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Episode 9: Are Kids Ever Too Old for Bedtime Stories?

This episode focuses on teenagers and reading. Is it ever too late to instill a love for literacy in your teen and when is it time to put the bedtime stories to rest? Elk Ridge Middle School teacher Patricia Bronson and Herriman High School teacher Sally Wilde join Superintendent Godfrey in the Supercast studio.

But first we have some fun with South Jordan Elementary School 6th grade students who talk to the Superintendent about their favorite books.

Audio Transcription

Hi and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Today we're talking about teenagers. Is it ever too late to teach them to have a love for literacy? And when is it time to put the bedtime stories to rest? We'll talk about that in a minute. But first, we head to the South Jordan Elementary School where some sixth graders share their favorite books and authors, and they have a few questions for me. Tell me some of the books you guys like to read

The Janitors series.

The Janitor series. I forgot, books of like manuals on how to like how to clean things and fix things and take good care of it?

Its about this kid who he sees monsters and stuff all around the school that you can only see with a certain soap or something. Like if you used this.

I assume that the janitors are the good guys because every janitor I know is a good guy.

Yeah, they are.

My name's Adam. I am reading those a series called The Last Kids On Earth.

The Last Kids On Earth. Are there adults or are they just the last kids?

The last kids. And it's about a monster apocalypse that's happening. The friends that they keep on finding are actually monsters, but they're not the evil monsters, just like monsters that that are kind. And one of them is like a monster dog kind of thing. They named them.

Let me get this straight. The adults are gone. There was one kid, but now there are more kids, but some of the kids are monsters, but some of the monsters are nice. And one of the monsters is a dog. I just need to read these books for myself because that way you can understand them. Good message. Read the book, go read the book.

I like to read biography.

Who do you like to read biographies about in particular, Jackie Robinson?

Singers like Elvis Presley and Elton John.

That's great. Well, thank you. Thank you very much. How many hours do you think you've read since you learned to read?

Millions maybe. I don't know.

In terms of hours, you're a very dedicated reader. No, I believe you, you look very intelligent. I believe you.

I don't know if read a million, maybe. I don't know. I've been at this school for six years and I've been reading 30 minutes pretty much every night.

If you've been reading every night, then you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing. Reading every night ,and when you're consistent, then you get better and better all the time. So, awesome. Keep on reading you guys. Thanks to the sixth grade students at South Jordan Elementary School for sharing their favorite books with me.

In studio today, we have Patricia Bronson, teacher at Elk Ridge and Sally Wilde, teacher at Herriman high school, to talk to us about reading with adolescents, with your teens. Tell us a little bit about yourselves, introduce yourselves.

I'm Patricia Bronson, Elk Ridge Middle School. I've taught there almost my entire career and I teach reading and language arts. Love working with teenagers.

I'm Sally Wilde. I teach at Herriman High School. I teach English and reading and creative writing, poetry. I'm also the in the literacy center. And I was an eighth grade English teacher as well with Patricia, my first years as a teacher, many moons ago. I'm unrecognizable now compared to what I looked like then.

I'm still recognizable. Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic.

I'll tell one funny story about Mr. Godfrey, Superintendent Godfrey. It's an awesome story. He always had fun with his kids. I remember it being a middle. There was this big sloping grassy area out from the big hill. And I remember one day there was a big snow storm and all the teachers were at lunch and they looked out the window and Superintendent Godfrey was out with the kids running and doing a head dives down into the snow. And all the teachers are like that kid, that teacher is going to break his neck. He certainly had a good time with his students.

Well, I loved being a model. That was a great place to start. That was very fun. It brings back good memories. So tell us students, what can parents do at home to help make sure that their teens continue to read? Lots of kids love to read when they're younger. How do you maintain that love of reading?

I think a key crucial thing is to make sure that they have a lot of choices. The more choices that teenagers have, then they feel like they have that ownership and that power to pick what they want to read. And sometimes, as parents we want to tell them, this is what you have to read. It needs to be this chapter book. But you know, if you give kids an option and give them opportunities to pick for themselves, they'll pick graphic novels. They'll pick books on tape. They'll pick nonfiction though. But if they have more choice, I think that the more they buy in, research shows that the more choice you have, the more you feel empowered to read and you want to read. So they just need lots of opportunities to pick and choose for themselves what they want to read.

