Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

From Page to Screen and Coming to a Theater Near You

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a movie junkie. Even more, I love movies that are based off of books- the best of both worlds, right? Except not when there are huge parts that *I* think may be important parts that are left out for editing reasons (think Harry Potter 7) or a change in the ending (The Firm).  At any rate, as more and more studios use books for their inspirations, I have more chances to enjoy (or rant) about how the conversion went.  Here are some that are coming up for this summer- are you going to see them?
One that I am super excited about (even though I haven’t seen a trailer yet) is Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes.  Set to come out June 7, I am buzzing that one of my favorite books is making it to the big screen!  I can only hope that it makes it to theaters nation-wide- I was so bummed that Fat Kid Rules the World was never playing anywhere near me (and I am in a HUGE metropolitan area).
I also want to see Geography Club. Based off of Bret Hartinger’s book, the trailer looks really good.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQb2-a685sw?rel=0]


Midnight’s Children based from Salman Rushdie’s book….

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6T35sFH_as?rel=0]
Star Trek: Into Darkness, which while not based off of any *current* book that I can find, has TONS of book tie-ins, so I am completely counting it.

The Great Gatsby (directed by those who brought you Moulin Rogue– and I  may have to get the soundtrack if the music in the movie lives up to the trailer)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN183rJltNM?rel=0]

World War Z, which I’ve not read the book yet, and won’t before the movie because I want to be surprised….

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EC7P5WdUko?rel=0] 

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, the second in the series….

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KoOtiuSjuI?rel=0]

 Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, based of the first in the Mortal Instruments series (which has 5 books so far and the 6th set for publication in 2014)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHlwRsl2uFk?rel=0] 

Carrie, based off of Stephen King’s work, and evoking the memories of the movie with John Travolta…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkjVoW3WZdI?rel=0]

Which ones are you looking forward to?

Graphically Speaking: From Page to Screen, summer movies based on graphic novels

I am in *love* with movies that are based off of comics and graphic novels. Nothing makes me happier than an excellent adaptation of them, and nothing ticks my inner geek off more than a crappy one. And it’s such an excellent way to tie those readers who swear they aren’t readers (or don’t think they are) into reading and browsing your collection!  We have such a wonderful line-up of movies coming through, you should definitely see what you have and tie it into your display! (And, superheros and mystery and secret identities and plots all work for the Collaborative Summer Reading Program themes….)
 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEIVPiTuYkQ?rel=0] 
Based on the Iron Man Extremis storyline
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DaPBBOHfsA?rel=0]
Man of Steel isn’t going to be based off of *any* of the previous histories, but uses the same characters we’re all familiar with, according to this article.   Random House and DC is also doing a Superman Day for libraries on June 15.
RED 2 
 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTcWTf-pfyU?rel=0] 
The comics may not be suitable for a teen collection, but I know my older teens (older ya) and new adults (college age and up) love the movie based on Ellis and Hamner’s works.
One that *just* released a trailer is Rest In Peace Department, all undead officers working to uphold the law on the other side.   It’s to star Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Bridges, and is set for a July 2013 release.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X07xNrVd7DU?rel=0&w=560&h=315]
 The Wolverine 

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-TdhnFW0As?rel=0] 

 is based off of Chris Claremont’s acclaimed 1982 Wolverine story arc, set after X-Men: last Stand (2006); there have also been animation versions of what could be some of the storyline airing on television’s G4 channel in the last few years.
Kick Ass 2
 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0zu5isIBZo?rel=0]
Following the first movie, which drew huge criticism for having a nine-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl, Kick Ass 2 is amping it up and following the comics right along the storylines, if the trailers are any indication.

And that, my friends, takes us until the end of the summer, at least graphically speaking….  BOOK WISE is a WHOLE ‘NOTHER story…
Which ones are you looking forward to?  Share in the comments below!

Book Review: Death, Doom, and Detention by Darynda Jones

With new purpose, I worked the back of the frame off and took the picture into my hands. I was going to lean back against my headboard, take deep breaths, and concentrate. But the moment my fingers touched the picture, I tumbled inside. The sheer curtain drifted apart and I found myself standing in the hospital room while Mom and Dad studied the infant me.

I was sound asleep, probably due to lack of oxygen from being cocooned, as Dad wiggled my chin with a fingertip. “Just like my father’s,” he said, and I couldn’t have explained the pride that welled inside me if I tried a thousand years. My incorporeal chest welled in emotion.

My parents were right there. Right in front of me. So close, I could almost touch them. I wanted so much to run to them, to thanks them for everything. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, but could I breathe here at all? In this place of void?

I wanted to stand there forever and bask in their presence. It was like they were back. They were with me. But I had no way to pause the moment, and it slid forward despite my every desire to the contrary.

