elementary

8 Ideas to Get Kids Reading

Visiting our new children's library in Little Rock.
Visiting our new children’s library in Little Rock.

“How do we get kids interested in reading?”

I hear teachers say it all the time, and it makes me sad. Instead of focusing on entertaining the few kids who don’t enjoy reading, why don’t we engage the kids who DO enjoy reading? Their enthusiasm may prove contagious. Create opportunities for them to interact with the written word and then ask them to comment on it, or to recreate it in their own way. Then, encourage the other kids to join in or to view the finished product. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started:

8 Ideas to Get Kids Reading

1. Start a book club. (duh!) Encourage them to choose the books so they feel more invested and less like it’s assigned homework.

2. Start a book review blog. Each kid takes turns writing a book review and they post it on the site for other kids to see.

3. Invite authors to visit or Skype with your group/class/kids. Big time authors might be too expensive/busy, but indie authors and first time authors are often eager to connect with readers and happy to help. (Raises hand to volunteer!)

4. Throw a book themed party. Send invitations with a free book or a link to the book online and ask kids to read it before coming to the party. Plan games around the theme and have a contest or two. You could even ask them to dress up like their favorite character or choose a side to represent (aka Team Edward/Team Jacob, etc.) Here’s an example of a book party we hosted.

5. Host a book swap and invite kids to bring a book they love to share with friends. Everyone goes home with a new book to read!

6. Organize a writing club to encourage young authors to keep writing what they love. It could be poetry, songwriting, fiction, fan-fic, comics, a mini-magazine, or even a group newspaper. If you’re writing books, try CampNanowrimo. At the young writer’s program website, you can find all kinds of resources to help you teach/lead a group of young writers as they try to tackle the goal of writing a book.

7. Host an open mic night or other reading event where kids can share their creative efforts with others. This would be a great way to end a series of writing lessons or finish up something like Camp Nanowrimo, but it could also be a regular event where kids can share their creative endeavors with other like-minded folks.

8. Remember pen pals? What if you had book pals? You could match up kids from different schools or libraries with similar reading interests and encourage them to swap book ideas and write back and forth with each other about the books they are reading and the characters they love. Then, host an event once in a while where book buddies get to hang out together. Man, now I want a book buddy!

These are just 8 ideas for encouraging kids to read more and share their love of books with others. Do you have any great ideas? Please share them with us and then pass this post along to a friend you think might be interested. We’d love to have a long list of fabulous ideas to inspire the kids in our own communities to pick up a book and READ!

Brian Clopper, elementary, Friday, Indie Authors, inspiration, writing exercise, writing games

Brainstorming Tips with author Brian Clopper

I was delighted to discover Brian Clopper, an author I shared with you earlier this week in my review of his book, Graham the Gargoyle.  Brian astounds me with his clever writing, but my kids are even more impressed with his artwork.  Brian is also a teacher and I bet his 5th grade students are just about the luckiest kids I know.  How cool to have a teacher who is also a writer and comic book artist!  Today, Brian shares with us some fun tips and tricks for creating new story ideas.  Enjoy!

* * * * * * *

Coming up with story ideas has never been a problem for me. There are three techniques I teach my students to help them gain confidence in brainstorming. All three are quick, fun and easy to do.

Odd Pairings: Take two or three ideas that are wildly different from each other and put them together. For example, I created MONSTERS IN BOXERS, a book about kids who put on magical boxer shorts and transform into superhuman monsters ready to do battle with evil, by pairing monsters with boxers. How can you go wrong with that?

Here are other examples:
MY BIG TOE TALKS TO ME
MY SOAP, THE COMEDIAN
SNOWMAN SHOPPING TRIP
THE CAFETERIA COW
UNDERGROUND ASTRONAUT

Changing Expectations: this technique has some overlap with Odd Pairings. When brainstorming Changing Expectations, you use animal, professions, and objects and think of where you’d expect to find them or how they would act and turn the expectation upside down. Most of us assume an elephant would be large, clumsy and prone to stampeding first and asking questions second. But what if you change the expectation and imagine an elephant that is graceful and delicate. You have yourself an elephant ballerina and world of story possibilities.

