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Apr 27 / Audra Jackson

Promoting Interest in Reading for Middle School Children (G6)

Jeanine Stark

With the increase in media coverage and social networking, middle school children are more familiar with current events than ever.  Why not tap into that interest and promote reading at the same time?  “When we think of motivation our mind first turns to interest” (Cambria & Guthrie, 2010, p. 16).

It is the responsibility of the parents, teachers, and librarians to motivate readers.  It seems so logical to make an effort to know the students’ interests, whether situational or enduring, and help them to locate books that are relevant to them.

For those students interested in basketball, during the Final Four March Madness craze, a good book to recommend may be CBS Sports Presents Stories from the Final Four edited by Matt Fulks.  During tennis season, or Wimbledon, students may enjoy A Magical Racquet Ride: Journey to the Four Grand Slam Tournaments of Tennis by Marissa Irvin Gould.   For hockey players, or during the Stanley Cup Playoffs or Olympics, an excellent recommendation is The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey.  Fans of the movie Miracle would also be interested in such a title.



Sports enthusiasts are not the only group of children that can benefit from interest provoking recommendations from parents, librarians, and teachers.  Survival stories are very riveting and relevant, especially if such stories are on the news or social sites.    I Survived The Japanese Tsunami by Lauren Tarshis is number eight in a series of survival stories.  This is a fiction book based on actual events.  Gary Paulsen writes excellent survival stories for middle school readers.  One such title is Hatchet.  Night of the Tornado by Ron Taylor is a book that students may like to read during tornado season, or it may be enjoyed by weather enthusiasts.  The events of 9/11 may be new to some middle school readers, so around the anniversary of the disaster, students may like to read the graphic novel The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobsen.

17265269Hatchet (Brian's Saga, #1)19360943160220

During award season, the red carpet is all the rage among those interested in both the entertainment and fashion industries.  Promoting books relating to these events may spark interest for certain middle school readers.    Red Carpet: 20 Years of Fame and Fashion by Frank Trapper is a text that would interest those during the entertainment award season.  Television personality turned designer Lauren Conrad penned a book called Lauren Conrad Style that appeals to both her fans and fashion lovers.  Finally, there are even fiction books that revolve around fashion.  One, titled Fashion Fraud by Jamie Campbell, is the first in a series of fashion related fiction.


In essence, “text-to-world connections are the larger connections that a reader brings to a reading situation” (Kardash, 2004, p. 2).  Tapping into the interests and the minds of middle school readers is of the utmost importance when motivating reading.  Parents, teachers, and librarians must be aware of these interests, and they must be aware of what the children are viewing and exposed to outside of the classroom and library.  These interests are ultimately what compels young readers to pick up a book and read!


Cambria, J. & J. T. Guthrie.  (2010).  Motivating and engaging students in reading.  The NERA

                     Journal, 46(1).

Kardash, D.  (2004).  Making connections: Text to self, text to text, text to world.  Florida

Apr 27 / Audra Jackson

Motivating Children to Read (G6)

Jessica Burdette

Motivating children to read is not always the easiest of tasks, especially when there are so many other stimuli for them to engage in. The fact is that children are required to read for school, and therefore may not be inclined to pick up a book to read for pleasure. As adults, it is our responsibility to encourage and motivate children to read not only for educational purposes, but for enjoyment as well as there are so many benefits of reading. As adults we play different roles in our task of motivating and encouraging children to read. With each separate role, there are methods to motivate children.  The following are just a few of the many ways in which various adult roles can provide resources to be used to encourage children to read:


  • Use book fairs to encourage students to read, and hype it up with the staff and students so they are excited for it (Gersten, 1981).
  • Create Displays that create a WOW factor for readers, and change them regularly so they do not become boring and obsolete (Braxton, 2004).
  • Get students involved early; invite early 5 and preschoolers to come to the library for storytime (Braxton, 2004).
  • Knowing the library collection so that it is easy to recommend a book to a student based on their interests (Braxton, 2004).
  • Have a suggestion box so that students can have an input on what is in the library collection, even set aside a small amount for these purchases throughout the year (Braxton, 2004).
  • Have an inviting atmosphere so that students are encouraged to come to the library and actually hang out in there (Braxton, 2004).
  • Have a “New for You” section that displays books that are purchased throughout the year (Braxton, 2004).
  • Always be open for students to check out books (Braxton, 2004).