Well, it makes sense because as adults, that's what we do. We're drawn to things that our friends like, or what we're reading as part of a group or things that interest us. And I remember I was reading a book and then I was assigned that book and in school, and I didn't want to read it anymore because it kind of took the magic out of it, that I had been told to read this book. So makes a lot of that makes a lot of sense to me. How do you help kids have a lot of choices available to them? They might just stand in the middle of the library and not know what to check out. So how do you, how do you help them?

Well, I think our librarian at Herrmann high school is amazing. She will, I've kind of listened to her a little bit cause we go down and we check out books each quarter and my students read them for the first 10, 15 minutes of class every day. And some of them pride themselves. I've never read a book. I don't want to do this. What should I read mrs. Wilde. And she already always starts out with the question, well, what do you like to watch on Netflix? What movies do you like? It's whatever they like watching. They're going to like that same genre as they're reading. And so she will point them in that direction where they need to go, what, what interests they would like. And then sometimes they might start and they might hate it and they'll, I'll see them. And they're just like, ah, every turn paint, turning every page is just a struggle. And I always let them know, Hey, stop reading it. If are hating it, then you're going to hate it for the rest of the book. Stop pick a different book. Let's find it.

That, that, that's amazing to hear that because as an adult, even I feel this responsibility, I bought this book, I started it. I'm five chapters in, I better finish it. So I feel the sense of duty. Like I have to get through the book. So it's giving kids permission to say, I'm abandoning ship. This book is not for me anymore.

Right. And, and the ownership of they, they picked it a lot of the times too is listening to their peers. So since we do read a book each quarter we kind of do little book reports at the end of the quarter and they have to let the students know, did they like this book? Would they recommend it? And a lot of the students will pick books that were reported on first quarter for second quarter because they thought it sounded interesting. I think as parents, you know, if you're struggling finding books for your children to read, I mean, reach out to the teachers and librarians have like, we know what kids are reading. We know what they're loving. And it's interesting how series that you think like, Oh, that's, that's going to be gone there. The Harry Potter is still super popular in the middle school.

Kids are reading the Harry Potter books and they're reading, you know, books that you think like, Oh, that that's old fat, no Anne of green Gables. I have reluctant readers that are reading at a green Gables. It tying into the interest though is super key. So, you know, if your kids like sports, finding those authors that are writing a lot of fiction about sports and just getting them into a genre, getting them into something that ties into their interests, I think is a way, especially for middle school kids, because if they are going to want to learn more about it, then they're going to want to read about it. And I think that's, that's key humor. Humor is really big. If you can find books like James Patterson, his series, like something that they can laugh about, like, you know, just teenagers, they like to laugh.

They like to find out about the real world. Jason Reynolds is really popular right now. You know, that, that literature that kind of exposes them to other cultures, but also helps them to just see themselves in the world books that help see themselves. Right. There's lots of different areas or places that you can go to get suggestions to websites, you know, our high school website she has book reviews. So she does have a list of books that you are, they would suggest, but then she has like a review. And so you can kind of read a little snippet and see if that's for you. And PR has lists Barnes and noble all up. There's so many lists out there associate yeah, they are, they're all over. And they're pretty accessible to find books that you might be interested in. You know, there's high school students that are still reading Percy Jackson and, but, and then there's students that still love Stephen King. He's still popular. And it really, it's such a wide variety of what they like to read. I have, you know, my sports, I have some soccer boys that are love reading sports biographies the soccer players. And

As I, as I talked to students, I heard a lot of that. I like this sport. So I've been reading things about the sport and about people who play the sport. And that, that, that, that ties them in. You mentioned school media centers w a lot of times means that we hold when we hold a meeting at the school, I ended up being in the media center a lot of times for those. And I'm amazed at the displays. I want to steal some of those books because I can't legitimately check them out, not being a student, because the displays do such a nice job of pulling themes together and making books accessible. So hopefully people are not overlooking that as a resource because our media specialists really do a great job.

They do an amazing job. And, you know, what's also available is our overdrive. And so a lot of the books are available that you can download on your phone. And a lot of those books, you can also listen to they'll, they read them to you. And that's an amazing feature for either struggling readers or just readers that, you know, want to listen in the car and want to book to go that they can have with them anytime, anywhere.

