reluctant readers

Author Focus: Jennifer L. Holm

I have noticed the covers of Jennifer L. Holm’s numerous books on the shelves of our school and public libraries for years. Last month, I picked one up for the first time. Followed by another, and another until I’d read a good chunk of them. I am now a fan.

If you are looking for quality middle grade books for almost any kind of reader, Jennifer L. Holm might be just the author you are looking for. A few of the categories her books fall into include: historical fiction, science-themed stories, novels starring girls, books starring boys, a pinch of fantasy, humor, and a host of graphic novels that she co-wrote with her brother Matthew Holm.

Plus, her stories are really good!

Many of her novels are based on or inspired by stories of Jennifer’s own family. I learned bits of history that I never knew before, discovered characters I loved, laughed, cried and was thoroughly entertained by the stories that fill up her books.

The following books are excellent middle grade reads (including 3 Newbery Honor books) and I am excited to recommend them to you.

5 (or more) Novels in Verse that Will Make you Fall in Love with the Genre

The first time I pulled a novel in verse off the shelf, I opened it, saw that it looked like one long poem and quickly put it back. A year later I decided to give one a try and checked out a copy of Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. I quickly learned I had made a mistake by putting that book back on the shelf so long ago. After that, it did not take long for me to fall in love with the genre.

 Most novels in verse contain well-crafted stories told through carefully chosen words. I am often amazed at how different authors utilize poetry, some through free verse and others through more structured forms of poetry to tell their stories.  The novel in verse is also accessible to a wide variety of readers. Because of the large amount of white space on the page, they are relatively quick reads making them a good pick for avid and reluctant readers alike. 

Below are five-is to get you started. Please add to the list in the comments. I am always on the look out for more. 

A Book is NEVER too Young, When You are Reading for Fun!

“I used to read these all the time when I was little,” she said as she handed me a “Who Was” book to check out. She said it as if she was a little embarrassed to be checking out a book she'd read as a 3rd grader now that she was coming to the end of her 5th grade year. 

“I thought it would be fun to read it again," she added with a shrug.

“Absolutely!” I said as I handed back the book, and I meant it from the bottom of my book-loving heart.

3 Simple Ways to Help Your Kids Discover Great Books

I recently listened to a podcast where the host made the point that our goal should not necessarily be to help our kids fall in love with the act of reading, but instead to help them fall in love with the power of stories. It is a small shift in perspective, but it is an important one. 

With that in mind, how do we help our kids find (or even try) stories that they can fall in love with? Whether they are a reluctant reader or a verified bookworm, discovering the good ones can sometimes be a challenge.  To help you get started, below are three simple ways I have had success in encouraging a love of stories with my kids:

3 Tips to Survive Reading Homework with a Reluctant Reader

My son's homework for the year consisted of reading for 20 minutes every day after school. He was a second grader at the time, but was really more at a first grade reading level. High enough that he was able to attempt (with help) the more challenging easy readers, or even beginning chapter books, but low enough that he wasn’t able to stay focused and make it through longer books on his own. I knew he could complete this homework assignment, he had the ability, BUT, he made it clear that this was hard and, mostly, he didn’t want to do it. 

And so began our daily after-school struggle/tradition; after a snack he would grab a book and join me in the purple chair by the window where we would begin to read. Some days he would be ready to go, others (aka: most) he made it clear he did not want to. My goal was to do what I could to make it as painless as possible for the both of us.