The Book Club that Saved My Reading Life by Amanda Schreiber
Everyone that knows me, knows my passion for book clubs. My friend Stacey lovingly refers me to me as the “Book Club Queen.” Although, I make no claims at being the queen of anything! However, book clubs gave me confidence to start a blog and share some of my classroom practices on social media. I’ve blogged several times about how I set-up book clubs to create a community of readers in my classroom.
In my classroom, I have three cabinets, two rows deep, of books with multiple book copies so that my students can create their own book clubs based on favorite authors and texts. I order in bulk on Scholastic. Book clubs are a part of my teaching life. They are an integral part of reading in my fifth grade classroom. We read, we share, we love or hate, and we make plans for our next meetings and readings.
However, I have a confession. Although, I’ve been spreading the book club love around my classroom and teaching community, I have not been part of a book club myself since early in my career. After college, a few friends and I started a small book club after graduation. I also joined a few teachers and our librarians for a school book club my first years of teaching. But then life happened and things came up and I let my own book clubs and reading life fall into a rut.
I didn’t really realize at first that I was in a reading rut. I was still reading my way through popular series like The Hunger Games and Roland Smith’s I.Q. My teaching partner and I swapped books like Freakonomics and shared our favorite parts with each other. I held book club meetings with students during lunch and our intervention block. I had book clubs going strong in my classroom and my students were knocking the 40 Book Challenge out of the park. Yet, something was missing in my own reading life. I wasn’t as motivated to read as many books. How could I cheer on my students when I was having trouble cheering on myself?
Then I met several other Wild Readers on Instagram and we started sharing our love for teaching and reading. I started following Nerdy Book Club and even (gasp) signed up for a Twitter account! It felt great to have friends that shared my love of reading. On Instagram professed our reading love and made claims that #WeCantPutBooksDown. Although, we were getting others excited about reading, I was still not quite the wild reader of years past. I was still struggling to pull myself out of my reading slump. It was time to focus on my reading life. I set some personal goals. Dusted off my Goodreads account again and even connected with some former students. I also, joined the #SixtyBook movement to keep myself reading. Things were looking brighter.
Then #GetBooked came into my life. A friend of a friend had received an advanced copy of Booked by Kwame Alexander. Through a twist of fate and power of social media, I was invited once again to be part of a book club. We were going to part of a book’s journey. The goal? Send the same book person to person, so that we can leave notes, share and discuss with each other from across the country. We set up a Voxer group and have countless threads connecting us on Twitter. For once again in my life, I feel energized and reinvigorated. And even a little star-struck as Kwame Alexander, himself, commented on our progress and threads! Finally, my heart was full. This book club saved my reading life.
These people understand my need to whoop out loud as Amazon lets me know my books have been delivered. They allow themselves to be lost in books. They don’t think it’s crazy or cuckoo to be immersed in social media or plan my night around #titletalk all for the love of reading! They get me.
Although, I’ve always been a reader, I realize now that sharing books and ideas is something we all need as part of our reading lives. It doesn’t matter how many books we read if we have no one to share them with. This book club has made me realize just how important and powerful our reading communities can be. It also reminds me that I need to follow the wise words of Vanilla Ice and “STOP. COLLABORATE. And LISTEN.” I need to STOP and give myself time to read. Adults need DEAR days and weekends, too. I want to COLLABORATE with other passionate teachers so that I can bring new ideas into my own classroom. And lastly, I know I need to LISTEN to my heart.
Adults need book clubs and book friends, too. We need that connection so we can share that passion and love with our students. Book clubs bring out the best in readers and books. Our book tribes make us feel like we’re part of something great and wonderful and like our thoughts matter. Dropping post-it notes and reading messages left behind by my #GetBooked friends is something that words are unable to describe. I can’t thank them enough for rescuing me from my island and bringing me into their tribe.
Amanda Schreiber is a fifth grade teacher from Cincinnati, Ohio. She blogs at MyShoeStringLife.com about books and bargains! You can also check her out on social media and Goodreads as MsAPlusTeacher. In her spare time she frequents Half Price Books and used book sales. When she’s not reading, she’s either entertaining her two mischievous dogs, Mikka and Iggy, or doodling in one of her many adult coloring books.