More Great Book Club Tips! Really good stuff here.
February 27, 2012
Caroline's Classroom Connections
Book Clubs, Part Four: Pitfalls to Avoid
No book club is perfect, but it's helpful to know what sorts of problems might arise. Here's your chance to learn from my mistakes and draw from things I learned during my years in the classroom.
My most challenging group happened to be my third-grade book club. In retrospect, they were a little young and I was a bit ambitious. Even with our "how-to" discussion and handout,
the ability for nine-year-olds to talk about books beyond the basics is too abstract.
These guys were really, really excited to have a special group of their own. They also were pretty squirrelly. As I'd taught mainly middle schoolers with a few years in upper elementary, I didn't walk in equipped with ways to capture and direct their energy and to walk them through discussions.
If you want to work with young readers (8-10 years), your discussions will have to be very, very basic.
It's a great idea to include some sort of thematic game, image, idea, etc. to begin with.
For example, when reading SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL, we started our discussion by describing ourselves with two adjectives. I shared with the kids pictures of Kansas and Maine so that they could see first-hand the drastic change Sarah experienced in moving across country.
If I had made our third-grade group a parent/child club, I'm sure things would have operated much more smoothly. Ideally,
bringing parents into a book group means adults and children read the book either together or separately and discussion naturally arises.
This would lay groundwork for a later meeting. In moments when discussion lagged, adults would add their ideas, questions, or statements, modeling for their children how to both dig into a story and share discoveries with others.
It is possible to run book clubs with one sole adult.
My older groups functioned beautifully discussion-wise. This was partly due to the fact we often carried over ideas we'd first touched upon in class and partly due to the cognitive development of the middle-school mind.
Regardless if adults are in on the meetings, it is incredibly helpful to have them informed and supportive.
As is often the case, attendance dropped as the school year progressed. More than one parent expressed her frustration with me, saying her child loved coming, but she was disappointed others weren't as faithful. A couple were annoyed on my behalf (seeing the work that went into preparing a meeting beforehand).
Keep in regular contact with your kids' parents. Give them a calendar of titles, then remind them of the next read.
Yes, it's discouraging that people aren't better at handling schedules (I sometimes fall into this, myself). Yes, you'll answer the same questions a dozen times. If it means more regular student involvement, do it.
What other difficulties might surface while leading book clubs? Join the discussion over at our
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.
To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to her website.
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
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. Take Me There is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Act of Haiku."
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.