So that's available for through the school media center. Yeah.

Teachers, students. Yeah.

Wow. That's that is a great resource. We'll take a quick break and we'll be back to talk more about how to maintain a love of reading in your teenager. Stay with us.

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Back here with Patricia Bronson, from Elbridge and Sally Wilde from Herriman high school, you mentioned some of the titles that may be wouldn't seem age appropriate for middle or high school that maybe it's too young. Do you need as a parent to push children to read more advanced texts as they age? Or is it okay to let them read the stuff they want to read?

So as a high school teacher, we teach a lot of those advanced techniques in high school. We're teaching, you know, the great Gatsby, the crucible and they get that at high school. Whereas if they're reading at home on their own, I think you let them, you let them read. You, let them read something. They enjoy, because otherwise you're going to send them to their bedroom to read and guess what? They're not really going to read, and it's going to go right over their head. They're not going to care. They're not going to understand unless they want to. So I think Joyce, we've talked about choice, a lot choice and rating is really big. And I think that the youth, as they start to read, they'll start to get bored. If they're reading a book that is too easy for them, I'm going to have a student the other day that was reading something.

And he, he ranked it like a score of four out of 10. And I asked him why. And he said, it was just kind of boring. And I said, was it too easy? Yeah, it was too easy. And that's a great conversation to say, well, sometimes like books are once they become boring, it's because they are becoming too easy and you need to like step it up. And I think as parents, you can scaffold that. Like, you know, if they're reading like a fantasy book and they're reading lightning thief, they love lightning thief. Then maybe it's time to like, you know, try something a little more advanced. Maybe Robert Jordan still will do it fast, but you know, introduce them to the Hobbit or something else. Like, Oh, here's a really good classic piece. That would be something to add to that. I think that, I think it's good to, to motivate them and push them along.

But I agree like your choice, like we, as adults will read what we enjoy. I read the whole Harry Potter series too easy for me, for my Lexile. Right. But I still really enjoyed it. And it was a conversation that people are having in the community. So I wanted to be part of that. And I think kids are the same way. They'll want to read what their peers are reading. They're going to want to read what their parents are reading. I'm exposing them to all different types of literature that I think is important. You know, if they're getting stuck in one genre, helping to push them to try something else can also broaden their horizons and show them that there's other things out there that they might enjoy a lot of times too. It's modeling it. So maybe as a parent, if you read a book and you loved it and it's at a higher level, talk about it, talk about it with your student.

What parts did you like? What, what do you think they would like, why do you think they would like this? And a lot of times they are, they're going to read, what are you are reading of the parent? And sometimes they might start reading it and be like, Oh, we have complete disparate tastes. I'm not going to read that mom. And that's okay too. But, but being able to talk about books with your children are going to, well, number one, you're talking about it, you're communicating and you're able to help with comprehension skills, which is what we want our students to be able to do. We don't want just them. We don't just want them to be able to read. We want them to be able to comprehend and talk about what they would do. That's a key thing. Cause when you talk about that, like when my students were in high school and they were talking about, I would want to know, well, tell me about that book and ask those questions because the more that they can articulate and explain what they're reading, the more that they, you can as a parent, then see if they're not quite getting something and maybe they need a little support.

I remember my oldest son, when he was taking his AP lit class at Herrmann high he was rereading, I think in the summer it was Scarlet letter. And I thought that was really tough to read for your summer reading. So I re read the book at the same time he was reading it. We had lots of conversations and I mean, it was a very good bonding moment for us to be able to talk about that book. We still talk, I think every book he read that year, I re-read so that we could have conversations at home and it was enriching for me to reread those books. But I think it was also, we still have conversations like his favorite book. I mean his favorite book, shoot, I'm going to forget what it is now. The things they carried, like the things they carried in the road, which I think is amazing. I mean, the things they carried on the road and he loved those books. And I know a lot of it was what his teacher was doing at hermit high, but a lot of it was also the conversations he was having at home because it's kind of this bonding moment together.

