So what do you think of when you hear the words “student book club”?
- A literature circle with defined roles?
- A Great Books discussion group?
- Student-led choices and discussion?
- Adult-led discussions with pre-written questions?
- Genre clubs where each member reads a book from an agreed upon genre?
- Quiet serious discussion?
- Loud talk where opinions are emphatically stated?
- Brownies served?
- Book passes to familiarize kids with new titles?
- Battle Over Books with lively competition?
- Book talks where kids pitch their favorite titles?
- Lunchtime read-alouds?
- Audio book sessions with the best narrators?
- Older students reading books aloud and discussing with younger children, in person or online?
- eBook sharing?
- Sharing titles and authors via sticky notes on a bulletin board?
- Inviting authors in person or electronically to discuss their work and answer questions?
- Some arrangement I haven’t thought of here?
The truth is all of these ideas, and more, are completely worthwhile and valuable. I have used them all at different times of my career, with different ages of kids, with a wide variety of backgrounds and needs. The trick is to find the one that connects and engages kids with books, reading, and discussion – in a way that you enjoy, as well. Here are some other considerations:
How old are the kids you want to hook? Younger children might be better served with a read-aloud. Middle grade kids like the autonomy of book choice. Teens may want to take control almost completely.
What is your access to multiple copies? We have some district-purchased titles, but they are several years old now. I have a decent book budget, but unless you plan accordingly it sometimes takes time to get ordering through the process. I solve this with an educator and a corporate card through the public library. They can be checked out with the barcode that comes on it through a temporary check out.
Short on time? Who isn’t? Let’s face it, you have to make the time if it’s important. I’ve run book clubs during language arts time, during lunch, before school, after school. I’ve even had kids want to meet on weekends and during the summer. Do I oblige? You bet I do, if at all possible. There’s nothing more important to me than growing enthusiastic readers.
Students between levels? Let them decide how to proceed. I have seventh- and eighth-graders; many of them still have book interests of upper elementary students, while others have been reading YA literature for a couple of years. We talk often about the differences between middle grade books and teen titles, and how to make good choices for themselves. Then I give them the freedom and get out of their way.