At book club students can talk about whatever book they are reading

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Book clubs are a wonderful way to engage students and contribute to the reading culture at your school. Your students and their learning needs are unique, so take some time to consider the best approach when you are setting up your book club. It can be anything that you (and your students) want it to be.

  • Great reasons to start a book club

    Giving students the opportunity to share their love of books and reading helps to create a strong reading culture at your school. You will model positive reading behaviour and show all members of your school community that you value books.

    By setting up a book club for your students you will:

    • encourage students to read more and to explore titles they may not find otherwise
    • connect passionate readers from different classes and year levels
    • give students the chance to swap highly valued peer recommendations and reviews
    • give students the opportunity to practise public speaking and respectful discussion
    • give book lovers a place to feel safe, valued and knowledgable.

    In this video, Riccarton High School librarian Sally Blake talks about setting up their book club and the importance of having fun!

  • Great reasons to start a book club

    Giving students the opportunity to share their love of books and reading helps to create a strong reading culture at your school. You will model positive reading behaviour and show all members of your school community that you value books.

    By setting up a book club for your students you will:

    • encourage students to read more and to explore titles they may not find otherwise
    • connect passionate readers from different classes and year levels
    • give students the chance to swap highly valued peer recommendations and reviews
    • give students the opportunity to practise public speaking and respectful discussion
    • give book lovers a place to feel safe, valued and knowledgable.

    In this video, Riccarton High School librarian Sally Blake talks about setting up their book club and the importance of having fun!

  • Setting goals for your book club

    Before you put up flyers or invite students to participate you should have clear goals about what you want to accomplish with your book club. Do you want formal, in-depth discussions about one book at a time or more casual chats about many titles? Are you looking to entice reluctant readers or challenge your frequent users to try new things? Perhaps your goal is simply to build up relationships with students, get them excited to be in the library, and showcase new books.

    Ask your students what they want and expect out of a book club before you get started. Talk to classroom teachers about possible students to target. Some quick conversations now will make your book club more enjoyable and meaningful for everyone.

    Measuring impact

    Once you have your goals in mind, think about how you will evaluate your effectiveness. This will allow you to make changes as needed, meet your students’ needs, and share your success in a meaningful way with your school community.

  • Setting goals for your book club

    Before you put up flyers or invite students to participate you should have clear goals about what you want to accomplish with your book club. Do you want formal, in-depth discussions about one book at a time or more casual chats about many titles? Are you looking to entice reluctant readers or challenge your frequent users to try new things? Perhaps your goal is simply to build up relationships with students, get them excited to be in the library, and showcase new books.

    Ask your students what they want and expect out of a book club before you get started. Talk to classroom teachers about possible students to target. Some quick conversations now will make your book club more enjoyable and meaningful for everyone.

    Measuring impact

    Once you have your goals in mind, think about how you will evaluate your effectiveness. This will allow you to make changes as needed, meet your students’ needs, and share your success in a meaningful way with your school community.

  • Organising your book club

    It may take a few tries to find the best approach for you and your students. Be creative, keep the lines of communication open and be prepared to make changes as needed. Here are a few approaches that have worked for other schools.

    What to read

    Choosing what to read is a great discussion in itself. Everyone in the club could:

    • read the same book and discuss it together
    • read a book from the same genre / based around the same theme / by the same author and tell each other about it (without spoilers!)
    • do a challenge together, such as read a book a week or read a classic
    • bring along whatever book they are reading and talk about it.

    Tip: Having a ‘special collection’ of titles just for your book club members gives them something special to look forward to. You can buy books especially for them, or give them first choice of your new books.

    Who can join

    When it comes to membership consider the following:

    • Will your club will be open to everybody?
    • How will people find out about it?
    • Will teachers be included?
    • Will parents be included? if so in what capacity? as members? helpers?
    • If you are targeting a group of students, how will you approach them?
    • How will you build buzz around your club?

