What’s the best way to grow as a reader? Have authentic conversations about books with a fellow book lover. This is the tale of how Kathy and Maria became book buddies. When we discuss our books on a Google doc, Maria uses purple text and Kathy uses blue. We’ll continue that tradition here as we chat about what we do and what we’ve learned from the process.
BOOK BUDDY NEEDED
I still remember the initial tweet. I wish I had saved it! It was just a simple little request – tweeted out into the wild. The Brain Lair wanted to know if anyone wanted to become book buddies. I didn’t really know her at all. I didn’t really know Twitter that well, either. Yet I knew that I often wished I had a local book club where I could chat about what I was reading, in more depth than just with 140 characters. So I jumped in and responded. It sounded like a lot of fun!
I remember reading Jen (@mentortexts) and Colby’s (@sharpread) posts on Same Sun Here and just being jealous. They were miles apart discussing this book, in depth, and it looked like so much fun! I wanted to do this. I was excited when Maria answered the call but also a little bit nervous! How were we going to make this work?? We did a Google+ hangout one night to “meet” each other and haven’t really looked back since!
Once Kathy and I decided we wanted to be buddies, we started to learn a little bit about each other. What kinds of books did we like? What did we want to read together? Along the way, we discovered that we both own the Batgirl Converse sneakers. You all knew Barbara Gordon (the first Batgirl) was a librarian, right? That made it easy to choose our name – Batty About Books. (and we decided to focus on Science Fiction/Fantasy books)
I love my Batgirl shoes and that original Google Doc we created! I think using the Doc really helps! We can enter our thoughts whenever we are ready and just go back and forth! It was really freaky the first time you “appeared” as I was working on the doc though! It was also cool those times we were both there and could chat as we worked!
BOOKS READ (in reverse order):
Insignia by SJ Kincaid (SF)
What Came From The Stars by Gary Schmidt (F)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (F)
Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (SF)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (SF)
Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac (F)
A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull DNF (F)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore (F)
LEAST FAVORITE BOOK
My least favorite was A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull. I made it to 190 pages before crying UNCLE. I was so relieved when you let me drop it! Did you ever finish? I know you wanted to because your son had read and loved it. Which reminds me of the book The Abduction (Theodore Boone, 2) by John Grisham. I enjoyed Grisham’s adult books and when a student asked me to read this one, I readily agreed. It was easily worse than A World Without Heroes!! I finished it though, because he loved it and he asked me to read it! Makes me wonder how students feel when they have to continue books they are not vested in and then discuss them. I remember this led to us talking about when and why we abandon books.
This has to be my least favorite as well, and I absolutely didn’t finish it. There were so many things I didn’t like about the book, and I had so many books still on my to be read list, that I just couldn’t devote the time to pushing myself through a book I was really not enjoying. I very rarely DNF books. The only other one I can remember recently is the first book in the Pendragon series. My students adore them, but I really disliked the first half and couldn’t make myself finish that one either.
This is a harder one, because we’ve read some truly magnificent books. I guess Seraphina and Graceling top the list for this one. I’m always on the lookout for strong girls in literature, and these two books fit the bill. They were also beautifully written.
My favorite book was, hands down, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman!! I’d read the book previously (July) and had finished it in one night. I knew this time around the book would have to stand up to scrutiny and I wondered if I would still love it a second time. I DID! I think this one could receive a 2013 Printz award or honor nod along with a 2013 Morris Award to duplicate John Corey Whaley’s dual win of 2012.
I think my favorite chat was about Fahrenheit 451. We did it as a reread shortly after Bradbury’s death. I felt like discussing it with Kathy helped me uncover even more beauty and depth in the story than I’d ever seen before. I thought that it was fun to read an old book in the midst of reading so many newer titles. http://www.mariaselke.com/2012/06/batty-about-fahrenheit-451.html
While not my favorite book, Insignia by SJ Kincaid was my favorite chat. We talked a little bit about so many things: author responsibility, the book cover, the type of readers we are, YA vs MG (which we need to write about) and much more. I don’t know if it was knowing this was our last book of the year or what but I felt more insightful, as well as had more questions, about the reading and writing processes themselves instead of just the story.. http://www.thebrainlair.com/2012/12/batty-about-books-insignia-by-sj-kincaid.html
WHAT WE LEARNED
Wow! What haven’t I learned, I look forward to telling anyone who will listen about Batty About Books!
- Book Reactions: I look back over our Google Docs and see I’ve used parts of the book, characters, major themes, questions, etc. I love how the book itself led me to discussing it a certain way. I agree. I’ve uncovered things in the books we’ve read that I’ve used in reading groups with my students.
- Making Connections: Sometimes the discussion is not about the story but about the writing or about the other books the story reminds me of (good or bad).
- Do I Know You: It amazes me how close I feel to you! Between our initial google hangout, our twitter interactions, and Batty About Books – it’s as if I’ve known you MUCH longer than just 8 months!! I feel comfortable asking you pretty much anything! This is absolutely true for me, too! I have found so much more than a reading partner, and I value all your insights and experience. I just finished reading Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, and she talks about how well she gets to know people just through book discussions. I think we prove this point.
- I have become a much better example for my own students. I can talk about the ways I actually interact with and discuss books. I’ve shown them the many ways I take notes while reading, giving them an insight into my own reading life. When I ask them to talk to one another about a book, or answer certain types of questions, I feel like I’m able to point out how I do the same things. I even started opening up google docs for my students to use to discuss books.
There are many ways we can go from here!
I know, and that is so exciting to me, too! The best part of having a book buddy is getting encouragement to stretch and grow in unexpected ways. Be sure to come by our blogs to see what we tackle next.
Go out and find yourself a book buddy. Don’t be shy! There is no right or wrong, no special way to do it. Find a friend, find a book, and jump in. Jump in with both shoes or, you know, whatever symbol you want to use! Finding a book buddy would be a great 2013 New Year’s resolution!
If anyone wants to get more information, please feel free to tweet us or come drop a comment at either of our blogs.
Maria Selke is an elementary gifted resource teacher in Southeastern PA. She tweets as @mselke01 and blogs at Maria’s Melange.
Kathy M. Burnette is a middle school (grades 6 – 8) librarian in Granger, IN. She can be found all over the internets but start at her blog The Brain Lair.