Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bad Books Make Good Reading

As a middle school librarian I often hear parents lament the fact that their children won't read "good books." I remind them that when that reading slump occurs with their children to remember that reading "good books" isn't the only way to keep up those reading skills. Read Francie Alexander's article for her thoughts on this subject and some helpful tips for parents and teachers/librarians.

Bad Books Make Good Reading
Does your child want to read silly romances or stacks of comic books?
By Francie Alexander

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reading Interests

Just talked with a friend who has a 15 year old reluctant reader in her house - her oldest son. She is just amazed that he has suddenly started reading. Guess what he is reading? - nonfiction books about building skateboarding ramps. Guess what he is interested in? - yup, skateboarding. She had to stay on him during school to read his assignments...which most of the time unfortunately he didn't do this year. Remember this summer to get some hobby magazines, graphic novels, guitar books, etc. into the hands of your reluctant reader and they just might surprise you. Oh, yeah, don't forget web some sites about their hobbies and share with them. I reminded my friend that reading web sites does count as reading. LOL

Scary Places

With all the recent interest in the paranormal as evidenced by popular tv shows, movies, and best book sellers, Bearport Publishing's Scary Places series will attract lots of young readers. The publisher's web site says - "Places with dark and disturbing histories exist throughout the world. Some of these locations are apparently so fraught with horror that many visitors experience paranormal activity at the sites. In this frightening new series, readers will learn a great deal about the past as they read nonfiction accounts of what happened in historical places and how the happenings are tied to tales of ghosts, poltergeists, and other unexplainable phenomena. The fabulous photographs and chilling text will have readers lining up to visit Scary Places. Not for the faint of heart!" Spooky Cemeteries by Dinah Williams explores the myth of the last American vampire in the section about the Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Exeter, Rhode Island. Reading level - 4 / Interest level - 4-8 These books are best suited for middle school and mature upper elementary. Other titles in the series include Abandoned Insane Asylums, Creepy Castles, Ghost Towns, Hunted Hotels and Haunted Houses. For those readers who enjoy the horror genre, these books will definitely lure them to read the complete series.

Update: Just named the 2009 Book of the Year in the Third to Fourth Grade category of the
Children's Choice Book Awards!

Extreme Cuisine

Bearport Publishing's
series Extreme Cuisine has just the right amount of "gross" factor to attract boys to pick up these books. One of the series' titles - Bug-a-licious written by Meish Goldish - includes the great quote "One eater's 'yuck!' is another eater's 'yum!' " Full-color pictures with lots of close ups of the bugs will entice students to read about who actually eats wasp crackers, grasshopper tacos, and spreadable stink bugs. We have lots of water bugs here in Louisiana, but no way am I ready to try battering, frying, and eating them with plum sauce like the people in Thailand. I've got the shivers right now just thinking of it! Interesting note on the title page - Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel, served as one of the consultants for the book. Other titles in the series include Shocking Seafood, Slithery, Slimy Scaly Treats, Spider-tizers and Other Creepy Treats, Baby Bug Dishes, and Mammal Menu.

Never enough snake books!

I have found that you can never have enough snakes books in the library! If you need a fresh new series for your snake collection, take a look at Capstone Press' First Facts: SNAKES series...Interest level 1-3 / Reading level 1-2. Corn Snakes by Van Wallach is one of the newest additions to the series. Just the right amount of text for the younger boys and great photographs of the snakes up close and personal. I like the Fun Fact boxes that are sprinkled throughout the book. Do you know that one out of every 5,000 corn snakes is born with two heads? Other titles in the series are Anacondas, Black Mambas, Boa Constrictors, Cobras, Copperheads, Garter Snakes and Rattlesnakes.

Fast Cars

I got a chance to look at one of Capstone Press' books in their Fast Cars series this week. Jaguar by A.R. Schaefer is a sleek little book that I know would interest boys. The interest level is 3-9 and the reading level is 1-2. The books in this series are bilingual - Spanish and English. The full color photographs are what make the book. Other books in the series are Aston Martin, Corvette, Viper, Ferrari, Mustang, Lamborghini, Lotus, Maserati, and Porsche. This series would be a great addition to your school library.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

You Choose Series by Capstone Press

Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? Capstone Press has a similar series called You Choose. RL grades 3-4/IL grades 3-7 According to their catalog this is how Capstone describes the series - "...interactive history books! Everything in these books happened to real people. And YOU CHOOSE the path you take and what you do next. Readers will explore multiple perspectives and learn for themselves the value of seeing history from many points of view."

