The Top Ten Reasons to Host a Book Club in Your School
As a seventh grade language arts teacher in a public school, I see over 120 beautiful faces every weekday for 45 minutes a day. During those 45 minutes, I have a curriculum I am obliged to teach, but many times that curriculum gets in the way of what I know my students need: time to read and talk about what they have read. I get that it’s important (for state testing purposes, especially) to be able to determine why an author uses parallel structure in text, and I understand why students need to be able to write compound and complex sentences, but I believe it’s as important for kids to have an outlet for talking about what they have read. We have soccer club, football, cheerleading, pep squad and a host of other extracurricular activities. But for the longest time, we didn’t have a place for readers to gather and practice their art. In early February, my fantastic librarian and I decided it was high time to gather our readers and give them their own forum. We’ve met with our Book Club (no cutesy name required) twice so far this month, and everyone has had a fabulous time. So that brings me to my Top Ten List as created by book club members, my librarian and me.
The Top Ten Reasons to Host a Book Club in Your School:
- MAKE NEW FRIENDS – Many of the kids who attend book club are somewhat introverted. Gathering with others who have the same interests can encourage even the shyest in the group to contribute and friendships can spark from those common interests.
- WORK ON SOCIAL SKILLS – One of our book club members was encouraged (forced) to attend book club by her mom. Her mom believes that book club members will be more tolerant of children with social issues because they read widely, thus they have more empathy.
- HAVE FUN WITH OTHERS WHO LOVE THE SAME CHARACTERS – Katniss Everdeen seems to be everyone’s current favorite character. We have had so much fun talking about her in our Hunger Games book club. The kids feel like she’s a friend and talk about her like they’ve known her for years.
- DISCUSS BOOKS IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT (WHERE YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE OTHERS WILL THINK YOU’RE A NERD) – Preteen and early teen readers don’t always feel comfortable talking about books in front of nonreaders; it makes them feel awkward. Book club is a safe haven for book lovers to unite without being judged.
- GET A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW – In book club, so many ideas literally fly across the coffee table. We’ve heard on more than one occasion, “Huh, I never thought about that.”
- CLEARS UP CONFUSION – We had a multi-genre book club at the beginning of February. Several students read Unwind by Neil Shusterman. There was so much confusion about the book that was quickly resolved once the discussion started. I heard a couple of the students say they were going to go back and reread the novel now that they “got” it.
- LETS THE KIDS BE THE EXPERTS – It’s very important that the adults take the role of facilitator in book club – not a participant. As teachers, we tend to want to interject, but remember, this is for the kids. There shouldn’t be a right or wrong. If a child is on the wrong track about a novel, it doesn’t take long for a peer to redirect his or her thinking (see number 6).
- GET OUT OF THE CAFETERIA HOLDING TANK AND ENJOY A LITERARY DISCUSSION IN THE LIBRARY ON COMFORTABLE CHAIRS – Our students are penned in the cafeteria in the mornings. Sitting in the comfy chairs, talking about books is much more appealing to book lovers than sitting in a cramped cafeteria where odds are that your shoulder neighbor forgot to brush his teeth.
- ALLOWS STUDENTS TO INTERACT WITH THEIR TEACHERS IN A DIFFERENT ARENA (Yes, I’m a Hunger Games fan) – Students always see us with our “teacher face” on. It’s a nice change for them to see us engrossed in discussion and working hard NOT to use teachable moments.
- EAT A FREE BREAKFAST – No one is allowed to eat in the library…except book club members!!
Nina Anderson is an Unyielding optimist, wife, mom, daughter, 7th grade language arts teacher, student, avid reader. You can find her on Twitter as @NinaAnderson11.
Unyielding optimist, wife, mom, daughter, 7th grade language arts teacher, student, avid reader.