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READALICIOUS! Books for Tweens

My ARC (Advanced Reader Craze) Book Club is Born!

Reading incentive: Three unopened boxes full of unpublished books, sitting on a shelf in very plain view.
Reading incentive: Three unopened boxes full of unpublished books, sitting on a shelf in very plain view.

A few days ago I put a bug in the ears of a couple of my most rabid readers. I told them I wanted to start a book club at recess for books that aren't published yet.

Aren't published yet? How is that possible? Like, we'd be the first ones to read them? grin

I pointed to three unopened boxes of ARCs—Advanced Reader Copies—and explained what ARCs are and why publishers and sometimes the authors themselves send them to book reviewers and bloggers.

I added that I had no idea what book titles were inside the boxes (knowing full well that last year's ARC box contained quite a few super hits).

I left the mystery boxes in plain sight on a shelf and let the ear bug go to work. I watched and listened for an hour or so as the whispers went 'round. still grinning


Finally, I told one girl to make a list of very good readers, boys and girls, that she thought might be want to receive a special invitation go join an ARC Book Club, with the only perk being a chance to read these unpublished books before any of them made it into my READom classroom library.

The whispers elevated into a buzz, and I could sense an upswell of excitement as more kids began to take note of the unopened boxes (so intriguing! so enticing!).

The next morning, I received the list of about 10 sixth graders, including some excellent readers from the other two sixth grade classes in our school. I quickly expanded the list to 30 names and sent word to my fellow sixth grade teachers, Ellen and Donita, that I wanted to meet with certain students about a voluntary project.


Next, with my group of ARC readers gathered, I opened the boxes on a table in the middle of the hallway and piled out the books, some 45 to 50 unpublished titles in all. I pointed out that I could never read that many books but that I knew there were some gems in there. I needed help!

Holy schmoly, you should have seen the reaction! (Oy, why didn't I a snap a picture? Sorry about that.)

It was as if I had piled gold bullion on that table. Every kid picked a book, and I had only about 10 or 12 titles leftover. I told them they could exchange their book if they didn't like it, but only "while supplies last." Which they didn't.

I had already given a box of ARCs aimed at lower grades to our second grade "buddy class"—the class paired with our class for reading together, so the excitement spilled over to that grade as well.

Meanwhile, my artfully contrived plot thickened as other students, ones who were less inclined to read, came to me to see if they, too, could... wait for it!... pick a book and read it!!!

Why, sure. outright beaming

Later that day, I returned to my room after indoor recess and asked the lunch mom how things went. She said, "Great! Most of them were reading the whole time. They never do that. What did you do?"

full-on tee hee hee
The sixth graders have agreed to meet with me next week at lunch to discuss the books, and I'm dying to hear what they say. (I'll let you know.)

The plan is for them to tell me which books they think I should buy to add to the library and to discuss issues of censorship, which is a big unit in September.


I'll talk more about the specific books in a future post, after I hear the sixth grader reviews. But first, as you'll recall, I haven't read any of these titles and you might be wondering if I'm concerned about appropriateness.

Well, of course I am. That's, in fact, a central part of my mission here.

First, the new ARC Book Club is for advanced and avid readers and what I tell parents is that if they have one of these "be-still-my-teaching-heart" students on their hands, their child will very quickly be reading above his or her maturity level anyway.

Parents need to pay attention to what's in their child's hands and minds, book-wise, and talk to them about it. Read a few chapters. Ask questions. Tune into their child's emotional and maturity level.

Second, it's near the end of the school year and, by now, I've taught my sixth graders to talk think about and talk about censorship, banned books, why that happens, and what they're comfortable with.

If in doubt, I tell them, "Bring me the book." They're really good about that, and I trust them.

Finally, most of the ARC titles (with a couple of young adult exceptions) are squarely aimed at middle grade, a fairly well-defined publishing category.

As I've said before, sixth grade is a crucial and special year in the life of a young reader, and these kids are all over the map in terms of maturity and readiness. I go to great lengths to help them identify books that they feel are appropriate for them.

Which titles went first? Publishers might be interested to hear that slick packaging works. A couple colorful and cleverly designed books leapt off the table.

Also, kids glommed onto books with familiar characters or authors. One boy is reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and immediately snapped up a preview copy of his forthcoming graphic novel.

Earlier in the year, I had pointed an interested girl to an historic adventure set in Egypt. Her eyes glowed at seeing a second title in the series.

A new book by Pam Muñoz Ryan was among the first chosen.

Curious about what's in those boxes? Stay tuned.

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