Food and conversation prove the right mix for young readers

Book club

Howard Live

January 15, 2004

An interview with Barb Langridge, facilitator for the We're Bookin' children's book club at the central library.

What ages are appropriate for this group? Kids ages 9 to 12. We had a couple of parents come to the first meeting, just to see what the group was about. We have a great group of young readers, very intelligent, very insightful, very spirited.

How do you keep the kids interested in coming every month? One thing is that we give them free food, and they love it. It's like coming to a party. We try not to make it too structured. They can get up and get food whenever they want. The kids get a chance to say things in a nonjudgmental environment and enjoy reading and talking about the things in the books. It's a joy to watch and to hear. They remember so many details. They soak this stuff up like sponges.

What are you reading this month? Loser by Jerry Spinelli. It's about a little guy you meet going off to kindergarten, who is very much his own person. The story follows him growing up through elementary school as he deals with the trials of peer pressure and staying true to himself.

How do you know which books will grab club members' attention? My partner, Naomi Johnson, and I do it very intuitively. Of course, we read the books and pick the ones we really, really like. We try to vary the genre, the intensity and length of each book.

Which book have the kids most liked, so far? Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It has a touch of The Twilight Zone and Alice in Wonderland mixed together. It's about a 10-year-old girl, who is sort of neglected by her parents. She walks through a mirror and meets some seemingly perfect parents, but it turns out they don't have her best interests at heart. It's kind of spooky. The kids in our group really had strong feelings about what good parents should be like and were highly critical of the job done by the parents in this book.

What's exciting about leading a book club with children this age? Kids this age are just at the turning point of slipping into the skins of what they're going to be like as adults. They have certain viewpoints, and when you give them the books you hand them the opportunity to get bigger, to grow. And they choose it. It's really fun.

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