Tag Archives: book clubs

Video Conferencing: Authors at Your Fingertips

Author S A Larsen

You’ve just finished reading a fantastic book with your class. The kids are engaged and the story is the topic of conversation. Go beyond the traditional project or book report and transport the author to your doorstep.

The Digital Age:
We live in a digital age, and fortunately for our schools, many authors are available to video conference. Location and time differences are no longer a deterrent. Many authors list video conferencing information on their websites. An internet search can also help you find available authors. Some authors charge a fee and some don’t. Chat with your author to see what terms can be reached. Link To Mixed-Up File Authors

If your school doesn’t have a budget for author presentations, be creative:

  • Take book orders from the students. Many authors are happy to sell and ship personally signed copies.
  • Ask the PTO to purchase class sets for the grade levels.
  • Offer to post  a review of the book on strategic websites.
  • Feature the book in the school newspaper or on the school website.
  • Post the book and video conference snippets on the school Facebook page.
  • Display the author’s name and book title on the school billboard.
  • Invite your local newspaper columnist to cover the class video chat.

Have fun and don’t be afraid to use your imagination!

Annabelle Fisher, author of The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper, Skypes with a class of readers

So, you’ve booked the author. Now what?

Ask the author:
First, ask the author what they offer. Some will talk about their book and the background it took to write it. But, if it’s a science author, they may have a favorite demonstration to share. If it’s a picture book illustrator, they may draw the character for the kids. If it’s a fantasy author, they may demonstrate how to create imagery through descriptive writing from a new world.

Does the author request questions before the video conference? This helps the author give informed and well-thought-out answers. Poll your students. What do they want to know? Was there a fascinating section of the book they wanted to know more about? What about behind-the-scene events? Why did the author create a certain character? Did the author use traits from real people? Were any of the events in the book part of the author’s life? Were there unanswered questions in the story line? Help students focus their questions so they pull out unique elements of the author’s work. This is the benefit of video conferencing. You have the author’s ear! When conference day comes, let the students take turns asking the questions.

Student Created Games

Do students have something to share with the author? 

Did they create a skit? Did they write an alternative ending to the story or insert a chapter in-between? Did they write a quiz show or create a game that targets details from the book? Did they create trading cards of the different events and characters? Or perhaps your students would like to dress in character and the author has to guess the character’s identity.

Using Google Maps with author interview:
Also, consider things like Google maps. Students have the ability to bookmark a location on the world-wide map with their own information and facts. This is a great option for historical novels or any story that travels. Consider having students interview the author about the different locations and the importance of each site. Besides being a great project where students research and enter information on the world-wide map, people from around the globe get instant access to the information your students have entered. Extend the project by collaborating with other classes (from anywhere in the world) and build a map together.

Before you read:
Think forward. Invite the author beforehand to share background information and tidbits before you start reading. Why did they write this book? Did they face challenges? Does the story relate to their own life or the life of someone else? Who or what influenced them? Meaningful introductory conversations set the stage for an engaging beginning.

Authors love sharing and the age of video conferencing has opened up a new set of doors.

Middle Grade Book Discussion Groups

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Are you in a book club? What kind of book club? Do you discuss books for grown-ups or books for kids?

Most of the books I read are middle grade or YA. But it took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t the only grown-up (am I really a grown-up?) who read kids’ books…thus maybe a book discussion group for grown-ups who want to discuss kids’ books wasn’t a terrible idea.

My first book club was made up entirely of people who were also writing kids’ books. We alternated between middle grade and YA, and we discussed the books from a writer’s point of view. How did the author develop this character? How did he evoke a sense of place? What do you think of the structure? The plot? Why did an editor say yes to this? Would it have been published 10, 20, 30 years ago? Why did it win X award? Why was it passed up for Y award? What does this author do really, really well? What could she improve upon? This was a great group, but alas I moved away so I’m no longer in it.

I am in another book club, though. This one is mostly a middle grade book discussion group and it’s made up of authors, librarians, teachers and booksellers. People who are passionate about middle grade, but coming at it from a variety of professions.

book-club-clip-art-290707Here is how we operate:

  1. We meet once a month…at someone’s house.
  2. If it’s your house, your responsibilities are to:
    1. Choose the book
    2. Send out a reminder to the group that includes your address and directions, if necessary
    3. Lead the discussion and provide some additional information on the book, which could include notes from an interview with the author, reviews, anything that enriches our experience of having read the book and adds to the conversation
    4. Provide beverages
  3. Everyone else will:
    1. Let the host/hostess know if they’re coming
    2. Bring treats

It’s all very low key and easy. We also leave a little time for socializing and everyone gets a chance to share what other books they’re currently reading. It’s a great way connect with other kids book people and stay current on what’s being published.

If you’re interested in being part of a kids’ book discussion group, check out Forever Young Adult, which is an international YA book discussion group that hosts club meetings in many cities. Each club, no matter where it’s located, reads and discusses the same YA novel each month. If you know of other national or International kids’ book clubs for grown-ups that are open to anyone, please let us know!

You might also consider starting your own club. Reach out to other authors, teachers, librarians and booksellers. You might be surprised how many people in your community also read kids’ books.

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Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of the Haunted Library series, the Buddy Files series and many other books. For more information visit her website or look for her on Facebook or Twitter.

Make Reading Fun

Summer is full of fun in the sun, dips in a pool, and hopefully reading some great middle-grade novels, too. Here are some ways to help inspire reading this summer.

Middle Grade Books and Ruby

Read books together. No matter how old a child or teen gets, it’s nice to share great books with relatives. Why not find a comfy spot and take turns reading to each other?

Read to a pet or a young child. My older daughter used to love reading books to her sister, and I lost track of how many times I found her snuggling with our dog while reading a book to her. Books with fun dialogue or younger siblings are great choices for this. As a child, I absolutely adored Judy Blume’s books (I even wrote my first fan letter to her). My girls are three years apart, and when my older daughter was six, I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to her. I was pleasantly surprised when my younger daughter sat with us, laughing and intently listening to all of Peter and Fudge’s adventures.

Find a fun location to read. You can encourage reading at a beach, pool, or park. You can grab a seat and read almost anywhere! I think it would be fun to sit where you can watch gorillas in a zoo and read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

Create a contest to inspire the kids or teens in your life to read. You can have them put their name, the book title, and their favorite part of the book on a circle and see who creates the longest bookworm by the end of the summer. To celebrate, you can go someplace fun or have a treat like pizza or ice cream, and maybe give the winner a gift card to buy a new book or two. You could even create a themed party where you make fun treats like the ones in their favorite book/s.

Join a book club, or start one of your own. Hanging out with friends and talking about great books is an awesome way to encourage kids to read. Here are some Mixed-Up Files posts about book clubs that might help you:

*Starting a Parent/Child Book Club

*One Mom Plus Two Sets of Twins Leads to Three Great Book Clubs

*Middle-grade Book Club Guide

To make a book club even more fun, you can check to see if any of the authors on this list are still available for a free 15 – 20 minute Skype visit after all the kids in the book club read at least one of his or her books!

If you’re looking for great new middle-grade novels to read this summer, check out our monthly new release posts. You can also browse through all the unique book lists on our site and search for categories like humorous, mystery, action & adventure, animal, fantasy & paranormal, etc.

I’d love to know how you make reading fun, and what middle-grade books are on your must-read list.

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.