Reluctant Reader

Posted on May 12th, 2012 by Jody

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Looking at a reluctant reader’s experiences with books and reading

Magic Johnson. Albert Einstein. Cher. John Lennon. John F. Kennedy. Hans Christian Anderson. Orlando Bloom. Tom Cruise. Johnny. These people have a few things in common. They have presence, they made a difference, and, for a variety of reasons, didn’t love to read. For some, Orlando Bloom and Tom Cruise, reading was difficult. Learning Disabilities affect not only a child’s ability to read, but their confidence in doing so. Though it may be true for many of these well known individuals, it is not always a learning disability that affects a child’s desire to read. For Johnny, it was lack of interest, not ability. For others, it’s lack of time or exposure. Though he’s not a basketball player, a singer, or an inventor (as far as I know) Johnny has something in common with all of these people. Though he said at the beginning of the year that he would rather do anything other than read, he made a great effort. He will be remembered by me and by his classmates because, despite his aversion to reading, he stood out in the class. He embraced his own attitude and felt good about himself. He was also open minded enough to try new books and authors. He had enough presence in our classroom that the other reluctant readers were willing to try as well. That matters.

It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of the road for this school year. This will, in fact, be my final entry about Johnny. I’ve enjoyed watching him unfold as a student and as a reluctant reader. I don’t know that we turned him around entirely. He claims that he still does not love school or reading and would much rather ride his bike. However, with less and less prompting and suggestions each month, Johnny has managed to read more than a half a dozen books since September. Not only that, but two days ago he came to me and showed me his latest library book: Lunch Money. I had no part in him choosing this book. In fact, when I told him that I had some other students who LOVED Andrew Clements, he said, “Well my friend told me it was good so I’m reading a book he liked and he’s reading one I suggested”. And I thought, wow. Johnny and his friend, two hockey boys who like to goof around and have fun, had a conversation at some point that entailed each of them sharing their thoughts on a book and recommending one they enjoyed to each other. To me, that seems like an excellent place to “part ways” on this journey. I say that rather than “conclude” the journey because Johnny is going to wander a different path now, one toward grade six and I am going to get a whole new group in September. But I hope that Johnny’s path will continue to include reading and that he feels good about the reading accomplishments he made this year. I hope that he becomes less and less reluctant over time to pick up a book and fall into it. Even if he doesn’t I hope he thinks back about this year and realizes that his willingness to try regardless was stronger than his reluctance to read. That too, matters.

A Text Connection

Posted on April 23rd, 2012 by Jody

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As a want-to-be writer, I find it fascinating that some authors can slip back and forth between genres and age groups. It shows a wide range of talent when an author produces a best selling thriller and then follows it up with a highly entertaining graphic novel. James Patterson and John Grisham are powerful examples of authors who show this flexibility on a regular basis. What really shows their strength as writers, however, is that the books they write for their younger audiences are so appealing to adults as well. Aside from providing more great reading material, authors such as these are also providing a unique way for parents (or teachers) and children (or students) to connect.

Patterson’s latest young adult novel is Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life. The quick and fun chapters, along with the sketch graphics and the humor of two friends trying to get through their first year of middle school make it a great read. I laughed out loud at parts, remembering my own middle school days. While it connects with many of the students in the upper elementary grades, it definitely reaches out to boys.

Finding things in common with our kids (and students) is extremely important. They live in a fast-paced world of texting, Facebook, and instant messages. They are “connected” in ways that we never were. We need to jump on the opportunities to share meaningful conversations with them whenever we can. Taking an interest in what your kids are reading can be a way to start these conversations.

I had a Teacher on Call come in for me last week for a half day. I showed up right before the lunch bell and we were discussing how the morning went. I asked about a few students in particular and she made a comment that got me to thinking about this post: she had brought in the book The Mocking Jay, the third in the Hunger Games trilogy, so that she could read it while waiting for a friend after work. When a few of the students noticed she had it, they began asking her whether she liked it, had she finished it, did she like the others. The fact that she was reading a book that many of them are absorbed in right now created an instant connection, which is not always easy to do as a teacher on call.

Kids always find it a bit surprising when they realize that you may enjoy some of the same things they do. I have had wonderful conversations about Harry Potter, Holes, Twilight, Hunger Games, and a variety of other books that kids are hooked on. My enthusiasm is real and the kids respond to that. They want to know what you think, what you liked, and if you got to a certain part yet. I tell the kids how I feel about the books that we have in common and they feel open to sharing their thoughts. My class knows that even though I really liked Hunger Games, I stopped reading the trilogy because, for me, it was too sad. We ended up having a conversation about what makes us put down a book, what makes us go back to it, or what makes it so we absolutely cannot put it down.