  • Expose students to a little bit about a lot of books, so that students are familiar with all types and genres of text (Adams, 2006).
  • Start a “Beloved Books” library, which can be used to give to students on special occasions> the book should be personalized to show the value of both books and reading (Adams, 2006).
  • Use high impact reading materials to get students involved with the text (Noland, 1976).
  • Make a reading area in the classroom that is inviting and comfortable for students (Noland, 1976).
  • Encourage outside reading for extra credit (Johns, 1975).
  1. Let students design bulletin boards of their favorite books or stories to encourage others to read (Johns, 1975).
  • Model reading (Johns, 1975).
    • When taking students to the library, take a book and read too
    • Let students catch you reading when they come in
    • Read to the class
  • Take an interest inventory of students so you know what they want to read (Johns, 1975).
  • Be acquainted to a wide variety of books, so you can help students find what will interest them (johns, 1975).
  • Have students create a book catalog. Students would create a page with an illustration of a major event from the story and synopses of it content, put it in a page protector and then a three ring binder for students to look at and get books suggestions from (Criscuolo, 1979).


  • Read a book with kids and then watch the movie version together (Dunnewind, 2006).
  • Read aloud to kids (Dunnewind, 2006).
  • Listen to audiobooks when in the car (Dunnewind, 2006).
  • Start a family book club (Dunnewind, 2006).
  • Talk to teens about what they are reading (Dunnewind, 2006).
  • Get a subscription to their favorite magazine (Dunnewind, 2006).
  • Have a book allowance, in addition to the regular allowance, except this can only be used for books (“How to Encourage Students to Read,” 2011).
  • Take regular trips to the local library (“How to Encourage Students to Read,” 2011).
  • Establish a place in the child’s room specifically for his/her books and for reading (“How to Encourage Students to Read,” 2011).
  • Introduce your child to the librarian (“How to Encourage Students to Read,” 2011).

The Use of Technology:

  • “Online resources provide rich opportunities for creating communities of readers of books. Scholastic’s You Are What You Read (http:// invites readers to share their “bookprint”-five books that made an indelible mark on their lives. Readers can search on celebrities and “age mates” to learn what books they love; they can build online relationships with peers by discussing particular books they have read in common. A class website based on this format could create rich opportunities for sharing favorite books or electronic texts,” (New Literacies Books, 2012).
  • Have students create book trailers and post them to YouTube, instead of doing a book report (New Literacies Books, 2012).
  • Look for opportunities for students to be involved with online book discussions (Braxton, 2004).
  • Have students write book blogs, to share book ideas and communicate with students (Motivating readers through voice and choice, 2012).


Adams, C. (2006, September). 50 ways to motivate kids. Instructor [1990], 116(2), 47. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from Academic OneFile.

Braxton, Barbara. “Encouraging Students to Read for Pleasure.” Teacher Librarian 31.3 (2004): 39. ProQuest. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Criscuolo, N. P. (1979). Effective Approaches for Motivating Children to Read. The Reading Teacher, 32(5), 543-546. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from

Dunnewind, S. (2006). Dos and don’ts for getting kids to read. Teacher Librarian, 34(1), 28-29. Retrieved from

Gersten, L. (1981). Getting Kids to Read. The English Journal, 70(2), 40-41. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from

How To Encourage Students To Read. (2011). Retrieved April 27, 2015, from

Johns, J. L. (1975). Motivating Reading: Professional Ideas. The Reading Teacher, 28(7), 617-619. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from

New literacies books: Technology-based formats for motivating tech-savvy middle graders. (2012). Voices from the Middle, 19(4), 76-78. Retrieved from

Motivating readers through voice and choice. (2012). Voices from the Middle, 20(2), 58-59. Retrieved from

Noland, R. G. (1976). Methods to Motivate the Reluctant Reader. Journal of Reading, 19(5), 387-391. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from

Apr 27 / Audra Jackson

Create and Explore! (G6)

Audra Jackson

When we think about Non-Fiction, we might think of dry literature that is heavy of facts and light on fun. The idea of getting our kids to read becomes even more daunting when we try to consider non-fiction titles that are based in reality and don’t contain the same sort of bells and whistles that fictional genres do. Thankfully, non-fiction can be colorful, exciting, and just as full of wonder as the fantasy novel you find on the fiction shelf!