    Sample book club instructions

    Bring to each meeting:

    • your book
    • 2 to 3 prepared comments about your book — these can be based on answers to the general discussion questions.

    Warning: beware of spoilers when discussing your book! Don’t reveal too much information if other members haven’t read it yet.

    Group leader

    One person acts as group leader each time the club meets. The group leader:

    • starts the discussion by introducing and discussing their book
    • encourages each member to participate
    • keeps the atmosphere friendly and make sure everyone’s opinions are treated with respect.

    When you run a meeting, you could follow these steps.

    1. Get everyone settled and start off the discussion by introducing your book and discussing one of your prepared comments. Ask for feedback from the group.
    2. Continue the discussion by asking other members to introduce their books and contribute their prepared comments.
    3. If all the prepared comments have been discussed then ask for other points. Use the general discussion questions if you need ideas.
    4. Discuss connections between your books, for example, whether:
      • the genres are the same — why or why not
      • the characters, settings or themes are similar or not
    5. At the end of the meeting:
      • ask for a volunteer to be the next group leader
      • give everyone a chance to pick a new book
      • set the next meeting time and place.
  • Organising your book club

    It may take a few tries to find the best approach for you and your students. Be creative, keep the lines of communication open and be prepared to make changes as needed. Here are a few approaches that have worked for other schools.

    What to read

    Choosing what to read is a great discussion in itself. Everyone in the club could:

    • read the same book and discuss it together
    • read a book from the same genre / based around the same theme / by the same author and tell each other about it (without spoilers!)
    • do a challenge together, such as read a book a week or read a classic
    • bring along whatever book they are reading and talk about it.

    Tip: Having a ‘special collection’ of titles just for your book club members gives them something special to look forward to. You can buy books especially for them, or give them first choice of your new books.

    Who can join

    When it comes to membership consider the following:

    • Will your club will be open to everybody?
    • How will people find out about it?
    • Will teachers be included?
    • Will parents be included? if so in what capacity? as members? helpers?
    • If you are targeting a group of students, how will you approach them?
    • How will you build buzz around your club?

    Sample book club instructions

    Bring to each meeting:

    • your book
    • 2 to 3 prepared comments about your book — these can be based on answers to the general discussion questions.

    Warning: beware of spoilers when discussing your book! Don’t reveal too much information if other members haven’t read it yet.

    Group leader

    One person acts as group leader each time the club meets. The group leader:

    • starts the discussion by introducing and discussing their book
    • encourages each member to participate
    • keeps the atmosphere friendly and make sure everyone’s opinions are treated with respect.

    When you run a meeting, you could follow these steps.

    1. Get everyone settled and start off the discussion by introducing your book and discussing one of your prepared comments. Ask for feedback from the group.
    2. Continue the discussion by asking other members to introduce their books and contribute their prepared comments.
    3. If all the prepared comments have been discussed then ask for other points. Use the general discussion questions if you need ideas.
    4. Discuss connections between your books, for example, whether:
      • the genres are the same — why or why not
      • the characters, settings or themes are similar or not
    5. At the end of the meeting:
      • ask for a volunteer to be the next group leader
      • give everyone a chance to pick a new book
      • set the next meeting time and place.
  • Ideas for structuring discussion

    How well discussions flow in book clubs can depend on members, and length of time a club has been operating. But there are ways you can help get things going such as:

    • Letting your students guide the way. Not despairing if their attention wanders occasionally — a safe place to relax and laugh with other people who love books is sometimes the very best thing you can give them.
    • Asking students to come prepared with questions and discussion points — making sure everyone gets a chance to speak and knows what is expected of them.
    • Guiding the discussion by showing off your new books and giving students a short book talk on each one.
    • Instead of focusing on the plot, focus on other aspects such as the setting (everyone share a favourite scary town in fiction), or character (share your favourite fictional villain).
    • Trying a different type of book club that offers activities for kinesthetic and visual learners as well as thinking and discussion time.