I believe that connecting with kids strengthens our relationships with them and makes teaching them more successful. Try reading something your child is reading; aside from connecting with your child, you’ll likely find yourself reading a great book as well.

Anti Bullying Chapter Book – Joshua T. Bates in Trouble Again

Posted on February 28th, 2012 by Carolyn Hart

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You may also be interested in our page about anti-bullying picture books and novels for children, our page about anti bullying web resources or our posts tagged “anti bullying”.

Storytime Standouts looks at an anti bullying chapter book by Susan Shreve, Joshua T. Bates in Trouble AgainJoshua T. Bates in Trouble Again written by Susan Shreve and illustrated by Roberta Smith
Anti bullying chapter book published by Knopf Books for Young Readers | Random House





The day after Thanksgiving is extra special for Joshua T. Bates. It it the day he will move to a grade four class. Joshua had a tough time in grade three and he was not ready to move to grade four with his friends. He spent the first three months of the school year working to catch up. He spent hours and hours with his grade three teacher and now he is ready for the academic challenges of grade four.

Dealing with the other grade four boys will be a big adjustment for Joshua. He chooses his wardrobe carefully and takes great care to style his hair properly but, despite this, he lacks confidence about how he will manage.

“Maybe I won’t have any friends at all,” Joshua said.

“You have friends already, darling,” his mother said. “In a flash things will be back to normal, just like it was when all of you were in the third grade together.”

“Maybe,” Joshua said.

But he was sick with worry.

Joshua’s fears are not unfounded.Tommy Wilhelm and Billy Nickel are feared by all of the grade four boys. They are bullies and Joshua knows it. Joshua hopes he can avoid trouble with the bullies if he appears “cool.” It is not long before he makes more than one poor choice in order to impress the bullies. It is no surprise when he finds himself in trouble at school and at home.

A one hundred page anti bullying chapter book for middle grade readers, Joshua T. Bates in Trouble Again will have special appeal for boys. It will also appeal to reluctant readers.

Joshua T. Bates in Trouble Again at Amazon.com

Joshua T. Bates in Trouble Again at Amazon.ca


Journey of a Reluctant Reader…Small Steps

Posted on December 10th, 2011 by Jody

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We found another book this week and once again, I found myself being thankful for sequels. My reluctant reader, Johnny decided to give Small Steps by Louios Sachar a try this week. Knowing that he loved Holes enough to read it twice made it an easy suggestion. He easily agreed to give it a try. I find that even as an adult, I love books that connect and carry on. When you really love a book, chances are you really love the characters. When you love the characters, you want more. You want to know what happens to them and to their friends. Sequels make this possible. There’s a comfort, for me at least, knowing that even if the end of a book is coming (which always makes me a little sad if I’m really enjoying it) there is another one to follow that will update me on what’s happened to those characters.

Though every series can’t be Harry Potter, which allows us to follow much beloved characters for years, it’s wonderful when there’s at least a second. Lemonade War offered this with Lemonade Crime. Holes is followed by Small Steps. Then there’s other series, such as Ramona, which is followed by many books about her family, adventures, and friends. Series of Unfortunate Events, Fudge, Warriors; there are too many to list.

I think for “reluctant readers”, like Johnny, sequels are a critical component of ‘keeping them hooked’. His willingness to read allows for him to get attached to a character and the sequel keeps him coming back and keeps him reading. Often, it’s what keeps me reading.

So for now, I’m really happy with how Johnny’s journey is going.  He may be reluctant to choose the activity (although this is becoming less true), but he’s reading. In the end, whether it’s sequels, Harry Potter, comic books, or the newspaper, we just want them reading.

We’ll see where Johnny’s journey takes us in the new year.

Journey of a Reluctant Reader…apparently, “it’s on”

Posted on November 21st, 2011 by Jody

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Maybe reluctant reader is not the term I’m looking for…

I’m beginning to think that reluctant is not the best term to define my reader. While some synonyms of this word, such as wary or opposed, might apply to his overall attitude toward reading, this last week assured me that he is not, as the definition states, unenthusiastic or unwilling.

Many of the kids were very excited by the arrival of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Cabin Fever this last week. Some had ordered it as far back as September, myself included. I was quietly happy when Johnny asked if he could borrow my copy to read. When I commented about the fact that he was asking to read yet another book, he ammended his request to, “Actually, can I just borrow the book to look at the pictures?” He’s clever.

But so am I. On Friday afternoon, I asked Johnny if he’d like to borrow my copy of Cabin Fever.

Johnny: For the weekend?

Me: Yes, but I haven’t even read it yet. It’s brand new so you have to promise to be extra careful. And you have to promise to return it.

Johnny: Ok.