Mom stopped her cooing and looked over at Dad. “We should tell her when she’s older.”

I stepped closer. Tell me what?

Dad gave her a sad look. “It’s not our secret to tell,” he said, shaking his head. “Besides, what good would it do her to know the truth? To know that he’s alive?”

What? Who’s alive? What truth?

“I think I have this thing figured out,” a man said, and just as Mom and Dad looked up, the bright light flashed and I was back on my bed, the picture in my hands, Brooke mumbling something about duty and how spying was a noble tradition. Just look at James Bond.

In the second book in the Darklight series, Death, Doom, and Detention picks up where Death and the Girl Next Door picks up. Lorelei knows that she’s the Prophet and with her friend Brooklyn is trying to focus and harness her abilities in order to protect those that she loves and save the world. Meanwhile, Satan’s second in command took over her body when she was six, and living with that fact is a little daunting.  And she’s got a huge crush on the Angel of Death. But what is that when forces are still trying to kill her, and somehow they turn the most powerful being on earth against her?

Finally working on her abilities instead of ignoring them, Lorelei is working on expanding her abilities from passive visions to visions from photographs. With Brooklyn pushing her, she discovers that her parents were hiding secrets from the time she was born- but were they right to hide those secrets? And while Cameron and Jared seem to have solved their differences, the mysterious conflict between Cameron and Glitch continues to make things difficult. However, when Jared disappears then comes back turned, and their enemies draw closer and Lorelei’s visions grow darker, everyone must draw together in order to survive.  Definitely for those who have read Death and the Girl Next Door (you’ll be lost without it). 3.5 out of 5 starts. As of March 22, Goodreads rates Death, Doom, and Detention as 4.18 stars.

I had fun with Death, Doom, and Detention. Lorelei really grows within her character, and has struggles and hard choices that she must make: how far to take her powers, what to do with the visions she gets and how she can change them, and should she remove herself from Riley’s Switch to protect everyone? Extremely hard decisions for a sixteen year old to make, especially as she’s supposedly the only one who can save the world.

The fights between Cameron and Jared that punctured the Death and the Girl Next Door calm down to glares and verbal spats, but the tension between Cameron and Glitch kick up a notch, especially as there are repeated references to an incident at camp in second grade, but nothing is every fully talked about. And when Jared disappears for days at a time and comes back with his evil side in possession, watch out!

The book definitely ends on a cliffhanger, and makes you wonder what will happen in the third. There are many references to the demon that possessed Lorelei when she was six, yet there were only little peaks within this book, so it’ll be interesting to see where Jones takes it. Lorelei still has her trademark humor and way of thinking, which makes the ride fun.

TPiB: Earth Day Projects (and project resources for your collection)

It’s Earth Day! 

Today is a day when we remember that we all share this big Earth and that many of its resources are, in fact, limited.  As you drive wherever you are going today (all though a good Earth day guru would ride a bike or walk), take a moment to look at all the trash you see on the sides of the road.  Earth Day is not just about global warming or oil . . . it is about seeing the beauty in the world around us and working to keep it clean, working to make sure that we have access to clean water and nutritious food now and in the future, and just being responsible consumers as we live together on this 3rd Rock from the Sun.  Earth Day is a reminder to just stop for a moment an exam how we live our lives and the chain reaction that it can have.

Now is a great time to look at ways that we can do more responsible programming with our teens, and teach teens how they can use the materials in their daily life in more than one way.  Below are some great programming ideas you can use in your libraries and some resources to share with teens on eco-crafting.

One of my favorite resources is 47 Things You Can Do for the Environment, written for teens – and very accessible.  It includes hands on activities and simple steps you can take to live in more environmentally friendly ways.  More than just a craft book, this is a guide book for eco-living.  In addition, 47 Things does include some craft projects which can be done in a program setting.

re·cy·cle /rēˈsīkəl/
  1. Convert (waste) into reusable material. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

Here are 5 Things You Can Do Today – and for Fun! – to Help the Earth

Recycle Your Discarded Books
Here is a Pinterest board full of Recycled Book Crafts
Word Art Necklace
Tutorials for Recycling Books, including some very cool shelves which would look awesome in a teen space

Recycle Your Discarded Magazines and Newspapers
Recycled newspaper crafts on Pinterest
Magazine Bead Bracelet
Step by Step Instructions on how to make your own paper beads out of old magazines

Recycle – or Upcycle – Old Clothing

50 Creative Way to Reuse Denim
T-shirt Wall Art
More t-shirt crafts on Pinterest

/ˈʌpˌsaɪkəl/ Show Spelled [uhp-sahy-kuhl] noun
verb (used with object)
to process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original: I upcycled a stained tablecloth into curtains.

