• Founder explains magic behind Magical Books Club, attributes success to books donated to her by popular American children books writer
By Chika Abanobi
Experts agree that poor reading culture is one of major encumbrances to excellent grades during exam. According to research, about 43% of children are leaving primary schools without attaining adequate competences in reading, writing and numeric knowledge commensurate to their level. The report states further that almost half of students learning English fail to make good grade. Most teachers lament that poorly written books account for student’s low comprehension which eventually leads to exam failure.
Oluwaseun Aina, a Nigerian literary critic and reading specialist, and who today runs Magical Books Club, a book-reading club, told The Sun Education that she encountered similar challenge. Talking about children books she’s had the opportunity of reading, she said they were either not interesting, error-prone or have poorly illustrated pictures.
But things were to start changing for her when she attended the 2016 edition of the International Literacy Association Conference, a global reading network in Boston, USA. There she met Kathy Brodsky, an American author. According to her, she was going from booth to booth, networking with publishers and authors when she came across her booth.
Initially, Brodsky donated her newest book, High Wire Act, to Aina during the conference. She was to later donate the rest of her books for her programme after an engaging and exhilarating Skype session with children at Magical Books Club.
Brodsky’s books have won multiple awards, including Book of the Year from Creative Child Magazine in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016. She was also voted into the Top 10 in the International Literacy Association and Children’s Book Council’s Children’s Choice Reading List. Each year, 12,500 schoolchildren from United States read newly published children’s and young adult books and vote for their favourites — Brodsky was selected for this elite list in 2014.
Aina who bagged Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications at Bowen University, Iwo, Osun State, began Magical Books Club during her Master’s degree programme at the University of Ibadan. She told The Sun Education that in the course of carrying out research on her thesis entitled Enhancing Pupils’ Reading Comprehension through Direct Instruction and Cooperative Learning, and which aimed at improving children’s reading comprehension, she had some challenges testing some techniques on some participants in the experimental group, while on the field, because they had difficulty reading.
Aina was worried that despite the fact that these children were supposed to have attained the stage of reading, most of them still had difficulty learning to read. ‘‘At this point, it dawned on me that the concern that most people have of children not loving to read might be misplaced,” she said. ‘‘Some readers abandon reading all together because of the inherent difficulty in making the reading process enjoyable.”
It is this discovery that lies at the root of the idea that birthed Magical Books Club: to expose children to the art of reading in order to harness the knowledge gained for their self-empowerment. She believes that when children fall in love with the art of reading, they would, inadvertently, become better readers and leaders.
So far, the book club has positively impacted over 200 children, thanks to Kathy Brodsky’s highly imaginative and picturesque books. Brodsky, a licensed clinical social worker, Aina said, writes and promotes quality books that are timely, visually exciting, entertaining, educational and fun.
“As a psychotherapist for over 40 years, she has been able to tap into universal emotions of people of all ages with themes that are evident in her books,” she said in a chat with The Sun Education. “Teachers have often used her messages to further social awareness in their students.”
Today, Brodsky’s books that one can find in Magical Books Club library include Moments in Our Lives, The Inside Story, Just Sniffing Around, Purrsnikitty, A Horse Named Special, Stover, The Winner Is and A CatFish Tale.
Brodsky deploys rhymes which helps her communicate so much in a few words, Aina said. “She writes with the aim of building children’s vocabulary by including big words that will form part of their word set. Also, Kathy Brodsky’s books are beautifully illustrated. Furthermore, they are peculiar because her characters feature in other books she writes. These characters are typically not human beings. They can be animals and non-living things.”
Brodsky, Aina further notes, writes with the intention of actively engaging her readers. “Children are encouraged to think deeply about themselves, their environment, research, write, draw, sing and do much more especially through her question guide at the end of each of her books,” she said. “Kathy also fosters a deep connection with her readers by sharing events that led to the development of each story. I believe this will encourage her readers to write too. Her books can be enjoyed by both children and adults. There is always something to learn for both groups.’’