Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Intersection of My Book Club Lives

Recently, three events happened in my Book Club Lives that brought me to an intersection, and while at the intersection, I had an “aha!” moment.

Book Club Life Event #1: Last year, while in my new position of C.S.T. (Curricular Support Teacher), I was inspired by an idea in Jen Allen’s book, Becoming a Literacy Leader:Supporting Learning and Change. She suggested that literacy leaders in buildings should promote adult literacy among staff, and that Book Clubs are a good way to do so. I would get to do my job, and read – this idea was right up my alley! So, the Bailey Book Club began. We have an email group of eighteen, but anywhere from six to nine people show up on a regular basis. We discuss ahead of time what book we would like to read next (our most recent book was The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and our next book will be The Kite Runner). Then, we all go out and get the book from a friend, a bookstore, or the library. We know what date we need to be finished with the book, and we all gather on that date to discuss the book. Before that date, there are also a lot of side conversations about the book as well – people are just dying to talk about certain parts earlier than the Book Club date. We have built a true community of readers.

Book Club Life Event #2: I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of Franki Sibberson’s and Karen Szymusiak’s latest book collaboration, Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop. While the entire book is wonderful and I would highly recommend reading all of it, the section that really caught my attention was titled “Voluntary Book Clubs”. In her classroom, Franki encourages her students to choose books of interest to them, and form Book Clubs to read and discuss those books of interest. There is a large calendar posted in the classroom where each Book Club writes down when they will be meeting; the group is in charge of its own timeframes. This also allows students interested in more than one book club to plan their time appropriately. When each Book Club meets, they have rich discussions, and respond to books in many different ways. They are building a true community of readers.

Book Club Life Event #3: In December, we formed our first Book Clubs of the year in our classroom. I had just finished reading aloud Andrew Clements’ latest book, No Talking. The class had loved the plot of this book, and they especially loved Clements’ use of figurative language. We had many deep, rich conversations about the plot and the language throughout the read aloud. It seemed like a natural transition for me to suggest that they form Book Clubs using other Andrew Clements’ books. Think of all the text to text connections, alone! So, I chose some titles to offer as options, and had my students sign up for a title they were interested in. I collected the books for everyone, handed the books out, printed calendars of meeting times, and then sat back and waited for the lively discussions to begin. I was working very hard to build a community of readers.

Intersection of Book Club Lives: So, as I reflected on all of the above, I had an “aha!” moment. What if I modeled our class Book Clubs after the adult Book Club I belonged to and the Book Clubs in Franki’s room? What if I allowed the students to recommend different books that interested them for Book Clubs? What if they formed their Clubs based on both the book, as well as the social dynamics of the group? What if I gave them a timeframe (last 6 weeks of the trimester), but they decided what day they wanted to meet for their discussion? What if they were responsible for finding the book for their Book Club – using the reserve system at our wonderful Columbus Metropolitan Library, or borrowing the book from a friend, or buying a copy at a bookstore?

A wonderful thing happened when I answered my “what if” questions. My students took ownership of their Book Clubs, and therefore, the Clubs have much more meaning for them. The students come prepared, and their current conversations are rich, and the social dynamics are strong, further enhancing the discussions. Every student was able to independently (or with a parent’s help) find a copy of the book they really wanted to read and discuss with others. They were invested in what they were doing. They were building a community of readers within our classroom. Aha!!

(As a final note, I thought I'd give you an idea of the breadth and variety of the books that were recommended and chosen by students, and currently being read and discussed in Book Clubs: Touching Spirit Bear, A Cricket in Times Square, Tunnels, one of the Snarf Attack series books, The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy, Getting Air, and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. They are a community of readers!)


  1. What a great idea! I think I will try letting them choose their own book clubs next time. :)

    Welcome to the blog-osphere!!!

  2. Karen, I've been living a parallel life with you--at least as far as Andrew Clements is concerned! My students for book clubs around several of his novels in October after I read No Talking aloud. What a great experience. And after a couple of tries at "no talking" contests of their own, we couldn't stop talking about these great stories.

  3. heather-
    i had a feisty fifth grade girl attempt a "no talking" effort after reading the book, too.

    bill and karen-
    welcome. welcome. welcome. to blog world, to a ring of folks who love books, and kids, and writing, and to a fun community. the new Korman book sounds very good.

  4. Karen, Thanks for getting the Bailey Book Club rolling. I have enjoyed the book selections and have read books that I might not pick up like Coming To America.(can't figure out how to underline that title) Another thing I like is that we can chat with some folks from school that we may not have the opportunity to do while we are working.

  5. Sarah and Amy S -- Thank you both for the welcome! Bill and I are both very excited about this venture

    Heather -- My class also did some of the No Talking contests and activities. They really loved trying the 3 words or less responses.

    Joyce -- Thanks for being a big supporter and cheerleader for both of us! Can't wait to read our next book!