“I hate reading!” How one media specialist answers this kid complaint.

I asked Media Specialist, Jami O’Connor, how she responds to this kid complaint.

When a student tells me that they hate to read, I always ask them what it is about reading that they hate.  A majority of the time it is because the student struggles with thactual phonics of reading or vocabulary.  They love to hear stories and look at the pictures but have a challenging time sounding out words or knowing their meaning. In cases like this, I always ask what their interests are.  This is a great base to find a genre that the students enjoy and we can look for books in those genres that are interesting and start from there.  All of our picture books and chapter books are sorted into the same genres so it can be easy to find a book they can enjoy.  I offer to read the book with them and talk about the pictures and look at the words they may not know.  One challenge is sometimes that really want to read a book that is too high for their reading ability and that adds to the frustration.  I always read the harder books with them but also encourage a book that is more on their actual reading level.  When they come back in to get a new book I make it a point to talk about the book they read and how they liked it.  If they didn’t like it then we go on another hunt for a book they might enjoy but I always say that not all books you are going to love but once you find one you love, you will be hooked.  A lot of book selection is trial and error.  With a lot of persistence, we can almost always find books that even the most hesitant reader can enjoy.

Jami O’Connor is a Media Specialist (EdS. Media and I.T.) in Cobb County, GA.



Competitive Reading. Who knew?

Who knew reading could be a competitive sport? I didn’t until my daughter was selected for her school’s Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team. This is a wonderful way to make reading a social and interactive activity. battle logo poster

Here’s how it worked: Each elementary school team read the same ten books selected from the list of Georgia Book Award Nominees. The books represented different genres and diverse characters. Some of the books were not what the typical fifth grader would pick off the shelf, but it gave them exposure to new stories. The team exercised their brains during weekly training sessions where they practiced answering questions for the big competition.

This year, thirty-one teams competed in the regional competition. The day started with several head-to-head rounds with other schools. The judges asked ten trivia questions about the books and the kids had to try to be first to ring a buzzer and answer the question correctly. It was quite intense and stressful . . . for the parents.

My daughter’s team ended up in a sudden-death playoff for one of the top spots. Tell me, that’s not exciting.

For more information about Reading Bowls, visit https://georgiahelenruffinreadingbowl.weebly.com



Come Over to the Dark Side: Scrivener

I gave Schrivner a try last year, but I really only used it as a fancy word processing program. I wasn’t getting the most out it. This post by Writers’ Rumpus illustrates the features & benefits for writers.

I think I’ll give it another try.


I write fantasy adventures, but I’m not adventurous when it comes to writing tools. I’ve always been a Microsoft Word person. And even with Word, it would take me years to finally upgrade to the newest version. I liked the simplicity of just typing on a blank document. I didn’t need all of the extra gadgets. All I wanted to do was write.

So when I heard about Scrivener, I was hesitant. Why mess with something that’s been working? It seemed a little like abandoning Word–going over to the dark side, maybe. Then I was at a book signing and both authors talked about how they used Scrivener to move scenes around with the click of a button. It got me thinking, maybe I’d use Scrivener during editing in order to change around scenes, which would be easier than highlighting and dragging an entire chapter around.

Not long after…

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What do Middle Schoolers Want to Read? An Interview with a School Counselor

Barbara Truluck is a middle school counselor and recipient of 2018 Middle School Counselor of the Year for Cobb County schools (the second largest school district in the state of Georgia). I asked her about the reading habits of today’s middle school students.

Debbie D’Aurelio: How important is it for children to read books with characters that are similar to them in race, socioeconomic, religious backgrounds, etc? 

Barbara Truluck: As a middle school counselor, I know the importance of students
developing a multicultural perspective in order to function in our diverse world. libraryHowever, kids first need to understand who they are and develop their own self-identity which is a developmental skill.  As children grow and change through adolescence they are continually learning their own personality, gaining knowledge of their own skills and abilities, and developing an awareness of their own physical attributes. Understanding who they are, their ethnic background, their values, and beliefs must be developed before they can look at their relationship to the world and more importantly create the person they want to be.

In the developmental theory of Erickson’s Identity vs. Role Confusion, adolescents must struggle to discover and find his or her own identity, develop a sense of right and wrong, and find where they “fit in” socially.  A strong sense of personal identity helps kids build their self-esteem, feel part of their culture and family, and build confidence in an overall sense of belonging. This is why, in my experience, both in the classroom and in school counseling, I see students gravitate to reading books about characters that are similar to themselves in race, socioeconomic, interests, and religious backgrounds. While children are in the developmental stage of self-identity, relating to characters like themselves help builds character and strengthen their own positive identity.

DD: Many books explore some difficult topics like poverty and racism, etc. Do you find kids pick up these books on their own? Do you recommend them to kids who are experiencing similar problems? 