Here are some more:
A gargoyle afraid of heights (sorry, already taken in my series GRAHAM THE GARGOYLE)
A noisy Bigfoot
An angry butterfly
A very well-spoken caveman
A vampire who wants to be a lifeguard (Sorry again, already used that in NORTON THE VAMPIRE)
A mummy who flies

The final idea generator is Randomizing. This was shared with me by a couple of cartoonists who like to get together and use Pictionary cards to help them generate story ideas. That’s exactly what you do. You randomly draw three Pictionary cards and select three or four ideas and string them together to form a story. It’s a lot of fun and is actually another use for Pictionary at parties, especially among the younger set who really love this.

Here’s how it works:
I select scarecrow, race cars and trophy from the Pictionary cards in front of me. Inspiration strikes and I whip up the story of a scarecrow that races cars, but has a natural problem in that when the car goes too fast, he loses his straw due to the excessive winds. He has to win back a trophy to save his farm from going belly up. All the other farm animals don’t have faith in him, and he must dig deep to solve his dilemma.

You can see changing expectations and odd pairings at work in the summary of my word play novel written to inspire young writers, STOMPER REX.

WITH THE OPENING OF A HATCH that appears on his ceiling, a troubled mortal boy, Stomper, is enlisted to save the fractured land of Crawlspace and reunite the magic. Trouble comes from all directions once he sets foot in the magical world of the written word. If Stomper can master alliterations, homophones, rhymes, similes and idioms before they do him in, Crawlspace might just have a fighting chance.

STOMPER REX is a romp through a magical world of dangerous word play. In the vein of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, this whimsical fantasy is a tale with lethal homophones, alliteration gone acutely awry and a host of hideous puns let loose that will disgust and confound.

Brian Clopper is a 5th grade teacher who dreams of a day when he too can set foot on a magic ladder and ride his way into a world where when hens fly to turn back time, skewer cougars hunt for unsuspecting children to shish kabob and boxing slugs engage in the rowdy gentleman’s sport of slimy fisticuffs.

Skewer cougars and boxing slugs are odd pairings, while when hens are a changing expectation. Who would think that riding atop a flock of harmless-looking birds would allow you to travel back in time? It’s all part of the magic that makes the world of Crawlspace come alive.

Odd pairings, Changing Expectations and randomizing are excellent ways to fill up your idea journal with tons of story possibilities. So what are you waiting for, get off your tuckus and get creating. There’s a zebra plumber or an ornery unicorn waiting for you to bring them to life.

Just so you know, I loaded a new book, STOMPER REX, onto the Kindle and Nook. It’s a perfect book to engage young writers with how to improve their writing using a variety of narrative techniques. Piers Anthony sung its praises, as he has all five books I’ve sent him over the years, in his most recent newsletter. I’m so proud of what he said, I just feel compelled to share it with you.

“I read Stomper Rex, by Brian Clopper. Bradford, nicknamed Stomper, is a fifth grader who has issues at school. He lives with his mother, his father having walked out. His mother is understanding but firm about his need to shape up. She gets him a tutor, Wanda, a teen girl he has a crush on, so he does pay attention as she reviews the material. This setting is competent, as the author is a fifth grade teacher; the secondary characters are well rounded. Then two odd men descend from his bedroom ceiling to take him to a fantasy land where he is needed. They are Ruffloon and Strivelwunk, who put him on a ladder which then flies into the land of Crawlspace, where there are many monsters, and much of the magic is made by figures of speech. Yes, the very thing he is having trouble with in school. I suspect this novel was a female dog to write, because coming up with relevant figures of speech when you need them can be a challenge, as I have found in my own writing. For example, when he is threatened by multiple snakes, he says “Fake snake!” and they merge into one pretend snake. That’s pretty simple, but others aren’t, such as “Try knocking loose those lox.” That’s homophone magic to make locks give way. It seems he has been summoned to defeat the cruel mistress of this realm, Stigma, a girl who visited but then decided to stay and rule, and they need to be rid of her. They have many adventures, requiring different figures of speech. Naturally there’s a climactic showdown, and strange things happen as they fight with whatever figures of speech they can think of under pressure. This novel represents a kind of course in figures of speech, and fifth graders who read it will surely develop a better understanding and possibly become better students. That may be the hidden agenda. This author continues to be a writer who deserves better attention in the literary world; this novel is anything but mindless.”