And it's a critical time. I think they're forming memories that they'll, that they won't lose that they'll hold on to

And love for literature. Love for literature, for reading a good books. And when they see you as a parent, I mean, first of all, high five, because that is absolutely amazing that you did that. I love that listeners. You heard that [inaudible], that is so cool that you would, because I completely agree. Scarlet letter, that is a difficult text and it's hard to get through. And we do ask our students to do it during the summer and they come back and they talk about it. But a lot of them just start having those aha moments when they start talking about them after the summer, when they've got back, they're like, Oh, that's what it was talking about, but how that's so awesome that you prepared your son, you had him a step ahead of all the others, because you were able to start talking about it with him at home. And if he didn't understand some of that difficult texts, then you were able to help him understand that

Obviously reading the same book at the same time and being able to talk with your team is a great way of reinforcing re re reinforcing reading. Are there other ways to do that around the house?

I think that a good way is talking about the different ways that you as an adult use literacy and reading. So even just talking about like how you read on your job and making sure that your child knows that like reading is that essential skill, but there are like simple ways, even if, you know, you're cooking together, reading a recipe. If they have a question that they're, that they need to answer, instead of just answering for him, like teach them, like go find a resource, go. I mean, you're using technologies there. I mean, it competes for our reading, right? I mean, kids are on their phones all the time. So helping them to, to learn how to find that information that they need and read about it and find out what's real. And what's true. And being able to have those critical thinking skills is key too, but, and it doesn't have to be the Scarlet of your reading together.

It can be something just like small that you're just sharing that moment, talking about a newspaper article together, because I just think the more that we help kids find ways to read and to expose themselves to different types, we just need to help them see that there's reading all around us. And I'm going to also put a plug in for the public library because the public library is a fantastic resource. There are contests. And even for adults, you can go sign up in the library and they have those reading kind of contests, where if you do so many things, you get rewards and kids can read at elementary level, middle school, high school level, adult level, and you get prizes and books at the end. And it's really exposes them to all the wonderful that the public library and our public library system is fantastic.

Like having, you know, helping your kids get a library card, teaching them how to reserve books and getting them set. Right. So all you have to do is go and pull that book off the shelf. I mean, it's such a great, great resource that we have. So, you know, making sure you don't have to buy books for kids, if you do fantastic, but just making sure that they know how to get the book that they want and where to go and just helping them figure all that out, I think is key. Because if you don't have it, you don't have reading materials. I remember my husband said that his growing up, he had one book, he had some religious books and then he had one book. His parents bought him, it was a biography of George Washington. And he remembers that. And I think like owning something, owning a book, having a book that belongs to you is so important.

My parents and my grandparents gave me Heidi, one of my favorite books ever like reading Heidi as a child and having still that inscribed book. I mean, I think books are they're treasures, right? They're like things that we love. And we, we get inside that book and we bond with those characters. And I think that help helping kids have those moments and those opportunities is just so rewarding. And you want as a parent to make reading to be fun, not a chore, not something, especially when they're in middle school, you don't want it to be something where it's like, you've got to, you know, it becomes a punishment. You just need to find ways to make it fun. Whether it's like, you know, a bowl of popcorn while you're reading a comfy place to read, but scheduling time and having that time in your home to read whether it's 10 minutes a day is pretty crucial now day with, with all the things we're competing.

And you're right about owning a book. I remember books that were given to me as gifts or that I saved up for, or that I bought through the form that I was sent home in elementary. So the Scholastic form and well, in the era of cleaning up your stuff and de junking and decluttering those old books still spark joy for me, my wife does not believe me, but the joy continues to be sparked by those old books. I really, I really you're right. It's a, there's a relationship there. We're going to take a break and then we'll be back to wrap it up with Patricia and Sally

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We're back with Patricia and Sally talking about teen literacy. Is it too late at one point to help your team develop a love of learning? My brother was very successful in school, but he never liked reading the book that he owned was goodbye. Mr. Chips. So for a long time, his brother and I just called him mr. Chips making in front of him. That that was the only book that he read. If, if someone can read, but they don't love to read. Is there still time if they're a teenager?

Definitely. There's a man. I have, I have associates that I know in the neighborhood and things that might have just barely started loving reading when the Twilight series came out and I kind of giggle on the inside thinking, Oh well, but they're reading. And I mean, Patricia, you mentioned Harry Potter earlier. I have a lot of friends too, when I was going to college who got hooked on Harry Potter as well, but they didn't like reading before. So whatever, it's never too late, never too late to start reading. I think that for a lot of readers or there might be a couple of reasons why they don't enjoy reading. First of all, sometimes they're there, they're younger and their fluency just hasn't quite caught up with them and they're working so hard to try to figure out, to comprehend that they're not reading fast enough. And so it's a chore, like reading is hard, right?