Don’t Throw It Away! Make Something With It
Pop Tab Jewelry
Bottle Cap Crafts
Can Do Robots
Recycled Pouch Purses
Upcycled Washer Necklaces
Earth Day/Recycled Crafts on Pinterest

Let Teens Get Techy
We all have some old technology floating around somewhere.  What better way for teens to get some hands on experience then having a Tech Take It Apart event.  Basically, you get a bunch of junky computers, printers, etc. and let teens take them apart.  Be careful, as some tech has some environmentally tricky parts; cell phone batteries for example contain toxic chemicals and should be removed and properly recycled.  This would be a great Beneath the Surface program for the 2013 Summer Reading Cooperative as teens are invited to “go beneath the surface of the technology” they use every day.  After you are done exploring the “guts” of your technology, use the pieces you have extracted to create decorative robots.

Craft books like these are not only great for your collection for your teens, but they are great for any adults who want to do environmental activities with teens. 

Take 10: Teen Titles with an Earth Day Theme
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Trickster’s Girl by Hilari Bell
Torched by April Henry
Hoot by Carl Hiassen
Rootless by Chris Howard
The Pearl Wars by Nick James
Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd
Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson
The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
Empty by Suzanne Weyn

Previously on TLT: We’ve only got this one Earth!

Countdown’s Begun: Earth Day Dystopias

http://wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Earth-Day-2013.jpg My Disney parks addiction and fairy tales aside, I have a decidedly dark streak. So when Earth Day rolls around, even though we do a “Save the Earth” craft at my library, my brain rolls instead to the dystopias I know and read like crazy.  I got to thinking about which ones were based on ecological disasters: if we continue on the path we’re on, what future are we headed towards?  
With the help of some awesome librarians, we came up with this list to share with your tweens and teens, as a preview of what can happen if things don’t start to change….

A Crack in the Sky (Greenhouse Chronicles) by Mark Peter Hughes
Earth Day Spin: Everyone has to live in domes to protect themselves from the destroyed atmosphere outside
After the Snow by S. D. Crockett
Earth Day Spin: Global warming has killed the ocean currents, sending the world into a new ice age
All These Things I’ve Done – Gabrielle Zevin
Earth Day Spin: In 2083, water is carefully rationed, paper is almost non-existent, and coffee and chocolate is illegal

Ashes, Ashes – Jo Treggiari
Earth Day Spin: The end of the world has come and gone, and the weather is completely out of control.
Ashfall and Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin
Earth Day Spin: The supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park erupts, destroying the landscape and reverting the life they knew into one of survival.
Carbon Diaries 2015 & Carbon Diaries 2017 by Saci Loyd
Earth Day Spin: In the wake of ecological disasters, London imposes carbon rationing on their citizens
Dark Life series by Kat Falls
Earth Day Spin: Global warming has made the oceans rise and taken over a third of the land we currently know with it….
Empty by Suzanne Weyn
Earth Day Spin: The future is coming when all the fossil fuels have run out- no gas, no coal, no energy….
Epitaph Road by David Patneaude
Earth Day Spin: Plagues wiped out 97% of the male population- but was it accidental
Inhuman by Kat Falls
Earth Day Spin: Everything east of the Mississippi is off limits when a virus gets loose and turns humans into savages
Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu
Earth Day Spin: Everyone is fighting to control the land, as borders and political influence around the world have shifted due to ecological disasters 
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Earth Day Spin: Ecological disasters are tearing the world apart
Orleans by Sherri L. Smith
Earth Day Spin: After massive hurricanes and outbreaks of plagues, the entire Gulf Coast was quarantined and left for dead…
Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Earth Day Spin: Ice caps have melted, taking with it a lot of the land we used to know, and the government has collapsed
Stung by Bethany Wiggins
Earth Day Spin: Genetically modified bees cause the downfall of the human race
The Last Survivor Series by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Earth Day Spin: Meteor hits the moon and pushes it closer to Earth, causing catastrophic results

The Water Wars by Cameron Stratcher
Earth Day: In the future, water is more precious than oil or gold…
Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld 
Earth Day Spin: The world collapses because a virus takes out all the oil we use every day to run everything

See also: Top 10 Apocalypse Survival Tips I Learned from YA 

Sunday Reflections: Going to Bed Hungry

Violence. Bullying. School testing. We talk a lot about the issues affecting the lives of teens, but we don’t talk enough about one of the biggest: poverty and food insecurity.  1 out of 5 children don’t know when – or if – they are going to get to eat today.