Don’t believe me? Or, perhaps you just need somewhere to get started? Let me introduce you to my friend DK.

Discovery Kids (DK) is an offshoot of Discovery, and they’ve got all kind of non-fiction that appeals to youth no matter what their interests. Appealing to interest, as you’ve probably heard by now, is one of the most important factors involved with building life-long readers. Kids who love what they read are more likely to read again in the future, and how could a kid obsessed with soccer not LOVE a colorful busy book full of soccer images, facts, fun-info, and trivia?

DK has something for everyone. For example:

DK Eyewitness books cover topics such as animals, travel, culture, science, and history:

DK Factivity Books include fun information on fiction and pop culture favorites that kids enjoy:

DK Visual Dictionaries offer a extensive information on any topics in an engaging style with story-telling type entries and numerous photos.

DK even has board games to help further integrate reading into a fun-culture that will inspire your readers to keep learning.



DK also has an amazing website ( where kids can explore the worlds they discover through the books, or perhaps discover a new book through this fascinating and interactive digital world!

If you’re ready to help your young (or old!) reader get started on a non-fiction journey they won’t soon forget, visit or your local library to get in on all of the non-fiction fun!

Apr 27 / Elissa Zimmer

Motivating Children to Read

Casee Sawdon

Motivating children to read can be as easy as pulling teeth at times. With the devices and technology available today, it’s hard to get them to sit down with a book for entertainment.  They don’t always have pictures, the pictures certainly don’t move, there isn’t a game to it, and books don’t make noises, so what’s the fun in it? Here are a few tips on how to help motivate your child to read:

  • Make it rewarding without going overboard. You don’t want to promise a trip to Disney just so they will finish a book; keep it simple. Make a simple reading log and choose to follow how many books or the amount of pages read. Know what your child likes to do and for every so many pages (or books) reward them. For example, go get an ice cream, go to a park or McDonald’s play place, or maybe a few extra minutes before bed time. Let them help you decide what rewards they would like.
  • Let them choose the book. If the material they are reading is not interesting, it won’t catch their attention. Make sure they have plenty of choices; which is easy at your public library.
  • Don’t make reading a punishment. If your child wasn’t their best in school or they didn’t eat their broccoli, don’t punish them by making them read more. This will just associate reading with a chore and they will learn not to like it.
  • Give them plenty of time to use their imaginations. This is more focused on younger readers. Children need to set down the devices that give them instant gratification without using their imaginations. They need to learn how to use their imaginations. When they start reading chapter books with few to no pictures they need to be able to see the story. But if they don’t know how to use their imaginations then this will be harder for them and the story won’t come to life like it is supposed to.
  • Let them see you reading. Lead by example, it’s a lot harder to show them how fun reading can be if they never see anyone in the house reading also. Set aside time for your reading. Maybe have a set reading time for everyone when the television and phones are set down and everyone reads for 20 to 30 minutes.

Reading is a big part of life. Without this skill school, work, and everyday requirements will be much more difficult. Just remember, keep calm and read on!

Apr 27 / Elissa Zimmer

Motivating Kids to Read through Book Talks

Dee Beaver

While working in a media center with children, I see many good books cross my desk and I frequently wonder how to get kids to read the books.  Sometimes it’s as easy as making an announcement, “Hey kids, the new books are on this shelf right here!”  But more often than not, it’s never quite that easy.  Especially with the students who continue to exclaim that they just don’t like to read.  For those reluctant readers, we need to get a little more creative in order to entice them into reading.  This is where book talks come into play.

Book talks are a great way to attract students to a book by giving them just enough information so that they are interested in picking up the book to read it themselves, but not so much information that they already know what will happen in the book.  We don’t want to summarize the story; we just want to give students a teaser.