Me: You have to bring it back Monday. Even if you’re not done.

Johnny: Oh, I can finish it by Monday (he was only a chapter or so into it at this point)

Me: The whole book?

Johnny: I totally can! I bet you I can!

Me: Ok. You want to read the whole book this weekend?

Johnny: I will. I’ll be finished by Monday. I bet you.

Me: Ok. You finish it by Monday and I’ll give you a bonus AR sticker (I give one sticker for every 5 Accelerated Reader points and every 5 stickers gets a prize)

Johnny: Okay!!! It’s on!!

Me: It’s on?

Johnny: Yup~it’s on!!!

Me: Okay then. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

Other students: It’s on like Donkey Kong! It’s on like Donkey Kong! It’s on like Donkey Kong!

This morning, five minutes after walking in, Johnny returned my copy of the book, in perfect condition, telling me that he had, just like he said he would, finished the book. He even offered to tell the class about it, which I may let him do tomorrow.

If you remember my earlier posts about Johnny, you’ll know that he had once said he’d rather sleep, or do anything else, than read. So I can’t help wondering if he realizes that he not only chose to spend his free time reading, committed part of his weekend to the activity, but met a self-issued challenge that may cause him to lose his ‘reluctant’ title. I won’t tell him just yet, that he may gain something far more valuable.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever at Amazon.com

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever at Amazon.ca


Journey of a Reluctant Reader…he’s not alone

Posted on November 1st, 2011 by Jody

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Journey of a Reluctant Reader He is Not Alone a Guest Post by @1prncs





I chose a different approach this year when I found an openly reluctant reader. Normally, I would try to get to know the student, figure out their interests, ask for suggestions from the librarian or do some online research about popular books. This year, instead of approaching my goal of changing Johnny’s mind about reading alone, I’ve included the entire class in the process. Establishing a strong classroom community is essential for academic, social, and behavioral success. By enlisting my class in the goal to change Johnny’s mind, we’ve become stronger as a group. Last week I mentioned that other students were now recommending books for him. While this sense of community and caring for others is exactly what I want in my classroom, I also want to be sure that the students, including Johnny, understand the importance of making that shift from being a reluctant reader to being an avid reader or at least having an open mind and a willingness to try.

Noticing the way the students laugh when Johnny makes comments about not reading, I also want to be sure that this journey doesn’t become a form of amusement. One other concern I’m beginning to have is that the other students, particularly the other less than enthusiastic readers, may use this as an opportunity to blend into the background. If I’m focused on showing the class that Johnny’s mind can be changed, then I might not make a big deal, or even notice, that others are practicing avoidance. So far, I’m hoping this isn’t the case.

Any teacher knows that all students are different and thus, require a different approach. So while it may be entertaining, powerful, and even successful to allow Johnny’s reading journey to be public, I am quietly aware of the other journeys taking place. I wonder if these students notice the subtle push I hope that I am giving when I offer or suggest books in the library or the classroom. Does the classroom awareness of our reluctant reader’s journey make these others want to read more or less or have any impact at all? Are there ingredients I’m missing to help push the others forward in their own journeys? Is knowing their reading level and interests enough? What about those students who want to read more but struggle?

I’m still working on answers to some of these questions. What I do hope, is that those students who aren’t having their journeys made public, recognize that I’m aware of their academic needs as well. I’m hoping that the students are getting the right message from my decision to talk more publicly about Johnny’s journey. That message is that every journey is different and my goal as a teacher is to help each student find the tools and confidence to make their own journey successful and hopefully, enjoyable.

Unexpected Twists and Turns in Measle and the Wrathmonk Will Engage Reluctant Readers

Posted on October 27th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Measle and the Wrathmonk will appeal to reluctant readersMeasle and the Wrathmonk written by Ian Ogilvy
Chapter book for middle grade and reluctant readers published by Oxford University Press





Measle and the Wrathmonk is one of my new favourite chapter book series for middle grade readers. Ten year old Measle lives a deplorable life. He is hungry most of the time, he is fifthy and lives in a wretched house with a menacing guardian. He has been told that his parents were killed by a snake but Measle is unconvinced and hopes he will be reunited one day.

Although the set up of Measle and the Wrathmonk seems all too familiar (orphaned child, deplorable conditions), Ogilvy creates unexpected and exciting twists and turns that are sure to engage young readers. Measle is a winner and well worth trying with reluctant readers. Additional books in the series include Measle and the Dragodon, Measle and the Mallockee.

Measle and the Wrathmonk at Amazon.com

Measle and the Wrathmonk at Amazon.ca

Visit our page about reluctant readers for more information.