“It was during such a moment that my stomach, empty for nearly forty-eight hours, constricted and squired out a noise of at least six seconds in duration . . . In a twisted bit of mercy, I could not fully concentrate on my own mortification, as I was gripped by hunger pains the likes of which I’d never felt. I had to eat . . .” Rotters, Daniel Kraus

“I’m not on drugs,’ I blurted, ‘I’m just hungry.’
‘Hungry’, mused Diamond. . . .
‘Joey, say it was up to you. How would you like us to help you?’
‘I just want to eat’ was all I said . . .” Rotters, Daniel Kraus

In Rotters, author Daniel Kraus writes a compelling potrayal of one teen boys descent into an underground world that many of us never realized existed: graverobbing.  It is a dark, twisted tale where Kraus sets up a sympathetic character, smashes him to bits in the most darkest of ways, and then you suddenly find yourself reading the darkest, most unflinching tale of a character that you once rooted for but now often loathe.  It is bold and daring storytelling at its best.  But for me, one of the most stunning features of Rotters is the all too tangible and aching description of food insecurity that Kraus portrays in the character of Joey Crouch.  After Joey’s mom dies, he is sent to live with a father he never really knew and is thrust into a life of abject poverty.  He goes days without eating, living in a shack that can barely be considered a home.  It is this very food insecurity that makes Joey tiptoe onto this dark path.  Although it has been over 3 years since I first read Rotters, I have never stopped thinking about this book.  And recently, I began listening to it on Audio and was amazed at how much more visceral the audio presentation made those very uncomfortable scenes, those scenes that far too many of our world’s children are living every day.  When narrator Kirby Heyborne says “I just want to eat”, your heart just shatters into a million pieces because you can hear the hunger in his voice.  There is a reason this audio adaptation won the 2012 Odyssey Award.

Just a few days into his tortured life at a new school, already the subject of bullying and scorn for the father he barely knows, Joey is tortured by hunger.  He is caught by a teacher stealing a purse out of a locker just to get some money to eat.  And when the school gets involved, they do everything exactly wrong; except they do get Joey signed up for free lunch.  But as too many children know all too well, lunch is never enough.

As childhood poverty rates rise, events close to home have reminded me how important this issue is to our children and teens; to their well being today and their potential for success in the future.  And listening once again to Rotters was the impetus to get me to write this post.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I tweet often about childhood poverty.  Currently, 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry.  They have what is known as “food insecurity”; they do not know when and where their next meal may come from.  They go to school with hungry, raging bellies and find it hard to concentrate and learn because hunger is one of the primary needs we all need to satisfy in order to just get through the day. It is hard to listen to a teacher at the front of a room when your belly is screaming at you from within.

My Tween daughter is friends with a girl living with food insecurity.  Her parents were forced by recent events to move to a new state, much like we were, to find employment, though they have been less successful than we have been.  They have used local food pantries to supplement their low, unsteady income (the dad can only find intermittent contract work, which runs out).  People from church have bought them groceries.  They have worked temporary jobs with incredibly late hours, leaving their kids home alone or with neighbors while they try and earn just enough money to buy groceries for another two weeks.  And yes, my family has bought them groceries, because even as we sometimes try to figure out how to make the end of our paycheck last until the next payday (I too have only been able to find a part-time job), I have been very aware that I would want someone to feed my children if I could not.

I have written before about the community that we just moved out of in Ohio.  How at one point and time (in 2010) it had the highest poverty rate in all of Ohio.  This school year, a teacher wrote a grant and every student gets free breakfast and lunch at school because the poverty and hunger are so high.  Somewhere around 70% or more qualified for free or reduced lunch. During the summers, the community gets together and provides lunches at various locations because they know that for many of those children, it will be the only food they eat that day.

As I was Googling around for more concrete facts to share with you for this post, I stumbled across the Twitter account of Tom Hiddleston, Loki from the Avengers movie (which is on repeat at my house).  Mr. Hiddleston recently participated in a campaign known as Below the Line where people were challenged to live on just $1.50 a day for their food and drink resources, the average of what people living in poverty spend.  Mr. Hiddleston kept a video diary where he showed himself eating things like a baked potato and giving up coffee.  $1.50 a day does not buy you much, it does not fill your belly and provide you with the healthy fuel you need to live a quality life, it simply dulls the hunger pains. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S55dTdhpQ_A]

There are other major movements out there to help raise awareness about hunger not only in America, but in our world.  Top Chef star Tom Coliccichio recently put together a documentary called A Place at the Table. The PBS series Frontline recently did a series on Poor Kids where they talked to children about growing up in poverty – and hungry.  The Frontline special is full of important information and I highly recommend it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgxxT4xpVNI]

So here are some things you need to know:
“Nearly 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,021 a year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 45% of children live in low-income families.

Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor health and mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty.

Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being. But effective public policies – to make work pay for low-income parents and to provide high-quality early care and learning experiences for their children – can make a difference. Investments in the most vulnerable children are also critical.” – National Center for Children in Poverty

If you work with teens, you need to be aware that many of them who come into your school and public libraries are hungry.  Not hungry for knowledge, but just plain ole hungry. Gut wrenching, acid boiling, can’t concentrate on anything, hungry.  If you have the means, add snacks to your programming.  Healthy snacks so that these children are getting some of the nutrients they need not only to keep their body functioning, but to keep it functioning well and thriving.

Find ways to get teens involved in the issue of local and world hunger.  Use your social media platforms to share statistics, PSAs and more.  Have events like a Food for Fines to get teens involved in helping at the local level.  Keep in mind that community involvement is an important Developmental Asset when selling these types of programs to your administrators. 

Libraries are all about educating the people and helping them reach their personal best, and we can do that by making sure that our administrators, our communities and our teens know what a pressing issue poverty and hunger is.  And it’s not just about the homeless people you see begging on the street, it is also about the people in the house next door that you don’t realize are eating plain spaghetti noodles for the 3rd night in a row and are coming to our libraries to look for work because they can’t afford computers or Internet access.  Let teens know that one of the biggest issues facing those in poverty is access to clean drinking water.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9iZuByA61Y]
Teens need to know that THEY can make a difference

Teens can make a difference in the lives of others, they just need to know there is a need.  And we can make a difference in the lives of our communities.  Information is power, so help us get the information out there.

“The dirt became just dirt. It quit clinging to roots, ceased soaking up manure, stopped drinking rain, and spat seeds. . . Now the entire farm was up for sale, and soon they would be transplanted to some desultory house in Monroeville or Cotober or Bloughton. A house – that was if they got lucky with an offer. More likely was an apartment. Ry could barely conceive of such a thing. He glances at his sister, maybe fifteen feet away, and tried to imagine her growing into a long-legged young lady within such cramped confines.  He returned his face to the dirt. His heart hurt; he could actually feel it hurt. What was the use of resisting?” – Scowler, Daniel Kraus (which also has some stunning depictions of poverty).

Take 5: MG and Teen fiction that portray poverty and food insecurity
Rotters by Daniel Kraus
Almost Home by Joan Bauer
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt
Dare You To by Kate McGarry

And recommended by the Tweeps on Twitter:
Miles from Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
Keep Holding On by Susan Colesanti
Trafificked by Kim Purcell
Madapple by Christina Meldrum
Crazy by Han Nolan
Dare You To by Kate McGarry

Action Against Hunger
Unicef: Below the Line
The Water Project 
Charity: Water

Challenge Accepted! A school librarian talks about Reluctant Readers

We’re wrapping up this week’s focus on Reluctant Readers with confessions from another librarian raising a Reluctant Reader and her insights. 

Confession. I am a librarian and the mother of a reluctant reader. I know! The shame! The horror! But, hold on, the story is just getting started. 

From the moment the strip turned pink I started buying books for my child. I’d wander through the shelves imagining her sitting in my lap, all snuggled up, enjoying the same stories that I loved as a child. Of course she’d go ga-ga for Dr. Seuss! Of course she’d read and love Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and Walk Two Moons. How could she not?

When she was in the third grade I gave my daughter Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a children’s dictionary, a composition notebook, highlighters and pens. Enjoy! I told her, when you finish reading, we’ll watch the movie together.

Imagine my surprise when, at month’s end, she handed me the book and announced that she didn’t like it and she doesn’t want to finish it. Now imagine my surprise when, over the next two years, she refused to pick up a book.

Every birthday, every Christmas, I continued to buy her books only to find them, months later in the donation pile in the garage. Where had I gone wrong? And how could I fix it? I’m a librarian, for crying out loud! Shouldn’t the love of books pass genetically to my daughter? How would I face my colleagues or show my face on campus? Me! The school librarian with the daughter who doesn’t like to read!

Then a funny thing happened. My daughter bought herself a book from the Scholastic Book Fair. Allegra Biscotti. It’s about a young girl who designs clothes and assumes the identity of a fake fashion designer, Allegra Biscotti. It made sense to me why she picked it, at the time Project Runway was her favorite show. She read a few pages and then a few pages more and before I knew it, she wouldn’t put it down. We spent an entire day at the San Francisco Zoo and at every opportunity she’d sit down somewhere and read a page or two. What luck that I had a camera with me.

Overjoyed that my child found a love of reading, I, once again, plied her books and, once again, those books collected dust. What the heck? Why wouldn’t she read what I gave her? They’re good, I’d tell her, really good, and yet, nothing, nada, zip.