The adolescents I work with every day as a school counselor are for the most part interested in reading fantasy and fiction. They are not at the developmental age yet where books purely on social justice issues are their motivation to read.  However, children have a keen awareness of fairness and differences from themselves. Current research suggests that when children are exposed to prejudice and racism they can unlearn any bias when exposed to diversity in a positive way. In today’s society, there are disagreements regarding what constitutes justice and which values are considered right and wrong. Today’s educators and children’s book authors need to be sensitive not to usurp parents prerogative and perspectives in shaping their children’s ethical beliefs, values, and morals.

DD: What kind of books are kids in middle-school drawn to these days?

BT: The tween years are a time of turbulent change and character building. Let’s face it, in today’s fast-paced technology world, the majority of kid’s I see prefer social media outlets and the constant cell phone usage over reading. We have seen a drastic drop in reading Lexile scores with this generation. As educators, we are seeing that many students are so addicted to social media they cannot part with their cell phone long enough to pick-up a book to read. Middle schoolers are still moving through Piaget’s stages of cognitive development and become extremely egocentric and care more about the opinions of their peers than anyone else. Social media feeds that need.

When adolescents do read, they most often choose to read literature that mirrors themselves and their peers. They chose books created from the imagination like mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and uplifting stories that inspire them to dream. That is why kids like to escape when they read a story. Children like to envision themselves in-bedded in the story. During this time of self-centeredness, middle school students want to be inspired and yearn for positive story themes.

There is so much negativism in the world today when kids sit down to read a book they want to be inspired and uplifted. Kids love books where good wins over evil and the main characters resolve their issues in a positive manner.

Barbara Truluck, M.Ed., NCC, NCSCBarbara Truluck, M.Ed., NCC, NCSC; 2018 Cobb County Middle School Counselor of the Year; ASCA School Counselor Leadership Specialist. Barbara taught middle school for twelve years before becoming a school counselor.

Age Old Debate—Which is Better, the Book or the Movie?

I have to be honest, I’m a little afraid to see the movie, Wonder. Like so many people, I adored the book. It’s still one of my all-time favorites. But, I’m afraid I will sit in the theatre and be completely annoyed by the theatrical interpretation and not be able to enjoy the movie.

Most people I’ve talked to are excited to see it, but my bookish/writer friends are not. We think the casting is questionable and based on the previews, Auggie’s surgeries were far more successful at improving his facial abnormalities than in the book. The reactions to Auggie might not be as authentic.

At the same time, I’m happy the book was made into a movie so more people can benefit from seeing this heartfelt story. I’m still not sure if I will see the movie or not. I think I’ll wait for the reviews. If you’ve already seen it, tell me what you think. At least we don’t have to worry about spoilers.


What Do Children Want to Read? Humor

It’s no surprise the number one feature kids look for in books is humor. When picking out a book for themselves, they want a book that makes them laugh!

In the fall of 2014, Scholastic surveyed a sample of children ages 6-17 along with a group of parents. They asked them about their reading habits. The full survey can be found at  2014 Scholastic Study.

There are many interesting findings in the study. One question asked children, “What do you look for when reading a book?” (please select all that apply.) Here are the results:

Make me laugh – 70%

Let me use my imagination- 54%

Tell a made up story – 48%

Have characters I wish to be like because they are smart, strong and brave – 43%

Teach me something new – 43%

Have a mystery or problem to solve – 41%

Tell a true story (nonfiction)- 31%

Are a little scary – 30%

Let me forget about real life for a while – 26%

Are about things I experience in my life – 25%

Have characters that look like me – 17%

Have characters that are in love – 17%








Due to the collective stress we adults are feeling due to the tumultuous political environment, let’s not lose our sense of humor. While we want to educate kids so they make good decisions, let’s not forget to make them laugh along the way.


Turning Yucky Peas into Picture Book Magic. An Interview with Danny Schnitzlein.

I recently spoke with talented children’s author, Danny Schnitzlein, about his successful picture book as well as the craft of writing in verse.

What inspired you to write The Monster Who Ate My Peas?753118

My older siblings hated peas, so I also groaned and threw a fit when my mom served them. I’m not sure if I really hated them, or if I was just following my brother and sister’s lead. But over time, I truly did believe I hated them. My parents wouldn’t let us leave the table until we’d cleaned our plates, so many nights at 8:30 or 9:00 I’d be
sitting there staring at my plate through tears and wishing the peas would disappear. Fast forward, two decades later, someone brought a green soup to a party I attended. I had two bowls of it. Then I discovered it was split pea soup. After that, I really had to re-think my hatred of peas and examine the cause of my fear. Since the book came out, other pea haters (usually adults) come up to me and confess all the devious ways they would get rid of peas when they were kids. So I guess I’ve become a sort of pope of pea confession. You are forgiven! Anyhow, I have examined my fear and I don’t like canned peas. I like them okay if they are fresh or frozen, or especially in Indian food. But not canned. I’m sure that’s way more than you wanted to know.