Mysteries, Humor and School Life for Reluctant Readers

Posted on October 26th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Chapter Books for Reluctant Readers Mysteries Humor School Life




Almost every time I make a Parent Ed presentation, someone asks for recommendations for the preteen crowd. Sometimes the request is very specific, “My daughter loves skating. Could you suggest a chapter book she might like?” Very often the request is for something, anything that a reluctant reader will enjoy. Lately, I’ve been kept busy by Ready Set, Learn presentations. I’ve not had much time for reading. When the calendar is full to the brim, I often turn to short chapter books, looking for a new gem that will appeal to young readers.

Here are some of the books I’ve been reading…

The Clue At The Bottom Of The Lake written by Kristiana Gregory
Chapter book series for grade two/three readers published by Scholastic



Let’s begin with The Clue At The Bottom Of The Lake (Cabin Creek Mysteries). This is the second book in the new Cabin Creek Mysteries series. Appropriate for seven to ten year olds, it has a grade 3 Reading Level. I enjoyed the book and am confident that this is a series both boys and girls will enjoy. Set in a small, lakeside town, we follow three cousins as they investigate the dumping of a large and mysterious bundle into the lake near Lost Island. Young detectives will enjoy the twists and turns as Claire, David and Jeff work to discover the contents of the bundle and who is responsible for dumping it in ‘their’ lake.

The Clue at the Bottom of the Lake (Cabin Creek Mysteries) at Amazon.com

The Clue at the Bottom of the Lake (Cabin Creek Mysteries) at Amazon.ca

Sir Gadabout Out of Time written by Martyn Beardsley
Chapter book series for grade two/three readers published by Orion Children’s Books




Sir Gadabout is the ‘Worst Knight in the World.’ A creation of Martyn Beardsley, the series is illustrated by Tony Ross so we know that we are in for some fun. In Sir Gadabout Out of Time, disaster strikes when King Arthur allows Sir Gadabout to cut his hair. Before long, Merlin is enlisted to turn back time. Unfortunately (but not unexpectedly) the spell goes wrong and Sir Gadabout finds himself in a futuristic world with cell phones and cars. Good fun for nine to twelve year olds.

Sir Gadabout Out of Time at Amazon.com

Sir Gadabout Out of Time at Amazon.ca


Ivan the Terrible written by Anne Fine
Chapter book series for grade two/three readers published by Egmont Books Ltd


Poor Boris, he is in a real ‘pickle.’ He’s been asked to be a ‘chum’ and translate for a new classmate. They both speak Russian and Boris is asked to help the new boy adjust to life at St. Edmund’s, the civilized school. Before long, Boris realizes that Ivan is really quite nasty and the job of translating is going to be trickier than he had expected. A fine choice for nine to twelve year olds,
Ivan the Terrible won the silver medal in the 2007 Nestlé Children’s Book awards.

Ivan the Terrible at Amazon.com

Ivan the Terrible at Amazon.ca

Visit our page about reluctant readers for more information. You will find our posts about chapter book series here.

Might I Suggest Graphic Novels for your Reluctant Reader?

Posted on October 24th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

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Graphic novels are similar to comic books in that they rely heavily on illustrations to tell much of the story. Graphic novels often appeal to reluctant readers but they are equally enjoyed by those who are fluent.




Bone and Babymouse are both currently very popular graphic novel series for children. Babymouse is clearly intended primarily for girls and is good fun.

Babymouse #1: Queen of the World! at Amazon.com

Babymouse #1: Queen of the World! at Amazon.ca



Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi is a new series. My ten year old son and I each read Book One, The Stonekeeper. I read the book first and then he picked it up and devoured it shortly thereafter. The story begins with a dramatic and tragic car accident that apparently kills Emily and Navin’s father. Two years later, depleted finances force the family to move into a home that has been empty ever since Great Grandpa mysteriously disappeared. It is not long before the children find themselves on a desperate quest to save their mother from a tentacled creature she encounters in the basement.

My son and I both enjoyed the book – he more than I. The author/illustrator does a terrific job of setting up further adventures. He leaves many questions unanswered and will undoubtably draw readers to subsequent books in the series.

I feel I would be remiss if I did not comment on the death scene midway through the book. Neither of my sons (aged 10 and 12) found the illustrations of a dying and then dead man remarkable. I’m not sure what that says about their de-sensitization thanks to movies and video games. Anyhow, I was surprised to see the man, eyes wide open, followed by another frame wherein a character closed his eyes and a third frame where his dead body was covered with a sheet (pages 110 – 112 in my copy). My boys were very matter of fact about the illustrations. Take a look for yourself and post your thoughts.

The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1) at Amazon.com

The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1) at Amazon.ca

Bone at Amazon.com

Bone at Amazon.ca

You may be interested in our page about reluctant readers.


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