Book talks can either be given in person while you are in front of the students, or a book talk can be pre-recorded in a short video format.  It’s up to you to determine what will work best for your students.  Live book talks are nice because the person giving the book talk can make adjustments to the presentation, if necessary, based on the responses (or lack of responses) by his or her audience.  However, video book talks can be fun and can be accessed anywhere and anytime.  Especially if your media center or library has a viewing monitor in the children’s area where you can run the book talk or several book talks on a loop for continual viewing.

A few things to remember when planning your book talk:

  • Choose a few selections from the book that will entice listeners.
  • Never give away important plot points.
  • Make the story sound exciting by the way that you speak, or move, or your choice of music.
  • End your talk on a cliffhanger.

Your book talks can be effective without requiring too much time.  Just a couple of minutes of your time and students will be racing to see who can get the book first!

Apr 27 / Katrina Braet

Wait….You Don’t Like to Read?!?!

Michelle Wise

There are many children that don’t want to read, whether they find it boring, it reminds them of school, or they are not good at reading. There are many ways that you can get kids to read, no matter how young. Here are a few steps that may help make a reader out of your child, or the child you have in mind.

The first step is getting them to like the idea of reading. Start out with something short or fun, including but not limited to: crosswords, word searches, videogames (those that have a constant storyline that requires reading), or having them read the recipe in a cookbook while helping make their favorite foods.

Next, move up another level. Mad Libs, stories online that kids can write together, or reading special materials may be of use. These materials can include: magazines, joke books, comics, cereal boxes, movies with subtitles, and other creative methods. Choose Your Own Adventure books are novels, yet you flip between pages and don’t end up reading the entire book. This may be a nice choice or fun way to get children reading. There are also other similar versions written by others that are not in this particular series.

Another suggestion is reading aloud together. This doesn’t have to be limited to parents with small children. If this is not possible, an audiobook or Playaway may be more convenient.  These can all be used to motivate children to read more. A child seeing a role model reading is an incentive to be like them, as well as reinforcing that it is a good thing to be reading in the first place. Other incentives may include reading the book before seeing the movie and/or reading a certain amount of time for every hour spent playing video games or watching tv. Don’t knock the idea of series’ until you’ve tried it! Once a child starts a series, if your kid is hooked, they will want to finish the series, and many times they’ll end up reading more books like their favorite  series for fun!

Finally, some rewards may be required to convince children to read, even if it’s a chapter in a book for a cookie. Reading and a reward go together well with reluctant and non-readers. Of course, only you know what will work as a reward for your child. Maybe they need to read 10 books on dinosaurs and you will take them to a museum. Try to find materials that children want to read. Figure out if they want to learn about an animal, make a craft, tips for a video game, or anything else that would relate to their interests.

While not all of these steps may be needed, they would all work to encourage non-readers to want to read. Maybe your child just requires being taken to the library to pick out books they are interested in. Here are some things to avoid doing when trying to motivate non-readers: Don’t use not coming back to the library as a threat- you will regret it in some way. Don’t discourage reading, set aside some time each day, no matter what material is being read. Don’t force reading, but don’t completely give up either. Make sure your child is reading at an appropriate level of literature for them. If your child wants an E-reader, it may not be a bad investment. Whether they can play games and read on them is up to you. There are often eBooks available through your local library, on websites such as Amazon, and some sites that legally have eBooks and audiobooks, all for free. eBooks save physical space and some money, so don’t write it off if it sounds like an investment for you and/or your family. You may even be able to try one out at a library near you! Reading is worth the investment in any and every child’s future.

Apr 27 / Katrina Braet

Motivating Tweens to Read by Increasing Library Involvement

Kelly Wilson

Tweens can be a difficult age group to get into the public library, but there are a few things library staff can offer that will increase tween usage at the library.  This will, in turn, lead to increases in tween reading, program attendance, and overall interest in the library. Among the proactive steps library staff can take, some of the most effective are: having tween book discussions, starting a tween advisory group, and creating a tween space.  By incorporating these elements, tweens will feel more welcome and be more involved in the library making them more likely to use its collections.

