TSS - Book Clubs

The Truth

I have little experience with book clubs. I've always wanted to be a part of one, but never really seemed to have an opportunity. The closest that I can even compare the experience to, which in fact it's not close at all, are the listservs via yahoo that I participated in many moons ago. I've tried to get book clubs going here in my real life, but don't know many readers who'd be committed to giving up one night a month to let lose and geek out with books. I have a book buddy (and this is even a first for me) and we've picked out a book to read together in a loose time span so we can chat whilst hanging out in our group. That's been fun. But still you can see, my experience is limited.

Winging It

(Ed note: is that the correct slang spelling??)

As some of you might know, I've started a book club at the middle school I teach at. As even more of you might be aware of, I teach at a Title I school (which essentially means that 90% of the students are on free or reduced lunch) where only approximately 40% are on grade level or higher. It's a struggle to get them to read even though I'm perhaps the loudest advocate. Outside of my weekly DEAR time, I invited a handful of students recommended by teachers to participate in a book club. Invites went to all three grade levels, all three reading levels, and in addition, an open invitation was announced to the whole school.

I had nine students show up. Most were previous students of mine. I did three book talks and the kids voted on reading Taken (book review to come). It's a really neat book, in my opinion, and I'm pretty excited about it. Each kid was given a handout with book-clubbish questions to think about while reading the book. You know, like: What did you like the most/least; could you relate to any of the characters; were they believable; what passages really struck you and why; would you keep the ending; were you surprised by the ending; what would you like to ask the author.

But I have some fears. Even these kids that came to the group aren't really big readers. In fact, I know that four of the nine kids haven't started the book and our next meeting is the 11th.

Also, I have fears on how to run the group providing they all read the book. What if the kids don't talk? Or it turns more into a teacher-led quiz, which I SOOOOO don't want.

Ack! Damn fears.

Web Book Clubs

Now that I've admitted my lack of book club knowledge and participation, I'm also curious about web book clubs. Do you guys participate?

I see a lot of bloggers posting here and there claiming, "oh yeah, I'm reading this for my online book club..." and I immediately start researching again and again EVERY TIME I READ THIS STATEMENT. Heh. But I never sign up. I'm concerned that I won't be as disciplined. I like the idea of having a group of people to share their thoughts, but if it's not in person I think it might be too easy for me to skip out on it if I fall behind or don't really want to read the book. I'm trying to avoid this. I guess I kinda see a book club as an extension to my literature degree in college. I didn't enjoy all of the books I had to read, but man did I love the discussions.

Soooooo there goes my ramblings. Any thoughts? Are you a book clubber? Ease my insecurities about my school book club! Point me in the right direction to a web book club! :D


  1. Um, pretty sure I just typed "I wish I were in a book club..." when I remembered I am! It's through work and most people aren't committed. Even though we pick a book every month we haven't met in several months--just flakes out. :( I was in online book clubs, but then I discovered blogging and gave them up.

    Your club at school sounds like a really really neat thing but I get your apprehensions. Definitely don't want it to be a chore for the kids, but wow--what a great experience it could be for them!! Maybe come up with backup questions that are kind of fun and quirky?

  2. I have a friend that reads with some online clubs but I've never been interested in that. But I do love my IRL book clubs. I try to run them like a college discussion course - where we all discuss, but I have ideas for topics and questions to ask if the discussion runs low. I also try to make sure everyone has an equal chance to talk, and yes, I'm not above calling on someone to ask how they felt about the book if they're being quiet. :D

    Good luck with your club! That sounds like a rough thing. In reality not everyone who attends a book club actually reads the book. Some read it in part, some skip it altogether but still want to be there for the discussion. If your students are showing up voluntarily, there must be a reason. Even if they don't read the books at first, the discussions might eventually help them to do it. I wouldn't push them too hard to read or tell them they can't come if they haven't, assuming this is a voluntary thing. If it's voluntary, let them participate in discussion even with a partial or no read. They can still add something and it might help them read more in the future. :)

    Again, good luck!

  3. Christina, I so hear you. I had never been in a book club, but when I started my new job I was suddenly in charge of three, including one for kids ages 6-8 and their parents. It was intimidating, to say the least, and I still feel like I am winging it.

    That said, I highly, highly recommend a resource called "Deconstructing Penguins" by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. (I reviewed it here: http://weeklybookpixie.blogspot.com/2010/06/deconstructing-penguins-by-lawrence-and.html) It is about parents and kids and reading, but as someone leading a book club for kids I got a lot out of it, and it made me more confident going in to our first meeting. It proposes a structure for kids book clubs that works really well, I think. I've found, too, that it takes three or four meetings to really hit a stride, but once you're there, it's a lot of fun.

    I agree with Amanda -- don't make it a die-hard requirement for them to finish the book. Those kids can still participate, and will probably see that it's more fun to participate if they have read the book and know what they're talking about.

    Good luck! It sounds like there's a lot of potential there!

  4. Trish - that's hysterical. (but I am sorry that they don't seem to meet regularly.) Fingers crossed. I hope the club works out. :)

    Amanda - Thanks for all of the advice. I do think that I'll probably be a bit lenient with them.

    Kiirstin - Your advice is fabulous. And I'm sooo going to pick up that darn book. :)


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