Breakfast with Books by Patrick Andrus
My wife and I had a 50th birthday party to attend on Sunday, July 31st. The gathering started at 4:00 PM. I told my wife we needed to be home by 7:00 PM. When she asked why and I told her there was a #titletalk on launching the reading year, she looked at me like I was crazy.
I have seen this look many times. I lucked out because the friends we knew at the party all had things going on and left before 7:00 PM. I got home just in time to join the fun and one of the most enjoyable “online” chats during my month.
During the conversation about what teachers do to launch their reading year, I mentioned that I start up my “Breakfast with Books.” I was surprised when so many people were curious and interested in what this was. I tried to give some information, but that is difficult to do in 140 characters or less. Donalyn Miller suggested a Nerdy post and I was more than happy to say YES!
Many years ago I came up with the idea of running a special book club that would take part “outside” of the school day. I actually think the idea came from Oprah when her book club was in its heyday. I can’t remember how many years this club has been in action, but I have a list of book club selections for the last nine years.
Over the years the book club has grown, evolved, and improved. The overall format has remained the same. I read a lot of middle-grade novels. Some of these novels I use for the class read aloud. I made a goal for myself a few years back to always do NEW novels with each class. There are other times when I read a book that I know will make for an excellent selection for the book club.
I try to announce a new book each month or so. I own a really cool bag that I received at our local bookstore. About a week before I make the official announcement, I hang the bag in front of the room with the new novel inside. It is such fun to build the anticipation of what the new title will be.
Usually on a Friday afternoon, I carve out some time in our schedule to make the announcement. I’ll spend a few minutes talking about how I came to know the book, my reading experience with it, and why I wanted to choose the book. I try to draw it out as long as possible to build the anticipation. There are some years where the readers are going absolutely nuts. I love it!
The big reveal is when I pull the book out of the bag. I share the title, author, and ways they can get their hands on the actual book. In the last couple of years, I’ve sent out an email to the parents a week or so before the announcement so they can get the book and have it for their child when they come home on announcement day. They are instructed to keep the title a secret until I share at school. I also try to have a few extra copies for those students that can’t get their own book.
The “Breakfast with Books” book club is optional. I don’t require all my students to read the book. Of course there is a lot of encouragement, but no “have to.” Some readers will read all the books through the school year, some readers pick and choose which books they want to read, and some readers don’t join us for any of the “get togethers.”
Typically we meet on the last Friday of each month. I have my students come to school about 45-60 minutes before our school day begins. Each student signs up to bring in some sort of “breakfast treat” to share with the readers. The table will consist of juice, fruit, bagels, donuts, and other breakfast items. Some readers/families donate the paper products.
Everyone fills up their plate, grabs a chair, and joins in on the discussion. The last couple of years I’ve included another element to the book club. I have been lucky enough to find authors that will Skype with us during the actual book club. Talk about fun! Once we are all settled, we reach out to the author via Skype and enjoy their presence.
When we are going to have an author join us via Skype and/or in person, the readers compose questions and comments about the book. I go through the questions and comments and type them up so that no question and/or comment are repeated. Each student writes three questions so they typically get one of their questions.
We have been fortunate to have an author join us in person because they are local. This has been a complete highlight both for my readers and myself. During the Skype and/or visit, each reader gets a chance to share their comment about the book and ask their question. This interaction leads to a wonderful discussion about the book, the characters, and the life of an author.
Here is a list of the books we covered during the last school year. If you would like to see more years of selections, just contact me and I would be happy to share those titles with you.
1st: The Quirks: Welcome to Normal by Erin Soderberg (September/October 2015) – Author visited in person
2nd: The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors (October/November 2015) – Author Skyped with us
3rd: The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett (November/December 2015) – Jory Skyped with us
4th: A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner (December 2015/January 2016) – Phil Skyped with us
5th: The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas (January/February 2016) – Author visited in person
6th: Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart (February/March 2016) – Dan Skyped with us
7th: Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee (March/April 2016) – Alison Skyped with us
Typically I try to choose new novels each year. I want to expose my readers to the newest and best stories out there. However, if I can have an author, like Erin and Shelley, join us in person; I’m not going to pass up that opportunity. There are also times when I will pick the same author/book because I know the Skype session and their interaction with us is going to be awesome.
I hope I have given enough information, but not too much, to get you started on your own book club. This real-world experience for readers and authors has been one of the greatest highlights of my twenty-five year teaching career.
Through the book club I know I have reached some children that normally wouldn’t have had this incredible experience. I’ve also reached readers and stretched them into other novels that they would not have chosen on their own.
As I’m wrapping up this blog post, I’m getting that book club excitement as I think about the upcoming school year and the books and authors that I will share with a whole new batch of readers. Happy Book Club!!!
Patrick Andrus is a fourth grade teacher in Eden Prairie, MN. His number one goal for his students is to create an internal passion for reading and books. He makes it a daily habit of visiting the Nerdy Book Club Site. Patrick is beyond thrilled to have this be his eighth post on the site. You can find his blog by visiting http://readwonder.blogspot.com. He is also an active member on Twitter as @patrickontwit.