A new kids' book club in Fresno is stirring up another generation of Harry Potter readers.
It's the Harry Potter Book Discussion Club, which meets for about an hour Saturday afternoons at the Woodward Park Regional Library. The club is designed for children ages 8-12, but it also allows younger ones. The club averages about six kids a week.
The kids read a chapter a week at the library, go over discussion questions and do a craft activity related to the chapter. There's no homework. The club is about halfway through the first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
The Fresno County Public Library launched the club in December because of the popularity of British author J.K. Rowling's fantasy novels for all ages. The library also wanted to continue providing programs for children who have outgrown story time at libraries.
Krista Riggs, a Fresno County librarian who coordinates programming for children, says library book clubs help motivate kids to read. The discussion, she says, helps to improve comprehension as well as challenge people to think on different levels about what they have read.
"It's taking something they already are excited about and joining them with friends or new friends with similar interests, talking about a book and doing a fun activity," Riggs says. "It is about the kids and getting them excited about reading and getting them together and sharing their ideas with each other."
Madeline Shannon, a recent Fresno State graduate with a bachelor's degree in journalism, is the club leader.
She first read the Harry Potter books when she was in the third grade at Liberty Elementary School in 1998-99. She continued her interest at Kastner Intermediate School and Clovis West High School.
When the publishing company started a nationwide online effort to start Harry Potter book clubs, Shannon became a leader. The publisher provides discussion questions and craft ideas.
Shannon met with officials at Fresno County Public Library, and they OK'd starting a club.
"It's basically just a place for kids to come and read the Harry Potter books or have them read to them, and to learn a little bit more about the chapters, and do an activity," she says. "I want to instill an appreciation for reading and for Harry Potter with these kids because that is what I grew up with. It was one childhood book series that solidified my love of reading."
On a recent Saturday, Shannon and the kids read chapter nine, "The Midnight Duel," when Harry's nemesis, Draco, steals a Remembrall, a glass ball that turns red when you forget something, from one of Harry's friends. Harry gets it back, and Draco challenges Harry to a duel.
For the craft activity, the kids made glass orbs that they painted red.
Parents say it is important that libraries provide book clubs that encourage children to read.
Jennifer Anaforian has been taking her daughter, Grace Rinkenberger, 7, a second-grader at Copper Hills Elementary School, to the book club.
"She's a little young to read, but she knows the Harry Potter movies," Anaforian says. "Our family loves the movies. She's right at the brink where she's looking at chapter books."
Anaforian says Grace returns home really excited about most craft activities. After the kids read about Harry tasting jelly beans for the first time, Shannon sent them home with Jelly Bellies of the weirdest kind.
Grace tried to play a trick on her mom, asking her to taste one.
Anaforian remembers laughing with her daughter, "She gave me 'ear wax.' It lasted one chew -- and I spit it out," Anaforian says. "What a great opportunity for her to get into a club with kids her age and to be introduced to these books in a way that it isn't intimidating."
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