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For Roving Reader Leaders, it's all about loving books

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Michael Cohn,7, gives his book review of 'The Lost Boy,' a true story true story of Dave Pelzer, while being recorded by his mom, Lisa, at the Beaverton Library.It’s unlikely anyone will mistake Michael Cohn for famed New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani.

By way of example, the uber-literary Kakutani likely never licked a book before to find out whether it’s in good taste.

But Michael, age “7 and about a half,” goofily does just that as he discussed “The Hungry Book Club,” part of the “Nate the Great” series.

The Portland boy is a co-founder and one of the youngest members of the Roving Reader Leaders book club, children and teens who meet — often in Beaverton — to discuss and review children’s literature. Many of their reviews are filmed in places such as the Beaverton City Library and Beaverton Town Square shopping center, and then edited and posted on YouTube; they also interview authors via Skype.

Just a few months old, the book club has about 15 members in the Portland area and has also been adding out-of-state classrooms that participate over the Internet, said Lisa Cohn, Michael’s mom and a professional writer who helps steer the enthusiastic youngsters.

“The idea is to encourage kids to discuss and analyze books publicly in gyms, parks and on playgrounds — and to make it fun,” she said, adding that kids earn badges for taking part in discussions and may get to talk with their favorite authors. “The idea is for book lovers to feel proud about being reader leaders.”

Reader Leaders grew out of the mother and son team’s book series, “Bash and Lucy,” which they started after their beloved canine Lucy died suddenly. The series earned them a spot on “The Today Show” and other recognition.TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Lisa Cohn records a book review session from Margo Josephson, 7, Michael Cohn, 7, and Wesley Josephson, 9, at the Beaverton Library.

A “Bash and Lucy” chapter book with an audio version narrated by local kids is in the works after they published the first two volumes as picture books, Lisa Cohn said.

Reader Leaders is a way to involve and encourage many more kids to read and to talk about their love of books, both in person and across the globe over the Internet, Lisa Cohn said.

“Books are such a nice way to connect with people,” she said.

On a recent afternoon, the Cohns joined with Beaverton residents Margo Josephson, 7, and her brother Wesley Josephson, 9, at the Beaverton City Library to review the “Nate the Great” book as well as “The Case of the Lost Boy,” part of “The Buddy Files” book series. Like Michael, the Josephsons are home-schooled.

“It was fun reading the book,” said Wesley.

“It’s fun to hear what they have to say,” said 15-year-old Mia Stein. The sophomore at Beaverton’s Art & Communication Magnet Academy is one of the older Reader Leaders and has reviewed several books with Michael. Reading “has such a big impact on who you are. It’s fun to share.”

Lisa Cohn said their own books and Reader Leaders are not profitable ventures. They turn most book event proceeds over to the Oregon Humane Society while book club earnings through badge sales and review stickers help pay for video editing and other group expenses.

“It’s not at all about the money,” she said.

For more information, go to rovingreaderleaders.com.