• OhMG! News


    July 11, 2014: Apply for a Thurber House residency!

    Thurber House has a Children’s Writer-in-Residence program for middle-grade authors each year and  guidelines and application form for the 2015 residency were just released.

    This unique residency has been in existence since 2001, offering  an opportunity for authors to have time to work on their writing in a fully furnished apartment, in the historic boyhood home of author and humorist, James Thurber. Deadline is October 31, 2014. For details, go to READ MORE

    July 10, 2014:

    Spread MG books in unexpected places 7/19
    Drop a copy of your own book or of another middle-grade favorite in a public place on July 19 -- and some lucky reader will stumble upon it.
    Ginger Lee Malacko is spearheading this Middle Grade Bookbomb (use the hashtag #mgbookbomb in social media) -- much in the spirit of Operation Teen Book Drop.  Read more ...

June 16, 2014:
Fizz, Boom, Read: Summer reading 2014

Hundreds of public libraries across the U.S. are celebrating reading this summer with  the theme Fizz, Boom, Read! Find out more about this year's collaborative summer reading program and check out suggested booklists and activities. Read more ...

April 30, 2014:
Join the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and help change the world

The conversation on diversity in children's books has grown beyond book creators and gate keepers to readers and book buyers. What can you do? Take part in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign May 1 though 3 on Tumblr and Twitter and in whatever creative ways you can help spread the word to take action. Read more ….

April 11, 2014:
Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

April 9, 2014:
How many Newbery winners have you read?
You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

March 28, 2014:
Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

February 14, 2014:
Cybils Awards announced
Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

November 12, 2013:
Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

November 9, 2013:
Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

October 14, 2013:
Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
Read more ...

September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

September 16, 2013:
National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

August 21, 2013:
Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

August 19, 2013:
S&S and BN reach a deal
Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

August 6, 2013:
NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

July 2, 2013:
Penguin & Random House Merger

The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

  • Literature Circles: Savoring Books in a Community of Readers


    “What did you think about this …?” “Wait … I missed something here.” “She did what?”

    Ever find yourself in the depths of a good book and suddenly wish you had someone to talk to?  Someone who would explain what you’re missing or give you a reason to read on through the weird parts?  I sure do.  And I know that’s why a lot of us join book groups.  Literature circles offer middle grade readers that same great opportunity to savor good books within a community of readers.Parkerboys

    What I call literature circles, others know as book clubs, book groups, literature discussion circles (and on and on).  What they have in common is this:  Small groups of readers gather together to discuss a book they’re reading in common.  The goals are multi-tiered, among them growing avid and capable readers, developing understanding through talking with others, building community, enhancing appreciation for good books.

    I’ve worked with many teachers over the years who are experts at bringing middle grade readers and good books together in literature circles.  I’d like to share some of their strategies for supporting students in building comprehension and love for reading in collaboration with their peers. This post offers a bare bones structure to help you get started on literature circles for the very first time or to help you refine the way you’re currently using them.  You’ll find quick suggestions for choosing books, guiding students to read and prepare for discussions, making discussions meaningful and productive, organizing written response, and finally, pulling in the arts to extend students’ experience with books.

    From this starting point, you can add components and make changes that meet the specific needs of your students and your style of teaching. Of course, one short post can’t answer every question you might have.  For more information, I invite you to visit the Literature Circles Resource Center.

    Choosing Books

    You can do literature circles with small groups of students reading a variety of books – or with all students reading the same book.  Many teachers begin with the books they have on hand.  Later, they look for books that will invite response – funny, action-packed, meaningful.

    Literature circles depend upon student choice – choice in books, choices in what to talk about, choices in how to respond in writing or through the arts.  With some assistance, even struggling readers can construct meaning with others as they talk about books in literature circles.  Therefore, one of the most important principles is to guide students to select the book that they want to read and discuss with others.

    Book talk:  Hold up each book as you describe it to students.  You might share a short summary, read aloud an engaging excerpt, or simply tell students what it’s about.  After the book talk, many teachers will display the books in order of difficulty to help students decide whether the book will be one they can read and discuss successfully.  Before students select, ask them to “get their hands on” the book – get it into their hands to read a page or two or look over to see if it seems interesting.

    Choose by ballot:  Students select their first, second, and third choice books on a ballot or on a plain piece of paper.

    Form groups:  The teacher forms groups, trying to give as many students as possible their first choice book.  However, teachers also keep in mind students who may have a difficult time working together or students who may need additional support as they read the book.  Because you may not have enough books for everyone to have a first choice every time, make a commitment to students to keep track of the choices and to give a first choice at the next round of literature circles.

    Reading and Preparing for Discussion

    Focus for reading: Help your students think about why readers often want to talk about books with others, and what sorts of insights, details, events, and issues in books make for great conversations.  This is easily modeled during your read aloud as you show how readers respond and ask real questions (“Did you hear how the author painted a vivid image with words?  Let’s read that again;” “I wonder why he’s doing that right now… it doesn’t fit what happened earlier.”).  Start a list of “Things Worth Mentioning” vs. “Things Worth Discussing” to help students understand the kinds of topics/ideas that are merely interesting but not discussion provoking, and those that will really get a conversation going.

    Determine how much to read:  Students may be able to read an entire picture book before they discuss.  For longer books, a good guideline is to have students discuss at three points in the book – after the first few chapters (as characters and conflicts are introduced and there is a lot to speculate about), somewhere near the middle (as plot points and characters develop), and at the end (where everything is resolved and predictions, inferences, and speculations are clear).  You can divide the books into reading segments – or you can guide students to look over the book, taking into account how many discussion days you have set aside, and divide up their book themselves.  This will involve a couple of focus lessons:  How to identify good “discussion points,” how to come to agreement on how much each group member can read at one time, how to figure out logical stopping places.