One way to motivate tweens to read is to make reading a shared experience.  Tweens are learning to navigate their increasingly complex social network and offering them a chance to combine that with reading might be the stimulus many need.  A tween book discussion centering on the shared experience of reading the same book can be an effective way to engage the social tween while motivating him or her to read, as youth service librarian Sarah Bean Thompson found.  When her public library wasn’t drawing in the tween audience that she felt they should, Thompson and her staff made some changes to their approach, as she discusses in the article, “Chat and Chew,” (Thompson, 2014).  Her town’s public library wasn’t located within walking distance of any schools and tweens depended on transportation to get to the library from school which was a huge problem. To counter this, Thompson and her staff worked with local school librarians and teachers to host a lunchtime book discussion at seven local schools once a month. The program was a success and the number of participants grew every month. At the end of the school year, participants were invited to a reception at the public library and were introduced to the programs and services there.Thompson believes the success of the “Chat and Chew” program was that students “loved the idea of having a special lunch somewhere other than the cafeteria; they loved being able to talk with their friends about books they were reading; and they enjoyed having a special event just for them,” (Thompson, 2014, p. 25). A social gathering that centers on reading might be the perfect solution to draw in teens at your public library if tweens aren’t showing up in the numbers you’d like.

Creating a tween advisory group (TWAG) can also increase tween library usage and reading. Although many libraries have a teen advisory group to offer advice about what teens want to do and read, tweens are at a unique age and need their own voice in the library which a tween advisory board would offer. If a set time doesn’t work due to scheduling issues or transportation problems, simply paying attention to the books and resources tweens ask for is another possibility. Discover which books are popular and offer more books and programs that are similar. Thompson also found that basing programs around the elements of pop culture that tweens show an interest in can bring tweens into the library. In her library, she explains, “we’re planning programs around The Chronicles of Narnia, Ninjago, and Egypt in response to tweens interests,” (Thompson, 2013, p. 30). Simply listening and responding to tween interests can go a long ways in providing the right materials in your tween collection and programs.

Another possibility to bring in tweens and motivate them to read is to create a space that will appeal to them. In Stockholm, Sweden, the TioTretton Library, meaning “ten thirteen” in Swedish, is designed for ten to thirteen year olds only.  Sarah Bayliss discusses the TioTretton in her article, “Over 13 Not Admitted.” As the title suggests, neither parents nor teachers are allowed into this tween-only space. This separation makes “tweens feel at home while providing some distance from the grown-ups who direct so much of their lives,” (Bayliss, 2013, p.11). This unique space offers comfortable seating partially hidden for introverts, large shared spaces for the more social tweens, and even a real kitchen with books in every corner. Librarians and staff are trained to be the “third adult,” someone who is not an authority figure but who is there to offer guidance if asked. Although most public libraries lack the funding to create an entire floor with such unique properties, the idea of creating a space just for tweens is still applicable. For this age group, who are neither children nor ready to join the teen scene, a place of their own might offer just the right amount of motivation they need to visit their public library and find reading materials.

Motivating tweens to read can be tricky, but by making reading a shared experience, offering tweens a voice in collection development and programs, and giving them their own space, tweens can be motivated to use the library and its collections.



Bayliss, S.  (2013).  Over 13 not admitted.  Library Journal,11.

Thompson, S.B. (2013). Don’t forget the tweens.  Public Libraries 52(6), 29-30.

Thompson, S.B. (2014).  Chat and chew.  Voice of Youth Advocate 37 (4), 24-25.

Apr 27 / Amanda Vorce

Fun with Readability Formulas

Amanda Vorce

Enrico_Fermi_at_the_blackboard How do you know if a non-fiction book is appropriate for a child of a certain grade level? For most people, the answer is math—in particular, the use of a readability formula. Even if you have never interacted with an actual formula, you no doubt have consulted a website, or ­the back of the book itself . Both of these sources would have used a readability formula to come up with their grade level recommendations.

The alternative would be to try to guess a book’s appropriateness yourself based solely on appearances. You cannot judge the appropriateness of a non-fiction book based on content the way you might for fiction; a kindergartener could want to read about volcanoes, but so could a high school senior, and any other grade in between. You have to rely on more aesthetic concerns, such as the look and feel of these texts. You may not know what to look for.