    Some example questions for general discussion

    Here are some example book club general discussion questions. Think of reasons for your answers or give examples to back up your opinions. Remember to be careful of spoilers when answering.

    Discuss the characters:

    • Did you find the characters believable?
    • Which characters did you identify with?
    • What makes the characters original or interesting?
    • Which character is your favourite and what qualities do they have that you admire?

    Explore the setting:

    • What did you like about the setting?
    • How would the book be different if it were set in another time or place?
    • Does the author put a lot of detail into the setting? Which details do you like or dislike?

    Think about the plot:

    • Is the pace of the plot fast or slow?
    • Do you think the pace matches up with the story?
    • Is the story told in chronological order or does the author use flashbacks?
    • Why do you think the author chose to tell the story this way?

    Examine the themes and genre:

    • What is the book’s main message?
    • How do the characters help get the message across?
    • Why do you think the author wrote the book?
    • What genre would you call this book?

    Consider other aspects of the book:

    • What did you like about the book? What really caught your attention?
    • Was there anything you thought was strange?
    • Is there anything about the book you would like to change?
    • Is this a book you would recommend to others?
    • How does the title relate to the book?

    A new kind of book club — Nerdy Book Club post by Sarah Fitzhenry

    Chatterbooks Activity Packs — Based on specific titles, genres, events, and also has information on running a book group for students with dyslexia

    Information on Booktalk clubs — Part of Scholastic's 2015 Summit resources

  • Ideas for structuring discussion

    How well discussions flow in book clubs can depend on members, and length of time a club has been operating. But there are ways you can help get things going such as:

    • Letting your students guide the way. Not despairing if their attention wanders occasionally — a safe place to relax and laugh with other people who love books is sometimes the very best thing you can give them.
    • Asking students to come prepared with questions and discussion points — making sure everyone gets a chance to speak and knows what is expected of them.
    • Guiding the discussion by showing off your new books and giving students a short book talk on each one.
    • Instead of focusing on the plot, focus on other aspects such as the setting (everyone share a favourite scary town in fiction), or character (share your favourite fictional villain).
    • Trying a different type of book club that offers activities for kinesthetic and visual learners as well as thinking and discussion time.

    Some example questions for general discussion

    Here are some example book club general discussion questions. Think of reasons for your answers or give examples to back up your opinions. Remember to be careful of spoilers when answering.

    Discuss the characters:

    • Did you find the characters believable?
    • Which characters did you identify with?
    • What makes the characters original or interesting?
    • Which character is your favourite and what qualities do they have that you admire?

    Explore the setting:

    • What did you like about the setting?
    • How would the book be different if it were set in another time or place?
    • Does the author put a lot of detail into the setting? Which details do you like or dislike?

    Think about the plot:

    • Is the pace of the plot fast or slow?
    • Do you think the pace matches up with the story?
    • Is the story told in chronological order or does the author use flashbacks?
    • Why do you think the author chose to tell the story this way?

    Examine the themes and genre:

    • What is the book’s main message?
    • How do the characters help get the message across?
    • Why do you think the author wrote the book?
    • What genre would you call this book?

    Consider other aspects of the book:

    • What did you like about the book? What really caught your attention?
    • Was there anything you thought was strange?
    • Is there anything about the book you would like to change?
    • Is this a book you would recommend to others?
    • How does the title relate to the book?

    A new kind of book club — Nerdy Book Club post by Sarah Fitzhenry

    Chatterbooks Activity Packs — Based on specific titles, genres, events, and also has information on running a book group for students with dyslexia

    Information on Booktalk clubs — Part of Scholastic's 2015 Summit resources

  • Activities for book clubs

    Add a competitive element with quizzes and challenges, for example:

    Making something adds additional creativity to your club, so you could:

    • invite the art teacher to be a guest star and do a lesson on cartooning — Wimpy Kid fans will love it
    • make book marks
    • create a playlist for a favourite book — check the author’s website or blog to see if they have their own playlist (many do) so you can compare or be inspired.