    Set a reading, discussion, and writing schedule:  You can use a calendar to either assign groups to discussion days or guide groups to determine their own discussion schedule.  One possibility:  Set the first two or three days as reading days, with a discussion to follow; read for two or three more days (plus do some writing about what they’ve read), then discuss again.  When students are in the middle of their book, you might have more time devoted to writing than to reading.  As groups near the end of the book, you can provide time for them to think about and work on extension projects.

    Tools to gather information:  Provide simple tools to help your students collect ideas for discussion: Open-ended questions, prompts (“I wonder…” “I thought … because …”, “I noticed…”), quotes, or sticky notes to mark something they want to talk about.  Use these tools only as long as you think students need them – when students seem to be able to come up with their own topics for discussion, discontinue this support.

    Making Discussions Work

    Having a real conversation about a book doesn’t come naturally to most students.  They will need some guidance, modeling, and practice before they begin to internalize the skills of discussion.  Two key elements of this process:  Model a discussion so that students can see what a true conversation looks like and sounds like; and debrief after each discussion to refine students’ understanding and conversational skill.

    Fishbowl:  A very simple form of modeling in which students carry on a discussion in front of the class.  The teacher stops the group at various points to guide the class to articulate what’s working and why.  From this experience, students generate guidelines for discussion, which they then practice and refine.

    Debrief:  After each discussion, ask students two simple questions:  What went well?  What are you still working on?  These questions can be asked during a whole-class debriefing, short session with an individual group following their discussion, as a journal response, or on a form for group response.  Use responses to plan focus lessons.

    Writing to Think and to Respond

    Writing can be a good way to clarify what students want to talk about before the discussion, or to capture their thinking after the discussion.  Before discussion, writing can be used to generate topics for the conversation; after discussion, writing can be used for debriefing and goal setting.  Here are some simple forms of written response that can be used either before or after discussion:

    Golden lines:  Capture provocative quotes or interesting words. In the discussion, talk about what stood out for you in this quote and what it tells you about the character or the story.

    Focus on theme:  Answer open-ended questions related to the theme:  In what ways is the character showing courage right now?  How is your character dealing with adversity?

    Letter to a character:  Write in the voice of one character to another.  Or write to a character from your own perspective.

    Extending Response through the ArtsIMG_5978 (Medium)

    Many students can articulate their thinking and feelings artistically more easily than by talking or writing.  Although not a requirement of literature circles, artistic response opportunities give some students a welcome”voice.”

    Some examples: Here are a few examples of powerful and relatively simple forms of artistic response: literary weaving (see photo), story quilt, and commemorative stamp.  You’ll find more examples, photos and detailed information on planning and evaluating projects at the Literature Circles Resource Center.

    Final Words

    Suzanne is a middle grader who gave me the best testimonial for literature circles that I’ve ever read.  I’ll let her make the case:


    Katherine Schlick Noe has learned everything she knows about literature circles from hundreds of amazing teachers and students who vividly demonstrate the power of reading, writing, thinking, and responding in a community of readers. Visit her at the Literature Circles Resource Center or at her author website http://katherineschlicknoe.com.



    1. Natalie Aguirre  •  Mar 11, 2013 @6:40 am

      Great tips. My daughter’s language arts teachers have used book groups at various points of the year, even in high school. They’re a great way for kids to share ideas and learn more about the books they’re reading.

    2. Sheela Chari  •  Mar 11, 2013 @8:49 am

      Lovely post, Katherine. I was lucky enough to visit a book club recently who picks a theme every year and chooses books around that theme. This theme is generally a country/region. Apart from reading and discussing the books, the book club leaders also devise projects and activities that complement their reading. This has included making Egyptian masks, enacting parts of a play based on a book, paintings, and such. I think it’s a great way to reinforce the material in other, creative ways.

    3. Ramona  •  Mar 11, 2013 @11:21 am

      Katherine, thanks for this great post. I’ve used the resources from Literature Circles Resource Center many times.
      My sixth graders participated in a Mock Newbery unit using book clubs November, December, and January. It was a great way to create student interest in the possible Newbery contenders, allow students to discuss books together, and involve parents, community, and school staff in my classroom. We used fishbowl discussions to revisit the book titles before we voted on our choices for the 2013 Newbery.
      Here’s a link from my blog that details our project: http://pleasuresfromthepage.blogspot.com/2013/02/yctnn-you-choose-next-newbery-project.html

      Katherine Schlick Noe Reply:

      @Ramona, thanks so much for sharing your link to the Choose the Next Newbery Project! Readers, Ramona’s Pleasures from the Page blog is filled with wonderful teaching ideas like this. I hope you check it out.

    4. tricia  •  Mar 12, 2013 @12:03 pm

      I’ve spoken to a couple of kids’ book clubs and was inspired (also humbled) by what close attention young readers pay to detail, and how deeply stories matter to them. I only wish I’d had a community of fellow readers when I was growing up!

    5. Kayla  •  Mar 19, 2013 @1:18 pm

      I found these tips very helpful! I am an early childhood major, and won’t be working with children in older elementary grades. However, I think some of these tips can be adapted and transferred to other grades as well! Thanks for posting this!

      Katherine Schlick Noe Reply:

      @Kayla, you will find some great ideas for 1st grade literature circles on the Literature Circles Resource Center website: http://www.litcircles.org/Structure/structure1.html. Best wishes!

    6. Londa Stoffels  •  Apr 9, 2013 @11:19 pm

      Watch Sports Live On Your PC And Never Miss Another Game Again. No Contacts,No Hassles Just A One Off Payment For 24/7 Access To Your Favorite Sports. http://bit.ly/watch-sports-live