It was after this experience that I learned a little something about reluctant readers. They’re picky, like a kid who won’t eat their vegetables. And, even if, occasionally, they’ll scarf down some broccoli covered in melted cheese, that doesn’t mean they all of a sudden like vegetables. But maybe they do like broccoli covered in melted cheese.

Maybe my daughter wasn’t ever going to love the books I loved. Maybe she wouldn’t read Little Women and bond with Jo, but maybe she’d bond with characters she found on her own. And maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t about getting her to change, maybe I had to change.

I adopted a new philosophy. It doesn’t matter what they read so long as they read something. And by something, I mean anything, which means it doesn’t even have to be a novel or tell a story. It just has to be words on a page. I started stocking the library with all sorts of material and watched as the books flew off the shelves to even the most reluctant readers. I may not consider Calvin and Hobbes literary genius, but it’s nearly impossible to pry it from the hands of some of my students. There’s subtleties and nuance to reading comics. The brain has to be processing and comprehending to be in on the joke.

For the kids who love video games I purchased, and continue each year to purchase, the latest Guinness Book of World Records: Gamer’s Addition. The waiting list for those books is huge. Stars Wars character encyclopedias, visual dictionaries and cross sections are never on the shelves. They are always checked out.

Cookbooks, survival guides, graphic novels, comic books, user guides, movie companion books, I stock them all. There’s a book for what you’re interested in, I tell my students, and then I tell them the story of a girl who loved Project Runway and how that led her to one of her favorite books of all time, Allegra Biscotti.

It is my hope that by introducing kids to books that aren’t novels, they’ll get over their hesitation to approach books. I like to think of it as giving them a gateway to the written word.

It may take some time and it certainly takes some extra effort, but I enjoy the challenge of getting to know my students and finding them a book they’ll like. When we find something they like, they look forward to coming to the library and that is a huge step in converting the reluctant reader into a reader.

More on Reluctant Readers
My Confessions
What is a Reluctant Reader
Take 5: Resources for Working with Reluctant Readers
Top 10 Tips for Parents (and teachers and librarians) for Helping Your Reluctant Reader
What if We Read More?
What if it’s more than Reluctant Reading? A tween’s struggle with dyslexia

What if it’s more than just Reluctant Reading? A mom shares about her daughter’s dyslexia

This week we are talking about reluctant readers and today my friend has been kind enough to share her struggles about raising not only a reluctant reader, but a child with dyslexia.

I have a Reluctant Reader to say the least.  I would push it a bit further and admit I have a Kicking and Screaming reluctant dyslexic reader. (Now, say that 5 times in a row)   She’s nine years old and in the third grade but already has the mood swings of a teenager.  Her talents lean toward the social aspects of life.  She’s really a perfectionist, which makes reading more difficult.  She is easily frustrated.   She doesn’t want to try because she’s afraid to fail.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iVcTPRShBA]
Bella Thorne discusses her struggles with dyslexia

When I was growing up, reading was fun!   I would devour a book in a day that would take my friends days or weeks to read.  Reading was my escape.  School was fun and easy.  But this is not about me.  I wish I could say the same is true for my kid, but that’s just not in her personality.

We read four to five times a week.  We have a schedule.  We find interesting subjects to her somewhere on her level.  Gone are the days when I will accept her reading Go Dog Go!  with a straight face.  She memorized that book years ago when I had dreams that she would be reading War and Peace and The United States Tax Code by the fourth grade.  I’ve learned to let those dreams go because she is her own person, not my little mini-me. 
Some days are better than others.  Some days, when the moon and stars line up, I have just a reluctant reader.  She still hopes that I forget that it’s reading time.  But she will attempt to read with a good attitude and usually does fairly well.  I ask her to read to me so that I get to know what’s going on in the book.  I act interested to get her invested in the characters.   I have taken the advice of a trusted friend to ask her to read a page and I will read a page.  Then I read something completely different to her for her listening enjoyment.  We are big fans of Judy Blume’s Fudge series and other books I read as a child.  Rarely, she will read to the dogs.   Their favorite books always have dogs as the protagonist.  Those are our good days… 
Other days, my reader sets her jaw, digs her heals in, and the fun begins.  Our reading time is reduced to sniffs and snuffles between tears.  However, sometimes I just have to laugh at her reasons for not wanting to read.  Some of her top reasons are: I’ll never use this when I grow up, I will just wait for the movie, and reading is stupid!!!  I have to take a step back and let her cool off.  On these days, I pray for the patience to just get through the passage.  We always finish but sometimes leave tear stains on the book.  However, books are pretty tough and dry out nicely. 
I just try to look at the big picture and think about where we started and how far we have come.  We are so blessed that her biggest problem is dyslexia!  This child has been given to us by God and I think at times he somehow has overestimated us.  Although when I prayed for a little girl, the only parameters I gave God was blond headed and blue eyed.  Wow, The Great I Am certainly has a wicked sense of humor!!  