The question is then, what are these readability formulas?

Where did they even come from?

And are there any alternatives?

The Origin Story

In 1920’s America, there was a lot of experimenting and development in the science of reading. The big thing in research was to thoroughly break down a text in hopes of understanding what affected its readability. They were motivated by a public concern that textbooks were too hard for children to understand. It was in this exciting time for the science of reading that the tradition of using formulas to calculate reading levels began (Zakaluk 1988).

What is a Readability Formula?

A readability formula is an algorithm that uses a segment of a text and various factors about it to enter in as values. There have been hundreds of these throughout the years, but here are a few highlights—

The Dale and Chall formula, developed in 1948, used percentages of words in the given text that were not on Dale’s prescribed list. This list of 3,000 words featured simple ones like “a”, but also more exotic ones like banjo and acorn. As to be expected there are no X or Z words.

The Danielson and Bryan formula of 1963 was most concerned with the variables of the letters themselves. They used the number of characters per space and how many characters were in a sentence.

The Flesch-Kincaid test, developed first in 1975, was concerned with the amount of syllables in a word and the length of the sentence (Zakaluk 1988).

The problem with Formulas

In a 1980 study, researchers tested many of these readability formulas and found that their ineptness was laughable. They found that “most of them would yield the same readability index on a passage even if the word order within each phrase, and the order of the phrases within each sentence, were scrambled” (Huggins and Adams p. 91).

The fact is that readability formulas analyze style variables. They are focused more on the process of reading itself instead of the mental process initiated by reading―its comprehensibility. Basically, they measure if you can read something fast, and not if you actually internalize it. Never is anything regarding the child who will be reading it factored into the evaluation. Their brain chemistry, mental processes and past education cannot be introduced as a variable in these formulas because there is no accurate way to quantify it (Clark 1981).

This can cause all kinds of issues:

Firstly, it does not take into considerations those aspects of the material that can effect a child’s ability to understand a text. These aspects include repetition and pacing, how the book is formatted and the use of illustrations.

Secondly, there are other concerns with the child themselves and their background, education, and personal motivations for reading. An example of this is given by Heidi Mesmer, an associate professor in literacy in her book, Tools for Matching Readers to Texts: Research-based Practices. She found a book on Native Americans for a boy named Kyle. He had never learned about Native Americans before. After finishing it, he told her, “This book isn’t about Native Americans. It’s about people from different countries. Where is Cherokee anyways?” A readability formula might have rated this book as his age level but it could not have estimated what Kyle needed to know before reading it (Mesmer 2008).

How to Use Formulas

Even when these formulas were first developed in the 1920’s and 30’s, researchers knew that any formulas they came up with would have limited success. The problem is that while it is easy to poke holes in these formulas, there is no clear alternative to them, even in the 21st century.

The solution? Use them and use those websites that use them, but do so creatively and do not rely on their conclusions too hardily. They are only mathematical calculations. While they cannot possibly know anything about children because they are only lifeless formulas, you do. They are tools, and as tools it can help to understand the limitations. It is very possible for these formulas to over or under estimate texts.

Here are some good guidelines―

Some formulas may underestimate a book if they feature any of the following —(1) use metaphorical language, (2) use any idioms or phrases, especially those that involve simple words (i.e. raining cats and dogs) or (3) feature archaic language.

Some formulas may overestimate books if they use technical vocabulary words. Also remember that formulas should only be applied to ‘connected prose’, never poetry, recipes or books about mathematical concepts (Mesmer 2008).



Charles H. Clark. Assessing Comprehensibility: The PHAN system. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 34, No. 6 (Mar., 1981), pp. 670-675

Mesmer, Heidi. Tools for Matching Readers to Texts: Research-based Practices. 2008. Guilford Press.

Zakaluk, Beverley. Readability: It’s Past, Present and Future. 1988. International Reading Association.

