Tag Archives: reluctant readers

WrestleMania Reading Challenge 2012

Have you signed your library up for the 2012 WrestleMania Reading Challenge? If not, get on that! It’s free, and you receive posters, bookmarks, other giveaways, and a support kit. It is an easy program to use to reach some teens who might not be on your radar. You must register by July 31st, so you don’t have much time left. Get going!

WWE also has a page about the Reading Challenge that you can reference to promote it to your teens.

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ALA Annual 2011 New Orleans Recap – Part 1

ALA Annual 2011 was the first time I have attended Annual outside of Washington D.C. I’m so glad I was able to do so. I had a great time, although I also experienced some frustrations. Here is a recap of what I did – or tried to do – after the cut.

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We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction by Nic Sheff

We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction by Nic Sheff; read in November, 2010. Copy provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via NetGalley. To be published in April, 2011.

I don’t think a day goes by that my blog doesn’t get at least one hit thanks to a search phrase of “Nic Sheff update” or “Nic Sheff relapse.” I originally posted my thoughts on Tweak and then mentioned a CNN article talking about Nic’s relapse, which is what brings people here. Tweak continues to be a book I cannot keep on the library shelves, although some of that has been due to theft. I take that to mean kids want it even more. I was happy to hear Nic Sheff has another memoir coming out; one reason being an update in his own voice, and another because it means he must be sober more often than not to accomplish a second book. When I saw it was available on NetGalley, I had to read it.

We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction covers a period of time in Nic’s life when he entered rehab after Tweak ended.  He is in and out of a couple different programs, and has episodes of relapse. He talks about working on a book, which I assume to be Tweak, and then touring with his dad to promote it. Like Tweak, it is not an easy, happy book to read, but Nic’s story is powerful and really puts the reader in his mind. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for all involved: Nic, his family, his friends, his fellow addicts. Again, like Tweak, it is written in a conversational tone. It doesn’t make the book feel like “quality literature” but I think many readers will value Nic’s honesty and voice over anything else.

I would recommend that Tweak be read before reading We All Fall Down. It could be read on its own, but I think Nic’s story is more powerful if you know his background struggles of addiction and relationship drama. When he crosses paths with Zelda late in the book, I don’t think the reader can grasp Nic’s growth without knowing their story.

We All Fall Down is a memoir that I could not put down, and I really value Nic’s update. I continue to wish the best for him and hope we hear more from Nic himself in the future. I’ll definitely be adding several copies of this to my high school library.

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Tempted to Cry Uncle but Also Want to Brag

I admit it: I have overextended myself this year.  I committed myself to far too many things professionally and personally, and the random wrenches that get thrown in the works of life have not stopped popping up.  I have had many days where I was tempted to cry “uncle.”  I have definitely learned my limit of professional commitments , both in my job and in the ALA/YALSA world.  I really needed this winter break to catch my breath.  It’s been good already, and I know I will see everything to term.  Yet, I can’t let myself forget that feeling the next time I need to say yes or no.

Despite all of that, I am proud of the work I have done so far this school year.  Literacy has been a larger-than-usual initiative in my school this year, and teachers have come to me for assistance with this.  In the past three years I have been at my job, I rarely had the chance to work with an entire class on book selection.  I would do no more than two book talks a year, and everything else was done via walk-in reader advisory.

This year, I started with one teacher and the word spread.  By the time we left for break last week, I had done book talks for all five to six sections of grades 9 – 12 English for six different teachers, and for one of those teachers I have done two sets of book talks.  That is a huge increase from the past!

I have been trying to tailor the books to each class by doing a pre-visit survey asking about their interests, books they liked, books they didn’t, etc.  Then, based on info the teacher provides and my surveys, I pull books currently checked in to highlight.

It is the “currently checked-in” that gets me.  I have not been able to use some really great books because they are never on the shelves.  Some of the teachers have told me not to worry whether it is available or not, but I feel like I am doing a disservice to the students if I say, “This book is AMAZING, but you can’t have it today. We’ll have to put you on the waiting list.”

