Middle School Student-Parent Book Club – A Recipe for Success by Ann Hagedorn
When you say parents, middle school students, books, and reading some believe that it equals a recipe for disaster. Well, a few years ago a co-worker and I decided to try out this recipe- we created what we called a parent-child book club (still hate the name, but we couldn’t come up with anything better). Wedecided to see if there was an interest in having parents and students read the same book and then come together for an evening of book discussion, activities, snacks and reading fun! We found out that there were many parents and students who were interested in this type of program, and we’ve had a lot of really great nights where we all share our love of reading (even if we all didn’t love the book!).
We’ve definitely tweaked it over the years, but hopefully you can take a look at our recipe and see if there are some ingredients you may want to add to your school to create your own reading program that involves parents and their kids.
Here’s the recipe:
GOAL: Get kids and parents reading, talking, thinking, and sharing in the magic of reading together. We also felt that many parents didn’t know about some of the excellent young adult books that are out there and the power of young adult literature. We wanted the event to be stress free, fun, centered around the pure enjoyment of reading a book and sharing that enjoyment with others. We also wanted parents to be able to see their kids do some of the kinds of activities that are done in language arts classes.
PREHEAT: Decide ahead of time on a book that would be appropriate and appeal to boys/girls/adults, 6th-8th graders, and would lend itself to discussion and activities related to the book. We also tried to vary the genre each time. Once we figure out a book that would work, we had the students come and check out the books from us. We let the students take a book home for themselves and their parent (s). If we were short on books, they were allowed to check out one book per family.
LET RISE: Give enough time for both the parents and students to read the books before the parent-child book club night.
BAKE: Once a quarter in the evenings from 7-9 pm in the school library.
MIX IN: We always had coffee for parents and then a snack and food that was somehow related to the book (at times this was challenging!)
EXAMPLES OF FOOD:
- Snicker doodles, chips & salsa, assorted small candies (Stargirl)
- Red apples, strawberries, cupcakes with red icing, Twizzlers (Giver)
- Lemonade, lemon cake (Al Capone Does My Shirts)
- Slurpee, brownies, pop, milk, fun straws (Acceleration)
- Hot chocolate, oatmeal cookies (Down the Rabbit Hole)
STIR IN: Some fun! We always had a discussion element, but then mixed in a variety of activities that somehow related to the book. Parents and students both participated in these activities. When I say students below I refer to both students and parents.
EXAMPLES of the types of activities we did were. Book titles we used the activity for are in parentheses.
- Freeze frame or tableau. The students picked the part in the book they wanted to act out. (variety of books)
- Reader’s theatre – we made from an important part of the book. The kids and parents took the script and then read and acted out the parts. (variety of books)
- Create and design their own utopia and draw it and explain it. (The Giver)
- Trace hand and put on wall a memory you don’t want to lose. (The Giver)
- Around the room were outlines of the different characters and some quotes the characters said in the book. The participants wrote their opinion about the character inside the body. We discussed & shared them later. (The Revealers)
- We had survival type games. (Hunger Games)
- Create a time capsule for present day. We put items in it for people to open up in the future so that they would be able to understand the past. (The Last Book in the Universe)
- Create a layered atmosphere. (The Last Book in the Universe)
- Make an anonymous card for someone who needs a pick me up and send it to them. (Stargirl)
- Agree/ Disagree- everyone moves to one side of room after statements related to the book are given. (The Giver)
- Create your own motto. (Stand Tall)
- Create an “overcoming hardships” wall. Write advice for how to overcome a hardship (Stand Tall)
- Create a wisdom tree and include wise quotes from the book. (Stand Tall)
- Work together on interactive online research about Alcatraz. (Al Capone Does My Shirts)
- On large butcher paper create a map of the setting. Be ready to explain it. (Down the Rabbit Hole)
- Using the clues given to you, create your own mystery story. (Down the Rabbit Hole)
- Debate – each group must defend an aspect of the population debate. Each group represents the farmers, government, hidden children, Barons. (Among the Hidden)
LET COOL: at the end we gave each person a survey to get suggestions on future books we may consider reading, suggestions for the future, what kinds of activities worked well and what the participants enjoyed the most. We also book talked the next book and gave the date of the next meeting.
SPRINKLE: with a door prize such as the second book in a series that was read or a gift certificate to a bookstore. Enjoy with…
PRESENTATION: We always had a visual that related to the book around the room. We also tried to wear something that related to the book (black and white and hints of red for the Giver).
Examples of visuals:
- We blew up large photos of Alcatraz and placed around room (Al Capone Does My Shirts)
- Flowers on table with tablecloths and candy at everyone’s places (Stargirl)
- Baseball items around the room, pictures of Al Capone (Al Capone Does My Shirts)
- We blew up the pictures in the book to see if the students could figure out the mystery in the pictures (Chasing Vermeer)
- Bullying quotes and statistics placed all around the room in large fonts (The Revealers)
We gave the parent/ child team a list of discussion questions so that as they read, they could talk about the book. We never collected these, or expected the participants to do these before hand. This was just an extra for them if they cared to do it.
*** We received a grant to help fund the cost of this parent-child reading program. Many parents said that they would be willing to pay to come or to put money into a fund so that we could purchase the books. The books then were shelved in our library so that students could check them out or teachers could use them as literature circle books. PTA or school funds may also be able to help fund this type of program.
These are some of the books we’ve done with success:
- The Revealers – Doug Wilhelm
- Chasing Vermeer – Blue Balliett
- Stand Tall – Joan Bauer
- Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli
- Among the Hidden – Margaret Peterson Haddix
- Down the Rabbit Hole – Peter Abrahams
- The Last Book in the Universe – Rodman Philbrick
- The Giver – Lois Lowry
- Al Capone Does My Shirts – Gennifer Choldenko
- Acceleration – Graham McNamee
- Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie – Jordan Sonnenblick
- Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
- The Gospel According to Larry – Janet Tashjian
Ann Hagedorn is an 8th grade language arts teacher. She loves reading young adult books, writing, running, being outside and chasing after her two-year-old daughter. She can be found blogging her ideas from her middle school classroom at readwritetalk.wordpress.com and on Twitter @annhagedorn.