Summer Reading Club is in full swing in Canadian libraries. In more than 2,100 libraries around Canada, kids are earning prizes and recognition for reading. Thanks to Toronto Public Library and a certain sponsoring bank, we all have lots of free stuff to give away.
|The most popular kids' series ever,|
still going strong after almost 15 years.
Our children's library is very busy. The first day of SRC, we signed up 180 kids! After two weeks, we're well over 600 participants. When kids register, or when they come in to "report" and collect prizes, it's a great time for some one-on-one conversations with our young customers. Some won't say one word without their parents' prompting, but others are so forthright and articulate! It's really a pleasure chatting with them. What have I heard?
"My favourite books are the ones where things happen, and you know, you don't know what's going to happen, and you think things won't happen, and then they do happen!"
"I love reading about space, and planets, and the universe. I'm going to be an astronaut and go to Mars -- when I'm six!" This boy was amazing. At not yet six years old, he knew so much about astronomy! And he wasn't just regurgitating facts without engaging, as you sometimes see with kids who are on the autism spectrum. This boy was relaxed and social, and had clearly synthesized what he had read. We had a great conversation about his impending Mars visit. His mom and I looked at each other in amazement.
Two sisters wanted to read about... it sounded like churchills.
"Miss, can we bring our churchills to the library?"
"Your ... what?"
"I'm not getting it. Can you say that again?"
"Our CHURCHILLS! Can we bring our CHURCHILLS to the library?!!"
Finally I am forced to admit, "I don't know what that is."
"They are little animals, they have a shell, and their little arms and legs and head sticks out of the shell, and when they're afraid, they can go inside it. We have two baby churchills and we want to bring them to the library!"
I try not to laugh. They are hearing the word from their parents, who are new English speakers.
"Do you mean turtles?"
"Yes, yes, tur-tills!" Without missing a beat, they now begin to pronounce the world tur-till with great enunciation.
"I don't think your turtles would be very happy at the library."
"We would help them! We would show them all the books!"
"But you know what, all the kids would want to see the turtles and pet them, there would be a huge crowd, and I think the turtles might be afraid."
They nod with great seriousness.
I ask, "Would you like to read some books about turtles?"
"Yes yes yes yes yes!!!"
"Do you want to read stories with characters who are turtles, like Franklin, or information about turtles?"
"Information! Information about tur-tills! Tur-till information!"
The book on having a turtle as a pet is nowhere to be found, but we find lots of books about turtles in the wild. I try to shield them from books about endangered sea turtles, but they are too fast for me. Fortunately, they are only looking at the pictures, so they're not bothered by the sad stuff.
"Tur-tills! Tur-tills! Mommy Mommy we have books about tur-tills!!"
|Currently the hottest ticket, by the|
creator of Captain Underpants
[What should we set for your first reading goal? How many books will you read before you come in for your first prize?]
"100! No, 500! No, one thousand! No, three. Three books."
[What kind of books do you like to read?]
The most common answers are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries (Wimpy Kid for girls), Harry Potter (still and apparently forever), Percy Jackson (hero of the Rick Riordan series), Narnia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For the younger readers, the most popular answers include Disney Princesses, Ninjago, Pokemon, LEGO, Barbie, various superheroes, and Transformers. (Notice anything?)
For graphic fiction (which kids call comic books), girls are still looking for anything by Raina Telgemeier, especially her new adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club. Everyone is still reading Amulet. This year's kids have not heard of Bone, but I can talk them into trying it. This is especially great because, being slightly out of fashion, Bone is easy to find.
The graphic hybrids are hugely popular: Geronimo Stilton and related spinoffs, Big Nate, Captain Underpants, Dog Man (this year's runaway hit), and the seemingly eternal Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I often steer girls to Marissa Moss' Amelia's Notebook series, which predates Dork Diaries and is way better.
If you phrase the question, "Do you like funny books, scary books, adventures, mysteries...?" the number one answer, by a huge margin, is funny. Scholastic has the results of a survey about what kids and parents look for in books.
The best answer I heard in a long time was: "I like books with words and pictures! I'm very particular about what I read."