Helping Children with Dyslexia in the Classroom
Kidshealth: Understanding Dyslexia

I finished a book! A guest book review of Dead Run by Sean Rodman (Orca Soundings)

I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t read as much as I should for a teen librarian.  I check out a lot of books that I never end up reading.  I start a lot of books that I never finish.  Far too often my response to “have you read ________?” is no.  Maybe I’m a reluctant reader.  I was certainly reluctant about reading Dead Run by Sean Rodman (Orca Soundings).

If I’m not in the middle of something already, or if I walked off and left my book at home, I’ll often grab something that’s not really my style to read during my lunch break.  I figure this way I’m still broadening my horizons in YA lit without tying myself down to something I’m not sure I really want to read.  Does that sound crazy? 

Anyway, that’s how I ended up with Dead Run.  I’ve been ordering Orca books, especially Orca Soundings, for a few years but had yet to read one.  This one was in our “New YA” display so I picked it up and read the back.  It immediately made me think of a movie that came out a while back, Premium Rush (2012).  I never saw it but I’ve been crushing on Joseph Gordon-Levitt since 10 Things About You (1999), so it was on my radar.  That was good enough to make it lunch time reading, so down to our dungeon of a break room I headed.

By the end of my lunch break I was pleasantly surprised to find myself more than halfway through the book and actually enjoying it!  I felt like I was watching an action movie, something my husband would probably pick.  It wasn’t that I suddenly wanted to be a bicycle racer, or find myself a seedy courier job but I was into the story and I did want to know how things would turn out for Sam. 

I took the book home and finished it later that night.  I had a feeling of accomplishment for having finished a book and I enjoyed it!  No one had to guilt me into reading it.  It didn’t take me a month to finish.  It opened my eyes up to what it might feel like to be a reluctant reader picking up a high-low book.

That’s exactly what I think we’re looking for when we purchase and recommend books for reluctant readers.  We want to give them something they’ll enjoy so they’ll stick with it.  But sometimes books with subjects that interest a reluctant or low level reader aren’t written at a reading level they can really succeed at.  Orca Soundings manages to provide both a fast paced action filled story with high teen appeal at a reading level that many of our struggling readers can fully comprehend. 

I’ll definitely be booktalking Dead Run and adding more Orca Soundings to my “To Read” list.

Cassie Jones is the teen librarian for the Morgan County Public Library in Indiana.  She got her start in libraries during high school while working at one of MCPL’s branches as a page.  She returned to MCPL as a circulation clerk in 2009 and took her role in teen services later that same year.  In May 2012 she finished her Masters in Library Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.  She lives in Monrovia, Indiana with her husband and their bloodhound, Josie.  

Writing for Reluctant Readers, a guest post by Alex Van Tol

Writers who are eager to break into publishing – or who are wanting to take a break from their usual genre – will be pleased to know there’s a huge and growing market for books that are accessible to youngsters who struggle with reading. Often referred to as hi-lo books, these are short, action-packed books written in easy-to-grasp language. The margins are a little wider, the font is a wee bit bigger, and the words are a smidgeon shorter. As for the rest? Exactly the same as mainstream fiction.

Reluctant readers are just as socially savvy and emotionally mature as kids who find reading easy. It’s essential not to dumb anything down for these youngsters. They crave stories that speak to the concerns in their own lives, yet which are written at a reading level that they can manage.

Until recently, reluctant and weak readers were given simple stories in simple language. But paging through Stuart Little at age 16 isn’t the way to turn a disenfranchised kid onto the magic and power of reading. Today’s youth want to read about the issues that touch their worlds: peer pressure; participation in sports; the seductions – and dangers – of gangs; terminal illness; coming of age; taking risks; fighting injustice…the list goes on. There’s also room for the odd horror story or good old-fashioned romance.

If you’re thinking of writing for reluctant readers, a few tried and true techniques will help you craft strong stories and believable characters. Read – and write – on.

1.      Cut to the action. Get straight into the problem within the first couple of pages. If you can’t get the story rolling with something that leads to the main issue, then at least drop your main character into a situation where there is conflict – either between her and another character, within her own mind, or between her and the outside world. In hi-lo fiction, conflict is key. It keeps the story moving.