I’ve been trying to add variety to the talks by using book trailers, pre-written intros, reading a few pages,  and improvising what I say if it is a book I know well enough.  (Often, even if I have read the book, I need to write notes before  so I don’t get thrown off.)

How do I know I am making an impact?  Sometimes I have the students fill out a ticket to leave to assess.  But I have found other methods provide more information.  What did not get checked out by the time the students return to class?  Circulation is another piece of data.  Leviathan did not circulate well last year.  This year, it checks out every time I mention it.  If I talk a series, are the books further in the series circulating more?  The Looking Glass War series used to sit on the shelves, but this year all the books rotate in and out.

Nothing can top the personal feedback I have received, though.  I have one reluctant reader who now comes in every two weeks to check out two Orca books now that he knows they are written on a lower level but aimed at teens.  I hope that later in the year, I can get him to try something more, but in the mean time he’s reading steadily in a way he had not before.

The teacher who I have done two sets of talks for emailed me after I completed the first set.  She wanted to tell me that when her classes returned to the room after the talk, everyone was happily reading.  She said that in her 20 years of teaching, she had never seen so many “at-risk” students find books that they were excited to read.  One male teacher who team-teaches with her for a class that has a lot of special education students stopped in a few weeks ago to tell me that I really inspired those students to read.  These students had previously dug in their heels and refused to read.  A lot of them had never been exposed to the books they could relate to and just thought all books were boring.  Now, those same students are finding books written at a level they can read, about teens who are relatable.

That is what makes it all worth it.  That is one of many reasons I love my job.

A teen blogger posted on YALSA’s blog this weekend about what makes a great YA librarian.  While the comments have been quiet on the post, I’ve seen a good amount of discussion on Twitter.  I can honestly say that I don’t have colored hair, and we don’t offer a large amount of activities in our library.  I think it could be debated how many and what type of activities a school library can provide (especially in a school of 2700+ students and only two librarians and one assistant) but I do believe we have worked hard to provide things for our students.  The other attributes do match me, and I believe I am a pretty darn good YA librarian.

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The Line by Teri Hall

The Line by Teri Hall; read in January, 2010. ARC provided by Penguin at ALA Midwinter, 2010.

In The Line, Teri Hall has built a good framework for an interesting dystopian setting, but left me wanting more.  Not in a post-Catching Fire-I-am-dying-to-read-the-next-one way, but in a huh-that-was-really-facinating-but-it-felt-a-little-bare-bones, as if details were held back just to have more to flesh out in the sequel.

The line is the border around a future U.S.A. (or so I have assumed), and no one can cross the line and expect to return.  Throughout the book, the reader learns some of the history that caused the line to be built.  Rachel lives in a small house with her mother, on the property of her mother’s employer – an older, wealthy single woman known as Ms. Moore.  Rachel knows a little about why the line is there, and that her dad’s death is connected to that reason.  The line runs through Ms. Moore’s property.

Ms. Moore grows orchids in a greenhouse near the line, and Rachel gets involved in helping her.  Her frequent proximity to the line ripens the forbidden fruit aspect of it, and soon Rachel begins speaking to a mysterious boy on the other side of the line.  Just speaking to the boy puts Rachel in jeopardy, and then he asks for her help.  Can she risk it?

The Line is a fast read.  I had a hard time figuring out Rachel’s age.  At times, she felt nine or ten, and others she seemed fifteen.  I imagine part of her immaturity has to do with how she was raised in this society.  I wonder if this would confuse younger readers or help Rachel feel relatable.

I think this is a great addition to a middle school library, and a high school if you have reluctant readers who want shorter faster reads.  The ending will leave readers ready for the sequel.

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Conspiracy 365: January by Gabrielle Lord

Conspiracy 365: January by Gabrielle Lord: read January, 2010 – copy provided by Raab Associates (Thank you!)