So we have a lot of students, I think in sixth, seventh, eighth grade, that all of a sudden the fluency catches their Ric reading faster. They're seeing the world in a, in a more broad spectrum. And so I think now all of a sudden they will say, I finally love reading. Like reading is finally so much fun for me. I think a lot of times it's getting in the right book. I have another student I'm thinking of right now that doesn't necessarily love to read all the time, but he was reading a book. I forget. I, don't not sure how to say his first name, but his last name's Alexandra. And it's a book of poetry about this basketball player. So it's kind of fast paced cause it's poetry. And he loved that book. I mean, he raced through that book. Now we're trying to find another book that he'll get into, but I think sometimes just finding the right book for the right child, it doesn't have to be a struggle.

I think finding books that there's, I guess when we were kids, there weren't that many books out there for like those series books. And now there are thousands of wonderful books. I mean, Jake, you're rolling. Just opened up the world like writers. She really did. I mean, there were so many series, I mean, dystopian series, Neil Schusterman and whined. Fantastic. I've never had a student, not love, love, love that book. Ranger's apprentice that red students don't love that book. We actually, and we have so many Utah authors too. Rich Paul Evans and the Michael [inaudible].

Oh, I have so many students who love Michael Bay, the Brandon mall Shannon Hill with goose girl, and she's got a whole series. She's amazing. These, they all, it's kinda cool to know they're from Utah too, but they do book signings and they do watch parties and come to school, they can come to the schools and that's really cool for the students to meet the people and get their book signed. I have a light class library and my students will pull his different books off and they'll, they'll bring me the book and show me the signature on the pig. Did you know that this was here? I did. Do you know this person I've met him and you're okay with me reading this, just be careful. They're really excited that, you know, it's, it's, I don't know. It makes it a little more real and legit. And

So it's never too late and there's a right book for everyone. And sometimes just a question of timing

It's really for adults either. I mean, we have, I mean, my husband is not a reader. He married a reader. It was one of the great things is that I can just read all the time and he'll do other things. It's great. But he has started reading books and I mean, that's a powerful experience. I think too, to be able to, as a family, listened to books on tape, we listened to Andrew's game when we were traveling one time and he loved that book. And so I think, you know, adults as parents, if that's one thing I would say is even if you don't love reading, tell your kids, you love it. And we really talk it up because you know, kids do look at their parents and see them as role models. So the more as parents, we can be that role model to talk about, you know, that how readings affected us or ways that we read and just try to make it a positive experience.

Because if kids hear that, you know, that parents don't love reading, it's easy for them to adopt that and to take that kind of in an kind of make it excuse. And one more thing, kids, we live in a fast paced world and you know, if you're at home and you're like, okay, turn off the TV, put away your phone. It's time to read. They feel like they're missing out on something and they don't want to. And one way you can kind of get around that is put away your phone, set, what you're doing aside and sit down next to him in the family room, grab a blanket, grab a pillow, get comfortable and read for 20 minutes when they read to

Great having you guys in studio. I am missing my eighth grade language arts class right now. I'm out of touch with it. And it's great to be able to hear from you what people are reading and how we can help teens read more. We end our podcast with two truths and a lie. Do your chance to lie to the superintendent and Sally, you drew the short straw and I can tell how uncomfortable you are with lying just from the expression on your face, but it's okay. It's just a game. So let's do this.

Okay. I have broken my arm in the exact same place, two summers in a row. I have five kids and I have never been to Jamaica.

I think those three things could be very closely related. Actually having five kids and breaking your arm might keep you from making it to Jamaica. I don't know because you read a lot of fiction obviously. And so any of these could be pulled from a book of yours. I'm going to say that you have not been to Jamaica, but it's on the list, but it's on the list

I have been to Jamaica. You need to go to Jamaica, Jamaica. It's fantastic.

I have not been to Jamaica, so, okay. Jamaica, Jamaica. Thank you again for being on the super cast. And remember education is the most important thing you'll do today. [inaudible].

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