 

book reviews, Brian Clopper, elementary, fantasy, Indie Authors, you gotta read

You Gotta Read: Graham The Gargoyle

Graham the Gargoyle by Brian Clopper

Graham is a young Gargoyle living in the land of Cascade, home to many magical and mythological creatures who abandoned Earth when humans stopped believing in magic.  Poor Graham has a lot on his plate.  First of all, there’s Blord and his gang of bullies who pick on Graham for being small and for befriending a troll, Graham’s best friend, Ot.  Then, there’s the fact that Graham is supposed to have his first flight in front of all the village on Friday and he hasn’t even gotten up the nerve to practice yet.  But, worst of all, is the fact that his grandfather is getting close to his Crossover, the time when an elderly gargoyle goes back to earth, climbs a church, and solidifies into stone as its protector for eternity.  Graham doesn’t want to say goodbye.  So, he decides to go with his grandfather to Earth.  After all, what does he have to live for anyway?  

My Thoughts
What an incredible story Brian Clopper has crafted for us.  It made me want to scoop up my children and snuggle up for a good old-fashioned story time.  I think this book would make a wonderful read aloud.   At first glance, I thought it would be a good book for second or third grade as it is so small, written as a short chapter book.  But, in the end, I believe it would be a wonderful tool for instruction in 4th-6th grade as well.  It has some very good vocabulary to introduce and the way it covers such powerful topics as bullying, overcoming fears and death is nothing short of brilliant.  A short read, this one packs a punch.

Where to Get It
Just click on the format of your choice

Amazon Kindle

B&N Nook 

Lulu Print 

 

Want More?

Come back Friday to hear what Brian Clopper, author of Graham the Gargoyle, has to say to about brainstorming new ideas for stories.  Some of them are pretty fun and crazy.  So, don’t forget to tell a friend to come back and check it out.  Then, you can have some brainstorming fun together.  See you then!

~ Heather

book reviews, elementary, Free book giveaway, Indie Authors, Sarah Treu, you gotta read

>Gotta Read: Investigator Anne

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So far on You’ve Gotta Read Wednesdays, we’ve covered books for middle grade and teens.  Today I am excited to share with you a fabulous book for elementary readers. Investigator Anne: Case #1 Timeless Treasure Lost 
  
This book is one my youngest daughter loved!  It’s about a little girl, Anne, who loves mysteries.  She reads all the mystery books she can find.  When her mother’s birthday gift goes missing, Anne comes to the rescue!  Readers will love following the clues with Anne as she searches for the gift and the answer to the mystery.  Anne shows us that we don’t have to be famous detectives to be helpful.  We can use our sleuthing skills to solve mysteries here in the real world.



My Thoughts
The Investigator Anne series is fabulous because the author incorporates science and deductive reasoning into the story as Anne and her friends try to solve the mystery. As a teacher and a parent, this is special because it demonstrates to the young reader how the things they are learning can be used in real life to fix tough situations.  It also encourages kids to be helpful, something many children naturally desire.


My daughter, Evie, turns 8 this week. She loves detectives and secret agents (honestly, I think she just likes an excuse to sneak around!) This book had her begging for more. “One more chapter, mom, please!” How can you argue with that? As soon as we finished the book, Evie raced upstairs to get a pink cape like Anne. She came back with an old camera box, one with a long strap and a shiny metal clasp on the front. “Look, mom, it’s a clue kit, just like Anne!” Inside she had a magnifying glass, a notebook and a pencil. She couldn’t wait to help us solve a few mysteries – just like Anne. That is the mark of a good book! When the reader puts it down and immediately wants to put what they’ve learned into practice somehow, you know you’ve found something special.


Where to Get It

Investigator Anne – Case #1 Timeless Treasure Lost [NOOK Book]

Investigator Anne – Case #2 Sneaky Sneakers [NOOK Book]


More to Come
On Friday, we will have a very special visit from the author herself, Sarah Treu. Please come back to hear how she put together the series and what it is like to be a writer/illustrator. Be a good friend and share this with your book-loving pals. It’s easy to share with the buttons below.


Want a free copy of Investigator Anne? Leave a comment below. One lucky reader will recieve a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble. That’s enough to buy most of Sarah Treu’s books for Nook! (May I suggest Counting Bugs? Adorable!)