Millionaire Club Spotlight: What Are You Reading This Summer?

HISD’s Millionaire Club is a literacy initiative designed to encourage students to read for pleasure during the summer months. Each week, we’ll catch up with one HISD librarian to find out what’s on his or her reading list. This week, we spoke with Cindy Dinneen, a librarian at Johnston Middle School.

What are you reading right now?

I spend most of my summer reading Young Adult books from the Name that Book list to help my team get ready for competition, but I do spend some time reading adult mystery. I just finished a young adult book, Almost Home by Joan Bauer.

What attracted you to those selections?

Almost Home is the story of a middle school girl named Sugar who becomes homeless as a result of her dad’s gambling addiction. She and her mom end up in Chicago living on the streets and her mom has a mental breakdown. What I loved most about the book is Sugar’s resilience and the way she doesn’t let her situation dictate her responses to life. She manages to stay true to herself in spite of the adversity. One of the characters is her English teacher, who “bends” the rules to stay in touch with Sugar and continues to encourage her as a writer and as a person.

One of the things I love about young adult literature is the way I always learn something that I can apply to my life. Our students live in a much different world than I did, and through reading young adult books, I get a glimpse of what life is like for the students I work with.

What is on your adult reading list?

I love mystery and suspense. My current adult reading is Dead Watch by John Sanford. Sanford writes long series and, like my students, I like finding out what’s going on in the main character’s life. Most folks wouldn’t consider this “great” literature, but it is great diversion.

What is your campus doing this year to promote summer reading among students?

I’m really trying to encourage participation in the Millionaire Club program. I visited all the reading classes at the end of the year to explain Millionaire Club and provided information about other summer reading programs (Barnes & Nobles, Houston Public Library, Bellaire Public Library, Half-Price Books, etc.). I’m really grateful to have awesome librarians in our feeder pattern, and I sent information to them in hopes of reaching the incoming sixth graders so they’d know what was going on. Several of those librarians passed the information on to the teachers, and one librarian had the information included in their weekly letter home. As our counselors visited other campuses for student recruiting, they talked about the library and Millionaire Club as well.

Students need to read just five books to be a “Millionaire,” and I talked about the celebration we’d have in the fall (free dress day, group picture in the yearbook, ice cream treat after school). But to “up the ante,” if students read 10 books, they get their name entered into a drawing for an e-reader and for each additional five books, their name goes into the drawing again. And, if they post five book reviews, their name goes in again. So pretty quickly they can have their name in the drawing three or four times. I’m excited to see how participation increases with the incentive of a chance to win an e-reader.

What’s one thing parents can do this summer to encourage their kids to read?

I know everyone is busy, but I think that if parents model reading and share their joy in reading it goes a long way toward encouraging students to read. Perhaps forming a mini-book club with their children might be an idea (parent reads the same book as the child and they discuss). Perhaps listening to age-appropriate books in the car is a way to encourage reading. If mom or dad is too busy to read and the child is old enough, ask the child to read to you while you fold the laundry or cook dinner.