During school visits, what are some of the more interesting/funny responses you’ve received from students?

I always talk about the importance of re-writing, and how that’s where the magic happens. All the good bits of my stories have happened in the re-writing stage.
When it came time for questions at one school, a boy raised his hand and asked, “Why don’t you just write it right the first time?” If only I could.

I understand a theatrical play was developed from your story. Can you tell us a little about this?

ArtsPower is a really great organization based in New Jersey. They adapt children’s books into plays and perform them at small theaters and schools across the U.S..
I was honored when they approached me about adapting The Monster Who Ate My Peas. Many years ago, I wrote a musical play based on the book and it was performed a few places, but ArtsPower did a much better job than I did. Greg Gunning’s script is fantastic. The acting, staging, and choreography are so much fun. When I saw the play performed in North Carolina, it was very surreal, especially since they named the main character “Danny.” (In the book, the boy is never named.) The play has toured the country several times and it will finally come to my home city next May. I’m very excited!

Your story is written in verse. How difficult was this to accomplish?

My mom read lots of rhyming poems to me when I was young, Also, I was raised on Dr. Seuss books, and I’ve always loved the music of his language. Seuss made writing verse look so easy that people are still trying to copy him many years later. I guess I’m one of those copycats. I’m also a musician and I think that helps when writing verse, because it’s all about the rhythm of the meter, the music of the words. Unfortunately, I think many big publishers have developed a snobby attitude toward picture books written in verse. They don’t want to see those manuscripts. It’s probably because they read so many poorly written manuscripts in verse. The snobby attitude toward books in verse is a trend, but I hope it doesn’t continue. Kids like verse. Adults like reading verse to kids. Verse gives a book a lot of re-play value. We like to hear our favorite songs over and over, and it’s the same with books written in verse, because they are so much like music. Writing in verse is not so hard for me, but it takes a lot longer than writing in prose. The most difficult part about writing in verse, is avoiding the urge to let the verse steer the story. What I mean by this is that you know the first line, but then you have to think up a rhyme for the end of the second line. It’s very easy to just think of a word that rhymes and then use it, and then let the rhyming word tell you where the story is going. But you can’t do that. You have to be in charge of the story. You can’t let the verse make story decisions for you. It’s best to know your story before you begin. Otherwise the story comes out looking very amateur. I only know this from years of experience doing it the wrong way! 🙂

For more information about Danny, visit his website at www.dannyschnitzlein.com.



Electronic readers versus paper books: Should we fight the future?

Dr. Roy Benaroch offers some thoughts and advice about reading on e-readers.

Anne with an E

The Pediatric Insider

The Pediatric Insider

© 2016 Roy Benaroch, MD

Holly wrote in:

What is your opinion on e-readers vs paper books for kids? My kids have begun to associate reading with something that ‘has to be done for school’ instead of something to be enjoyed, and I’m wondering if letting them read on their tablets would spark new interest. It seems that schools are turning more and more to electronic devices for teaching, so how do e-readers factor into the ‘screen time’ equation? Can reading on a tablet at a young age affect eyesight?

It’s been a long time since reading technology has changed as much as it’s changing now. 2000 years ago moms were admonishing their children to read their baked clay instead of that new-fangled papyrus. Around 1440 Ms. Guterberg gave her one of the first mechanically printed books while her neighbors edged away. 200 years later, Ms. Lincoln…

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Just Write, Uncategorized

Do Books Need Taglines?

As consumers, we’re used to seeing “taglines” for commercials and movies, but do books need pitch lines too? In today’s competitive environment, anything that grabs a reader and gets them to look deeper into your book is worth having. Look at some of these great movie taglines.

Alien – “In space, no one can hear you scream.”1320661
Erin Brockovich – “She brought a small town to it’s feet and a big corporation to it’s knees.”

Finding Nemo – “There are 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean. They’re looking for one.”

Apollo 13 – “Houston . . . we have a problem.”

Armageddon – “Earth. It was fun while it lasted.”

The Social Network – “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

Platoon – “The first casualty of war is innocence.”

Shawshank Redemption – “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.”

Get Shorty – “The mob is tough, but it’s nothing like show business.”

These taglines add intrigue to the story and makes you want to read more. As writers we can deliver on the tagline when, most of the time, the publisher delivers on the title. It not only grabs an editor, it grabs the reader. We need to embrace the idea of tagline/pitch lines for children’s books. It’s a competitive world of scrolling through options and the pitch could set us apart.