This week I read Mexican Immigrants in America by Rachael Hanel. This book is one of the new releases in the series. While the title is not very inspiring, the book was great. Just like the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you get to choose what you want to do at certain points in the story. Unlike the CYOA books, the YOU CHOOSE books deal with historical events and choices real people have made. I really expected to be less than awed by Mexican Immigrants in America, but after I started reading I couldn't put it down. I even went back and read some of the alternate choices to see what would happen. Color pictures sprinkled throughout the book add to the story. Some of the titles in this series that I plan to purchase for my middle school library are The Titanic by Bob Temple, Westward Expansion and The Attach on Pearl Harbor by Allison Lassieut. I really think our boys will enjoy these once I "book talk" them to get the first ones circulating.
Capstone Press

Max Anderson - Author and Previous Reluctant Reader

Max Elliot Anderson is an author of action/adventure and mystery books for tween boys. Once a reluctant reader himself, he now writes for reluctant readers, especially boys. Check out his web sites at and .
I haven't read any of Max's books yet but am definitely interested in trying some. They sound like just what my boys at the middle school want in a book.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Capstone Publishers - Stone Arch Books

First, just to let everyone know.....Capstone Press sends me books to preview a couple of times a year; however, I do not receive any compensation for books purchased due to my reviews published on this blog.

I really like Stone Arch Books, a small publishing house which is part of Capstone Publishers. If you are really into finding books for reluctant readers, especially boys, you undoubtably already know about Capstone's books. The following post appeared on the Stone Arch blog site-

Good Books or Gross Books? "An article in the Wall Street Journal recently claimed that to get boys to read, you’ve gotta give them blood and guts. Here at Stone Arch Books, we understand the balance between what boys want and what kids want. Our (proven, kid-tested) method of getting boys to read simply consists of publishing books that contain elements boy readers are looking for—action, sports, humor, adventure, and just a pinch of irreverence. At the same time, we’re publishing books that librarians and teachers and parents can be comfortable with. August 13, 2008

Check out the Graphic Flash: Historical Fiction books by Stone Arch. They combine regular text with the graphic novel format. The books look good and are good reads. There are about 12 titles out already with several more coming in 2009. I recently read Jungle Scout: A Vietnam War Story by Tim Hoppey. IL grades 3-8/ RL grades 2-3 I know a fifth grader who will enjoy this book. For all the school librarians (as well as parents, etc.) - if a student enjoys one of the historical fiction books, gently show him where the Vietnam War books are in the nonfiction collection in the library. Hopefully, there is something on his level there. Encourage him to look at the pictures and read the captions if the overall text is too difficult.

If your reluctant readers enjoy scary stories like the Goosebumps series, try the Shade series by Stone Arch. IL grades 5-9/RL 2-3 The Mummy at Midnight by Steve Brezenoff is scary with high suspense. Be sure to point out the Internet sites at the back of the book that can be accessed through using the book's ISBN number. For this title FactHound lead the reader to good sites about sleepwalking and mummies. And again, for readers who enjoyed this particular title in the series, show them where the nonfiction books about mummies are in the library.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Overcoming the Obstacle Course: Teenage boys and Reading

"Overcoming the Obstacle Course: Teenage boys and reading." Patrick Jones & Dawn Cartwright Fiorelli. Teacher Librarian. Volume 30, Number 3, February 2003

I read this article tonight and found it full of good information and advice.

"One more statistic: in the United States, one in 32 people is in or has been in the criminal justice system. One in 32 people in the United States according to the Justice Department is currently in jail, in prison, on probation, on parole or has been one of these things. The majority of these people are male. The majority of the male prison population has limited education; many are high school dropouts. The limits of education are almost always related to reading problems. If we want young men to have their hands clutching a graduation diploma rather than the bars of cell, then it is time to start overcoming the obstacles course we've set up in school and public libraries in order to ensure that guys read."

Topics in this article include: What boys see as obstacles, What the Teacher Librarian can do, Building a Guy-Friendly Collection, Twenty great fiction books for Grade 7 boys, and Nonfiction areas of interest to guys, in Dewey order.

Gotcha for Guys! by K. Baxter and M. Kochel

Gotcha for Guys! Nonfiction Books to Get Boys Excited about Reading by Kathleen A. Baxter and Marcia Agness Kochel. Libraries Unlimited. 2007.

