Book clubs are a fabulous way to get kids reading. I've run both after-school and summer book clubs with varying degrees of success. Over the next few issues I'll share some tips on how to form a book club, how to select books, how to run a meeting, and pitfalls to avoid.
I found while teaching sixth and seventh-grade social studies that an after-school book club naturally grew out of a classroom assignment I called Where in the World Are We Reading. Students were to read 1-2 books each term and keep a detailed "Travel Log" about what they learned. By ordering inexpensive packs of historical fiction, I was able to extend the project in a new way. I offered extra credit to any student who wanted to read either PEAK or REBEL HART for their assignment and attend the book club discussion. Just reading the book wasn't enough. Kids had to be present and active in the meeting. Discussions were very lively and sometimes spilled into class time. My sixth graders were passionately split on which book was better than the other and once had an impromptu desk-pounding session, where one half of the room chanted, "Rebel Hart! Rebel Hart!" and the other half answered, "Peak! Peak!"
That same summer I led two book clubs. Both groups read FEVER 1793. We met several times to create reading journals, act out scenes, and play games, all relating to the story in some way. I assigned specific pages to be finished before each meeting, so discussion could follow the progression of the story. One of the most memorable parts of the summer was the Yellow Fever Performance, where my students studied then acted out the stages of the disease. The gross-out factor helped everyone remember exactly how the disease played out!
The following year, though I'd stop teaching to write full time, my wonderful principal allowed me to keep the after-school book clubs. I met three times a month (yes, you read that correctly!) with three different age groups: third graders, fourth and fifth graders, and sixth and seventh graders. It wasn't easy juggling three books, book lists, and groups, and some clubs fared better than others. Some kids stuck it out the entire year; some came once or twice. Through the process, I learned a lot about what worked and what to avoid.
Next month I'll address getting a book club up and running. If you'd like to use the assignments I've listed above, feel free to use the links below:
"Where in the World Are We Reading? Using Historical Fiction in the Classroom"
National Hispanic Cultural Center
Saturday, November 5th
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Presentation and Reading for Circle of Secrets
Plus make the charm bracelet from the book!
Paseo del Norte/Barstow
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Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She's taught English and social studies to upper elementary and middle-school students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Back in New Mexico, Caroline now writes middle-grade novels and picture books full time.
Carolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/library conferences. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and a master's degree in communicative disorders, and she has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a speech-language pathologist. Her first novel, Comfort,was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, was named the Best YA Novel of 2002 by the Texas Institute of Letters, and was on the TAYSHAS (Texas Library Association) reading list. She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Acts of Haiku."
To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to my website.
Kimberley Griffiths Little is the recipient of the Southwest Book Award, The Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, and the author of the highly acclaimed, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, published by Scholastic Press. Look for her books at the Scholastic Book Fairs, as well as two more forthcoming novels in 2012 and 2013. She lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer and their three sons. Kimberley is a favorite speaker at schools around the country, presenting "The Creative Diary", a highly successful writing workshop and has been a speaker at many conferences. Please visit her website to download free Teacher's Guides and Book Club Guides.