Apr 27 / Amanda Vorce

Bridging Between Screens and Paper: Making Reading and Learning More Applicable

Hannah Lesniak

So many children today are plugged in to their screens: their iPods, iPads, television, etc. This time spent in front of screens takes away from time that could be spent reading. The generation that so clearly understands technology also needs competency in literacy. So how do we encourage our children to turn off their device and read a book? Or even read a book on their device instead of playing games? Or will games help them grow in literacy? There are no clear cut answers, but below are some suggestions to bridge the gap.


Comics/Graphic Novels

Comic books and graphic novels so often get a bad rap. However, this light reading can encourage children to read and help them gain needed reading skills. Stephen Krashen reveals in his study The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research that, “Comic books often introduce new, sophisticated vocabulary” (2004). If vocabulary is to be gained, it must be introduced over and over again until it is recognized and known. Is it better therefore for a child to read 10 books from different authors per year or for a child to blaze through a comic series by the same author with repeated sophisticated vocabulary per year?

Children can read comics and still gain the same reading skills that they would gain from reading fiction or non-fiction. It can also help them become familiar with reading. Stephen Krashen says, “Comic books play an important role in helping readers gain confidence and learn to enjoy reading” (2004). Confidence is important to instill in children, especially concerning reading. Reading skills will be needed their entire life, as they grow academically, and throughout their adult careers. Comics and graphic novels can be the foundation for those skills.

Comics and graphic novels are not just about guys in tights saving the world. They come in many genres and represent many different facets of human character. Some popular and diverse titles include:

  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
    • A collection of tales combining legendary Chinese folk tales and a modern Chinese American boy.
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
    • Drama abounds on and off stage in this hilarious take on theater productions.
  • A Wrinkle in Time: A Graphic Novel by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson
    • Three children with the help of some unusual guardians, travel across time and space to save their father and the universe. Adapted from the original novel, children can become familiar with classic titles through graphic novels.
  • This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
    • Every summer Rose and Windy get together to swim, play, and just have fun. But this summer is different. Rose’s parents are fighting and when the girls seek a distraction from their problems, they get caught up in a whole different kind of drama. Honor award for the Printz and Caldecott 2015.



eBooks are everywhere. They are easy to access and have many storytelling features for children: narration, animation, and sound effects. These features can enhance storytelling and involve the child in reading. There are also features that help readers follow along as the book narrates itself and it can define words to promote an increase in vocabulary as needed.

Some interactive eBook providers include:

Tumblebook Library

Tumblebooks hosts thousands of children’s book titles that can be accessed through your local library and read online. Each title is rich in educational resources including games and puzzles related to math and language skills. Some titles are also in French and Spanish for bilingual learning.

Big Universe Learning

Big Universe Learning has thousands of titles from multiple publishers and has integrated literacy tools for outside classroom learning. Unfortunately, the price of the annual subscription can be prohibitive.

Scholastic’s Book Flix

A perfect option for teachers, this resource pairs animated story eBook titles with non-fiction eBooks for children to engage in reading.

StarWalk Kids

StarWalk Kids is a subscription based platform that incorporates Common Core standards into educational eBooks.



Not only can eBooks be accessed easily through devices and online, but applications can also be utilized for similar purposes. The prevalence of iPads has led to many applications that can help with education and literacy. There are numerous applications that deal with mathematics, reading, and science skills.

Khan Academy

This free application through iTunes provides learning in math, biology, chemistry, economics, and art history.

Bill Nye the Science Guy

A free application through iTunes to provide science learning and fun.


A free application to help users keep track of their reading and find recommendations.

Combining visual and print, screen and literacy can help bring children to reading and help them gain confidence in literacy. These suggestions can help children learn to enjoy reading and learning. With the assistance of graphic novels, eBooks, and apps, children can become more open to more substantial reading experiences, fiction, and informational literature.



Big Universe Learning. (2015). Retrieved from

Disney. (2015). Bill Nye the Science Guy. Retrieved from

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Krashen, S. (2004). The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. Retrieved from .