Conspiracy 365: January is the first in a 12 book series by Gabrielle Lord.  On December 31st, Callum Ormund is confronted by a crazy man walking up his street.  The man warns him about The Ormund Singularity, that “they” killed Callum’s dad and will come after him in the next 365 days.  The crazy man is hauled away by paramedics without answering Callum’s questions.  Callum has no idea what the man might have been talking about.  He realizes he needs to figure it out after he almost dies that night when his boat is sabotaged.  His shady uncle seems to somehow be involved, so he needs to be secretive.  Callum is able to dig up some clues left by his dad with the help of his best friend Boges, but soon he is wanted for attempted murder – a crime he did not commit.  He has to figure out who is after him, what the “Ormund Singularity” is, find a way to prove his innocence before he is arrested, and stay alive for another 11 months.

This is great idea for a series!  A new book is scheduled for release every month this year.  The month-named titles will prevent any confusion about what order in which they should be read.

It is a fast, plot-driven read that I think will appeal particularly to younger teen and pre-teen boys.  The cover of the book lets you know that you are in for an action movie in book form.  Set in Australia, there isn’t too much that would confuse an American reader, but it is never clearly stated that Callum is in Australia, at least as far as I remember.  I do wonder if it could feel just a little weird to a reader who is not aware of this.  For example, one might mistake the setting of Richmond for the capital of Virginia and wonder why it is warm in January.  While there isn’t much character development done up front, the reader does get to know Callum and his family as the story progresses.  Not a thing is resolved by the end of the book, but knowing there are 11 books to come in the next year, it won’t leave a reader hanging as much as a regular series would.

The chapters are time stamped, and while I understand the desire to break the book up in to short sections for reluctant readers, it seems unnecessary when a new chapter starts a few minutes after the last one and nothing has changed or happened to necessitate a new chapter.  The page numbers count down, instead of up.  It is a fun thing to notice, but I don’t really get the point of it.  I think a better gimmick would have been to have the page numbers in each book pick up where the previous one left off.

Personally, I did not love it enough to read further in the series, but I plan to get them all for my school library.

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Take Me There by Susane Colasanti

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Susane Colasanti focuses on three main characters – two girls and a guy – in Take Me There. The novel is set in a public school for design in NYC and begins with all three main characters recently single. Rhiannon has just been dumped by her boyfriend Steve, and she relies on her two best friends, Nicole and James, to comfort her. She believes that she and Steve are meant to be together and spends most of the book plotting to get back together with him. Nicole recently broke up with her boyfriend Danny, and while she crushes on her math teacher, she also finds herself questioning why she broke up with Danny. Nicole also harbors a secret from her past that requires her to attend weekly therapy sessions with her mother. James is the least affected by his recent break-up and spends a lot of time focused on school, helping at home, and helping his elderly neighbor. The book follows the three as they plot to enact revenge on a mean girl at school, while each begins to understand what he or she really need in a relationship.

This it the first book I have read by Susane Colasanti. Her writing style is very suitable for some teen readers. Characters do not always say something, instead “she was like” or “so I go” is often what comes before a line of dialogue. As an adult reader who is obviously not the target audience, I was often taken out of the moment when I read that. It fits the character’s voice and I imagine some teen readers would not bat an eyelash, although I know not all teen readers would like it. It did make me take the book less seriously. Other YA writers succeed in establishing an authentic teen voice without relying on so much slang and lazy speech.

The book alternates between the three character perspectives, and the author rehashes events through each character’s eyes, often referring to something that the reader will not fully understand until several chapters later. This was a very frustrating experience for me. Before I understood that this was on purpose, I found myself flipping back pages to see if I missed something. Once I accepted that it was the format of the book, every mysterious reference made me sigh and lose interest in the current character and storyline and wonder how soon I’ll get to the character who will reveal the necessary information. Meanwhile, I also grew tired of repeating events because more than one main character experienced it. I wanted the storyline to progress faster.

The storyline itself is enjoyable. The reader watches the girls learn romantic lessons; Rhiannon realize that she deserves better from a boy and just who in her life provides that, and Nicole learns the importance of trust. Both are lessons familiar to girls and are often found in the romantic chick lit genre. The characters are fun and realistic, each with their own quirks. James was my favorite just because he was the most normal and written is the least teen-talky way.

I would only specifically recommend this to teen girls who want a fast, fluffy read, maybe reluctant female readers.

2 and 1/2 stars

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