Be sure to read the introduction which provides good tips on connecting boys with books. The authors offer topics of interest to boys, most of which are fairly obvious - Prehistoric Creatures, Science, Creepy-Crawly Creatures- and lists of new and not so new titles. Other topics that should really attract boys are All Things Gross, Disasters and Unsolved Mysteries, and Hot Topics: Magic, Riddles, Games, etc. Books cover grades K-12 so you have to sort out those appropriate for your students. Several complete booktalks are included in each chapter with plenty of other titles and short annotations. Some of the chapters include a list of the authors' favorite books to booktalk on that topic. If you are new to the idea of promoting books especially for boys, this book is a good resource to get you started. I would have liked some catchier titles for some of the topics (Animals, Science, American History) that I could have used for display purposes since I'm not very creative.

If you are searching for display topics and catchy titles, look at Chapter 10 in Merchandising Library Materials to Young Adults by Mary Anne Nichols. Although Nichols' lists are not aimed at just boys, there are several that would appeal to the guys in particular, such as "Go to Jail. . .Go Directly to Jail," "Got Guts?", "This is War!" and "And You Think You Have It Bad." She includes a suggested booklist (mainly high school and middle school titles) for each topic.

Student Hobby Survey

This tip from Annie Miers, librarian at Riser Middle School, West Monroe, LA:
Providing an information rich environment with books and magazines about hobbies is another way to get guys and reluctant readers into the library and reading. How current is your hobby collection? Try surveying your students and then use the information to update the school library's hobby collection of magazines and books.

Hobby Survey
Stamp collecting is out- music videos are in. Which hobbies are hot? Which hobbies are not?

Please check all hobbies that interest you.

_____ Digital photography _____ Beads and Beading
_____ Music video _____ NASCAR
_____ Drawing _____ Bicycling_____ Web site design _____ ATVs
_____ Origami _____ Guitars_____ Cooking _____ Scrapbooking and cards _____ Camping _____ Crocheting
_____ Fishing _____ Knitting_____ Hunting _____ Hair styling______Gaming (video/computer) List systems used, such as PS3, Xbox, online, etc.______________________________________________

______Sports – List your favorites (golf, basketball, football, soccer, etc.) _____________________________________________________

______Water Sports – List your favorite (skiing, jet skiing, etc) _____________________________________________________________

______ History - List the time period that interests you, such as WWII, Civil War, etc. ____________________________________________
Please list your favorite hobby (hobbies) if not listed above.

__________ Girl __________ Boy __________ Grade
Any suggestions about books or magazines you would like to have in our library?

Any suggestions or changes you would like to have made in our library? Why?
Thank you.
This document can be viewed at

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Teaching Resources for Stormbreaker from the Alex Ryder Series

The Boys at my middle school love the Alex Ryder series. The series is a great addition to the adventure genre that so many boys enjoy. An Alex Ryder display in your library with the Ryder books displayed along with nonfiction books about spies, secret codes, etc. will be a hit with lots of your students. You could add some of the pictures and downloads available on the movie's web site.

A visitor to this blog has asked about teaching resources for Stormbreaker. Here is a list of some teaching resources and writing activities that I found this morning on the web. Thanks to our visitor for the comment regarding this blog and Stormbreaker made on an earlier post.

Great Interview with Anthony Horowitz and a wonderful writing suggestion at the end of the interview

Two week unit on Stormbreaker and another one on Point Blanc from the UK

10 Good Resources for Stormbreaker from the UK’s Teachit Site

Activities for Stormbreaker – Downloads are toward the bottom of the page.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Books for Teen Gamers

UPDATED: I made a big mistake! Kelly hasn't written a book but an article for Booklist titled "Books for Teen Gamers." It was first published in Booklist March 1, 2007. You can go to Booklist Online and get a 30 day free subscription to view the article.

Kelly Czarnecki has a great article out called Books for Teen Gamers. Games are categorized by types, such as Action-Adventure, Sports, Fighting Games, etc. and books are suggested for each category. Colfer's The Lost Colony and Horowitz's Stormbreaker are just two listed under the Action-Adventure Games. Think of what a great book display you could make in the library using this book and the related book lists. I know it would catch the attention of many of my boys.

New GUY-LITERATE books from Libraries Unlimited

Libraries Unlimited has four new GUY-LITERATE resources that sound really good.
  • The Guy-Friendly Teen Library- Serving male teens
  • Gotcha for Guys! Nonfiction books to get boys excited about reading
  • Playing to Learn - Video games in the classroom
  • Boys and Literacy - Practical strategies for librarians, teachers, and parents

I received the company's brochure about these books just last week. Gotcha for Guys has received a good review from Booklist. I am definitely considering these for future purchase.