Apr 27 / Amanda Vorce

Read by Example

Jenine Hanna

In children’s services, there are many oft repeated phrases in our arsenal: “Use your walking feet please!”, “Do you have your library card handy?”, “Where is your grown up?”, etc. A perennial favorite for story times to spur reluctant adult audience members into active participation is “you are your child’s first and best teacher”. At the heart of this gentle reminder is the notion that children are influenced by the actions of the adults in their lives, and will notice where these adults demonstrate value. In the context of story time, if parents actively participate and interact with their children, they demonstrate value for the stories and activities, and provide a more enriching experience for their little ones. It is important to remember though, that applications of this phrase are hardly constrained to the context of story time. Well beyond their preschool years, the passive and active involvement of adults in children’s reading habits – whether it be parent, teacher, or librarian – are capable of having a profound impact on their attitudes, aptitudes, and motivations for reading. Not sure how to get started? Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:



Develop your home library. As Kathy Perkinson of the U.S. Department of Education notes, “simply having books, magazines, and newspapers around your home will help children view them as part of daily life” (n.d., para. 6). Don’t stop collecting once kids are past their Eric Carle years. A book can be a thoughtful and personal gift at any age.

Take a time out from technology. According to Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report, “three-quarters of parents with children ages 6–17 (75%) agree “I wish my child would read more books for fun,” and 71% agree “I wish my child would do more things that did not involve screen time” (Scholastic, 2015, p. 4). Being read aloud to, having time spent online restricted, and setting aside regular time for reading are all correlated to habitual reading (Rich, 2015, para. 3). To make these wishes a reality, consider taking one night a week where the television never gets turned on, and the family gets together to read for fun. Whether this time is used for a group read-aloud, or for each family member to embark on his or her own literary journey is not important; either way provides a wonderful opportunity for family bonding, and maybe a little supplemental learning. In fact, E Duursma, M Augustyn, and B Zuckerman note in their 2008 article on reading aloud to children that “children’s books contain 50% more rare words than prime-time television or even college students’ conversations” A colleague who first shared this idea of a dedicated reading night with me had wonderful things to say about the quality time spent with her family, and the positive home reading culture that was developed. Years later, her son is now carrying on the tradition with his own family.

Let them read to you. After children progress past early elementary levels, read-alouds tend to taper off. However, Perkinson urges that you “don’t stop taking the time to read aloud once your children have learned to read for themselves. . . encourage them to read to you some of the time. This shared enjoyment will continue to strengthen your children’s interest and appreciation” (para. 4). Launch a dialogue with on the books they are reading. Ask lots of questions: what made them think or laugh, which character is their favorite and why, what they think will happen next, etc.

Listen to a book together. How often are you and your child in the car together? If you’re like the average American, Harvard Health Publications (2007) estimates that you’ll spend 101 minutes of your day driving. Make commuting with kids work for you by selecting an audiobook to listen to together on the way to school, running errands, or as a way to pass the time on a family road trip.

Practice what you preach. If your children see you reading on a regular basis for enjoyment, this will reinforce their view of reading as a regular part of daily life (Perkinson, para. 6). Demonstrate value by choosing reading as your leisure activity over television at the end of a long day.



Give students a choice. While recognizing that educators have many curricular constraints, providing students a choice whenever possible will aid in student’s association of reading as a recreational activity. According to the Scholastic report, “91% [of children ages 6-17] agree ‘my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself’” (2015, p. 3).

Make time for free reading. Having free reading time provided is a strong predictor in the creation of frequent readers (Scholastic, 2015, p. 31). Whatever you can manage, even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes a couple days a week, will be useful.



Make your services more available. The library has a wealth of resources that serve reader needs, from motivating reluctant readers to satiating the literary appetites of the most avid book lovers. Make sure your younger patrons know about all the services you offer. If you don’t see younger patrons at the library, get out there and bring your services to them. As an example in action, one librarian at MLA Spring Institute 2015 shared her Chat & Chew book club experience, where she met with a group of up to twenty kids during the local middle school’s lunch period (personal communication, March 26, 2015). Make sure that book clubs and other program offerings work around student schedules. Developing strong community ties with local schools and families is beneficial to all parties involved.



Moderate exercise: No pain, big gains. (2007, May). Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Men’s Health Watch, Retrieved from

Perkinson, Kathryn. (n.d.). Getting your child to love reading. Retrieved from

Scholastic, Inc. (2015). Kids & Family Reading Report. Retrieved from