The Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club by Penny Kittle

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Most of us wait all year for summer. Not to escape the students we’ve grown to love, but for the hours we’ll have to read without the incessant demands of school. We are in a distracted age. I’m sure you feel it. During the school year we all practice a fractured attention to hundreds of details from one day to the next. Summer offers us the opportunity to slow down—to break that habit of multi-tasking lunacy—and fall into great books and stay. We want to look up from a book blinking, reluctant to peel off a character’s journey and return to our own. And then we want to find someone else who is reading the same book and talk.

This summer the Book Love Foundation invites you to read, write, think, and share with hundreds of educators around the world. We will read one professional book and three novels together. Throughout the summer you can join our Facebook community of readers to discuss what you’re noticing and thinking about. We’ll collect passages we love that we could use in our teaching. We’ll listen to authors talk about their lives as writers and their insights into the books we’re reading. We’ll pose questions to deepen our understanding of American literature, and of a novel written in verse, and of the Civil Rights movement in 1964 Mississippi. These books will make us wiser teachers.

We will study Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst to push our thinking about the choices we are making as we design instruction each school year. Summer is the time to reconsider what matters most as teachers. It is powerful to do that thinking beside teachers in all kinds of settings unlike ours. We learn more as we seek to understand this place we call school. We need this. We need each other.

Yesterday I recorded a podcast episode with my friend and co-author Kelly Gallagher, discussing the power of book clubs in teachers’ own thinking and learning. Kelly started a faculty book club at Magnolia High School in Anaheim, CA 25 years ago, and the group is now approaching its 200th book. (You can see a list of all the titles on kellygallagher.org.)

Kelly says, “After every single meeting I have left that book club understanding that month’s selection at a deeper and richer level because people in that room see things that I don’t see. And they have thoughts that I didn’t think about when I was reading the book.”

In our summer book club we will gain insights from sharing our reading with hundreds of other teachers and from listening to authors John Irving and Kwame Alexander, who will unpack their process as writers, their hopes for their books, and their own reading lives.

What does it teach our students when we do this work ourselves? According to Kelly Gallagher, it shows students that book clubs, “are not a school activity. This is something we do because we like it. This is something we do because it brings a richness to our lives, and it deepens our understanding of the world.” I believe that students deserve to see that. And I believe that teachers deserve to experience that.

Please join us.

To learn more about the Book Love Summer Book Club and to register, please visit our website, http://www.booklovefoundation.org. The Book Love Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that places classroom libraries with teachers who have thrived in establishing a culture of choice in reading in their classrooms and schools.

“Stories have been used to dispossess & malign… but stories can also empower and humanize. A story can break the dignity of people, but it can also repair it.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Penny Kittle is an English teacher and literacy coach at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire. She is the author of Public Teaching: one kid at a timeThe Greatest Catch: a life in teachingInside Writing: how to teach the details of craft (co-authored with her mentor and friend, Donald H. Graves),Write Beside Them: risk, voice, and clarity in high school writing, and Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers. She is currently co-editing (with Tom Newkirk) a collection of Don Graves’ work for a book to be published by Heinemann in May of 2013. Penny lives with her husband, two kids, and two dogs in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. When she isn’t teaching or reading, you’ll find her curled up by the window with her writing notebook, waiting for words. You can find her online at http://www.pennykittle.net/ and on Twitter as @pennykittle.