Like many 11yr olds, Harry is captivated by the digital world; he’s a YouTube aficionado and loves apps and gaming.  Faced with two months of school-free, aimless summer days, I’ve been trying to think of creative ways to capture his imagination and also steer him gently back into his love of reading.  Traditional ‘summer reading list’ challenges felt too reminiscent of the endless self-driven studying that kids have endured throughout this COVID-era, so I’ve set Harry a new challenge;

Create your own private YouTube channel and post reviews of 5 great chapter books by the end of the holidays!

Harry will not only be reading lots, he’ll be learning basic videography and editing and polishing up his presentation skills and confidence.  And all safely too; he can invite friends and family to subscribe to his channel or he can keep it entirely private, like a diary – so he’ll be learning about online security too and how to navigate his way through the world and the web.

Here’s how we went about getting started on the project; it’s a great one for kids (or grandkids, or godchildren or any small people in your life!) to try, at pretty much any reading age.

1.Create your ‘project box’

I packed a fun box with 2 books to get Harry started (Pax and The Soup Movement shown above), plus a kids’ guide book to creating your own YouTube channel.  I added an inexpensive light ring and stand for the phone camera and a notebook and pencil for making notes and capturing ideas whilst he reads.  Libraries and second-hand bookshops are a great resource for choosing other books in due course, and many schools and libraries also post summer reading lists for inspiration.

2. Do some research!

Harry and I did some online exploring and found links to other young vloggers who are already reviewing books, to see how they do it.  We also found resources on how to write great book reports (plot, character, language etc) so Harry could think about how to structure his reviews and what elements to consider.

Resources:

  • Two simple guides on how to write a book review from Bookriot and the National Literacy Trust, via Kumon
  • Fun video inspiration to help find your own style from different-aged reviewers The Book Brothers, Skitz Kids and Katie Tracy

3. Style your space!

A good rainy-day activity; pick where you’ll be filming your reviews and work out how you want to style it.  Consider how the light changes during the day and what you want to feature in the background (and what you don’t!).  How will you make sure your family and cats don’t wander endlessly in and out of shot?  Do you want to look serious or fun?  How can you style your background in a way that reflects your personality or even the theme of the book, changing it up each time?

4. Experiment with fun prompts

When Harry made his first video, he wrote the things he wanted to remember on a big sheet of paper that I held up behind the camera.  But following it was hard (and his assistant easily distracted), so instead I showed him how to use this fun, free teleprompter – if you have a laptop or an iPad you can type in what you want to say and it runs along the screen as you speak, behind the camera.  You can speed it up or down and pretend to be a newscaster.  Lots of fun!

5. Set up your channel – or simply record the videos for fun and share with family and friends

Part of Harry’s project is to design his own YouTube channel, but equally you could just spend an afternoon doing this for fun and keep the videos to replay in 20yrs time when the kids get married and you need some great archive material to embarrass them with.  Consider it an investment!

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.