Back to (After)School – Rethinking a School Book Club

Our school reading specialist and I decided to revisit our middle school student book club. We took a year off from it for several reasons, not the least of which was lack of interest by students and us. It had been run like a traditional book club, everyone reads the same book and meets twice a month after school to discuss the book. Our problem was that our after school clubs meet for an hour and a half, and that time was too long to just discuss a book and choose the next one. We tried having everyone read a book by the same author to give more choice. We found a similar, disinterested reaction. Our students were happy to talk about the book for about half an hour, but wanted the rest of the time for social chat. We tried coming up with some related crafts to fill the time. Everyone painted one of the standard ceiling tiles with a reading theme or based on a book. This was a hit and made for a colorful library ceiling, but that only covered two meetings. We tried to make the book club available 24/7 through an Edmodo group to develop stronger relationships with our students, and get everyone to share what they were reading.The students found it to be just an extension of what some of their classes were already doing – it was too much like school. Our attendance dropped off, resulting in no book club for the last school year. We needed to regroup and rethink what a book club looks like for middle school students.

In the meantime, the library has had some spontaneous, pop-up or “lunch bunch” book clubs. Groups of four to six students create their own book club by reading the same book and meeting during lunch to read and discuss it. These clubs may read only one book and disband or choose to read several throughout the school year. Lunch bunches are not formal and are student led. Usually, student visitors will notice a lunch bunch eating and meeting in the library and then form their own with their friends. We just monitor to make sure the noise level is appropriate and suggest books when the club is stuck for ideas. It is very hands off for adult participation. A way to inspire students to create their own lunch bunch is to create a display of books that have multiple copies for a lunch bunch club. We hope our lunch bunches will meet again this year.

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The Book Club Formerly Known as Printz

by Guest Blogger Sharon Grover

in darkness nick lake printz sealWhen Hedberg Public Library teen librarian Laurie Bartz and I learned we would both be part of the 2013 Michael L. Printz Award committee, we hoped this might be our chance to get our teens reading and discussing books from a critical perspective. We had tried before to form teen clubs around critical book discussion without success. Kids were happy to come talk about books, but all we ever got out of them (no matter what strategies we employed) was so much plot that no one else in the room needed to read the books.

So when we invited some teens to read 2012 books we thought were “important,” we said we expected them to talk about the books the same way the real Printz committee was going to discuss their books. Our high school faculty partners asked us to create a rubric from the criteria and, armed with that rubric [doc] and Book Discussion Guidelines [docx] from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, we began our exciting, year-long adventure.
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