2.     Short and sweet. Keep readability in mind. Books for reluctant readers typically are written to fall within a Grade 2 to Grade 4 reading level. Keep your chapters short and packed with forward momentum (see #4, below). Break compound sentences into simple, single-clause sentences. Don’t be afraid to use sentence fragments. We often speak in fragments; even though they’re not grammatically perfect, they make sense to our brains when we’re reading as well as when we’re speaking. Keep your language simple, and avoid multisyllabic words. Follow Stephen King’s advice for punchy writing: use the first (and often simplest) word that comes to mind to describe something. If Melina wants to run away from an armed thug, so be it. Don’t make her scurry, trot or scamper. Put the thesaurus away and let her run, dammit.

3.     Easy on the characters. Reluctant readers spend much of their energy just making sense of the words on the page. Their working memory is occupied with the task of decoding – so expecting them to remember a variety of characters (plus their backstories and idiosyncrasies) is asking too much. Stick to your main character, an antagonist, and one or maybe two sidekicks. Any characters beyond that should be familiar to young readers (a coach, a parent etc.) and simply sketched.

4.     Raise the stakes. Give your character(s) a problem. How do they react? Then make it worse. How do they react? Then…make it worse (hey, you’re the boss around here!). How do they cope now? Don’t go easy on your people. We want to see them sweat. The best stories are the ones where characters grapple with and eventually overcome challenges – and learn about themselves in the process.

One more thing about plot…don’t feel like just because you’re writing for teens, you need to jam your story full of capital-I Issues. Sure, some of our nation’s children are dealing with ghetto living, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and emotional abuse – but young readers are just as commonly interested in stories that feature day-to-day issues faced by teens in today’s world.

5.     Make your dialogue pop. Your characters should speak on the page like they do in the real world. Not sure how real conversation sounds? Head to your local coffee shop (or play a clip from your favourite movie), turn your back or close your eyes, and listen. We use contractions. We ask questions. We sigh. We interrupt each other. Our intonation changes depending on our level of excitement. Sometimes – you’ll have to open your eyes for this one – we use gestures. All of this should be present in your dialogue, to bring your characters to life. The only things that shouldn’t be there are what we call distractors: the ums, ahs and likes that we tend to pepper our real-world speech with. They’re not noticeable when we’re conversing with our best friend, but if the words keep showing up on the page, they become awkward and – oddly – inauthentic. Study well-written dialogue to see how it’s done.

One last note about dialogue. When it comes to writing for reluctant readers, “said” really isn’t dead. In fact, it’s the best attribution out there because it’s unobtrusive. It functions simply to direct our attention to the character who’s speaking – and it doesn’t take our attention away from what’s actually being said. Newspaper and magazine writers get this. They don’t sprinkle their stories with things like, “I had a great time”, she gushed or “It was a dramatic day in the House of Commons,” he warbled. Stick to said most of the time, and then when you do have occasion to use shouted or yelled or whispered or moaned, it will pack the punch you want it to.

6.     Keep it real. There’s a reason people keep lining up to shell out big bucks for Hollywood movies. We like to watch the story unfold in front of our eyes. Just like listening to authentic conversations helps you to write believable dialogue, you must observe people in the real world to write convincing narrative. When you write a scene, pay attention to what your characters actually look like as they’re talking/walking/arguing/chopping vegetables. Write their words exactly as you would hear real people saying them. Write their movements as though you’re watching them with a camera. (When I edit other authors’ manuscripts, Camera up! is my most commonly used phrase. I use it whenever I come across a scene that needs more depth, emotion or real-life feeling.)

7.     Hang it up. Remember, you’re writing for reluctant readers. Emphasis on the word reluctant. Once that kid puts the book down, you want him to pick it back up, right? (And I say him, because research shows the majority of reluctant readers are males.) To keep those pages turning, try to leave your chapters on a question, a decision point, or even a cliffhanger. Is he going to do it? What will it cost him if he does? Will she make it out alive? This sets up a desire within the reader to know more, and to keep reading to find out what happens.

There you have it. A lucky seven strategies to help you break into the world of hi-lo publishing. Camera up! And, uh, break a leg.

Following is a list of a few examples of good stories for reluctant readers:

Harvey, Sarah N. — Plastic
Langston, Laura – Exit Point
McClintock, Norah — Back
Mac, Carrie — Jacked
Rodman, Sean — Infiltration
Schwartz, Ellen — Cellular
Stevenson, Robin — In the Woods
Tate, Nikki — Fallout
Walters, Eric — Special Edward

Author Bio:

Alex Van Tol grew up reading a wide range of books, from Enid Blyton to Stephen King. She taught middle school for eight years, then made the switch to writing for a living. She has published numerous hi-lo titles with Orca, including books in the Orca Currents, Orca Soundings and Orca Sports series. Alex lives in Victoria, British Columbia, with her family. Visit www.alexvantol.com for more information. 

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