Top Ten Reasons for Starting a Staff Book Club by Megan Skogstad
I’m sure like many of you reading this post; one of my passions is reading professional books on literacy. Reading the latest books that focus on best practices in literacy has helped me become a more effective teacher. Upon beginning another new school year, in a new building last year, I met a fellow teacher at my new school that shares the same passion as me. Our conversations always seemed to be about books, literacy, and the latest strategies in the teaching of literacy. It was enjoyable having professional conversations with each other and sharing our knowledge of literacy. I felt like we were kindred spirits! Wanting to share our passion for literacy with other staff members, I suggested, “It might be fun if we started a book club…what do you think?” Her response to me was, “Let’s do it!” So we did! We opened it up to the entire staff and we started by reading, Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. We had 17 people join our first book club and we have read two additional books since we started in January. We read Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven Layne and then The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook by Jennifer Serravallo. The following are the top 10 reasons for starting your own staff book club!
10. Job titles are left at the door
We have principals, teachers, literacy experts, and all different grade levels represented. Everyone comes to the book club as an equal member with something important to contribute to the conversation. Everyone’s input and knowledge is equally valued.
9. Creates a best practice think tank
The value of having many great teaching minds in one place creates a dynamic group of colleagues who ponder how we can implement the best practices that we read about and how we can make these ideas work in our school and in our classrooms.
8. Opens the door to discussion about school practices and change
What are the best literacy practices that we should keep doing? What are some that we should change? We have had some great discussions about the literacy direction of our school and district and how we can keep some of the great practices going strong and how we can make these practices even stronger by implementing some of the strategies that have resonated with us during book club.
7. Models the importance of voice and choice
We all know about the importance of “voice and choice” in the classroom. Throughout the book club, we give ample opportunity for members to voice their thoughts. There is choice involved with the book selection and if staff members want to participate in the next book club selection. A staff member may choose to not read one selection, but then come back to the group when a new selection interests them.
6. Puts the teacher in the role of an authentic learner
It is always informative when we can place ourselves in the role of the learner. As the learner, we can see the benefits of personalized learning, real and purposeful conversation, collaboration, critical thinking, and reflection. We can then see the value and importance of integrating this within our daily practice and reaffirming what we do.
5. Colleagues have a shared vision and focus
All of the members of the book club have a passion for literacy and are invigorated by discourse around literacy. We all have a vision for what we want our literacy practice to look and feel like and we focus on making that happen in our classrooms. We encourage each other and support each other in our professional learning.
4. Reinvigorates your practice
As a result of the staff book club, many of the members have felt reinvigorated in their teaching. They may have been feeling alone, stagnant, confused, or afraid to make a change. After being part of a group where we talk about what we can do better, it has really reinvigorated many of our staff member’s practices.
3. Makes you reflect on your practice
John Dewey once said, “We don’t learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” Reflection is the key to being a better teacher. Throughout the book club process this year, the teachers have found a safe to place to reflect on their practice and discuss new ideas.
2. Casual conversation in a vertical format
It has been extremely powerful to have casual conversations across the variety of grade levels. We have teachers from kindergarten to sixth grade in one room, discussing one book. We discuss what best practice looks like K-6 and the similarities and differences across the grade levels. Colleagues discuss how we can scaffold our instruction better to best meet our student’s needs.
1. Opens the door to more possibilities.
Our literacy group wants to keep learning and keep moving forward. We all have dreams for attending certain literacy conferences, meeting notable literacy experts, and pursuing more graduate level classes in literacy. Some of us were able to attend a literacy institute this summer where we were able to hear Peter Johnston, Frank Serafini, Jennifer Serravallo, and Steven Layne. Talk about a dream come true! It was an amazing experience and we wouldn’t have been able to make it happen if it wasn’t for our discussions outside of school and our wanting to learn more together.
Consequently, after starting a staff book club this year and having already completed three different books, we will definitely continue our book club in the coming year. Yes, it takes time, yes, it is one more thing to add to our busy schedules, yes, it requires reading an entire book, but it is all SO worth it! I wouldn’t trade my time invested in our staff book club for anything.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Megan Skogstad is a 4th grade gifted teacher in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. She has taught as a STEM specialist, second and third grade teacher, and was a gifted intervention specialist who taught third and fourth grade ELA in Ohio before recently moving to Minnesota. She LOVES to read, teach, go for long walks, spend time with her friends, spend LOTS of time with her family, and blog! Literacy is her passion and she is obsessed with reading as many books as she can. She blogs at http://fourthgradeliteracylovers.blogspot.com and tweets @megskogie and @Skogstad_Class.