    Jazz up the library by planning an Edible Book Festival (This would be wonderful for parents’ evening or open night when people are visiting the library and looking for nibbles. Just make sure you photograph the entries before the guests arrive!). You could also create:

    Edible Book Festival

    Dinovember — Create Readers blog

    For writers why not try:

    • 6-word stories — try to sum up your books in 6 words.
    • First line prompts — read out some (unknown) first lines and challenge your students to keep telling the story.
    • Storybird or Figment, and perhaps set up a virtual classroom just for your book club kids.

    Six word Harry Potter stories

    Storybird

    Figment

    Tip: Put your book club in charge of library displays. Your meetings will be full of book discussion and creative activity. And, at the end you will have a fabulous display to share with the rest of your school. Go to Pinterest and search for school library display ideas to share for inspiration.

    Keeping it fun

    Many children’s and young adult authors release digital short stories and novellas starring favourite characters, check out:

    You can also tie in virtual learning for your book club participants, for example you could study:

  • Activities for book clubs

    Add a competitive element with quizzes and challenges, for example:

    Making something adds additional creativity to your club, so you could:

    • invite the art teacher to be a guest star and do a lesson on cartooning — Wimpy Kid fans will love it
    • make book marks
    • create a playlist for a favourite book — check the author’s website or blog to see if they have their own playlist (many do) so you can compare or be inspired.

    Jazz up the library by planning an Edible Book Festival (This would be wonderful for parents’ evening or open night when people are visiting the library and looking for nibbles. Just make sure you photograph the entries before the guests arrive!). You could also create:

    Edible Book Festival

    Dinovember — Create Readers blog

    For writers why not try:

    • 6-word stories — try to sum up your books in 6 words.
    • First line prompts — read out some (unknown) first lines and challenge your students to keep telling the story.
    • Storybird or Figment, and perhaps set up a virtual classroom just for your book club kids.

    Six word Harry Potter stories

    Storybird

    Figment

    Tip: Put your book club in charge of library displays. Your meetings will be full of book discussion and creative activity. And, at the end you will have a fabulous display to share with the rest of your school. Go to Pinterest and search for school library display ideas to share for inspiration.

    Keeping it fun

    Many children’s and young adult authors release digital short stories and novellas starring favourite characters, check out:

    You can also tie in virtual learning for your book club participants, for example you could study:

  • Online reading communities

    Online reading communities provide opportunities for readers to engage with a worldwide community. Readers make recommendations, post reviews and meet friends who share their taste in books.

    Consider creating a virtual space for your book club using one of these social networking tools:

    • Goodreads — you can set up a group for your club members
    • Biblionasium — online reading community for primary and intermediate students
    • Inside a Dog — set up book clubs

    Growing in popularity, fan-fiction sites provide a place for readers to write new derivative work based on favourite books. These works are then read and discussed by a community of readers and some are picked up by traditional publishers to be published as printed books.

  • Online reading communities

    Online reading communities provide opportunities for readers to engage with a worldwide community. Readers make recommendations, post reviews and meet friends who share their taste in books.

    Consider creating a virtual space for your book club using one of these social networking tools:

    • Goodreads — you can set up a group for your club members
    • Biblionasium — online reading community for primary and intermediate students
    • Inside a Dog — set up book clubs

    Growing in popularity, fan-fiction sites provide a place for readers to write new derivative work based on favourite books. These works are then read and discussed by a community of readers and some are picked up by traditional publishers to be published as printed books.

  • Making the book club sustainable

    One way to make your club sustainable is to collaborate with others. Getting a colleague on board means the club will go on when you are not available. Having someone to brainstorm with will also help to keep you both engaged and inspired.

    Give students as much responsibility as you can. Can they run meetings? Take notes? Make a snack roster? Letting the students take control will free up your time now and make it more likely that the club would be able to continue if you are not there.

  • Making the book club sustainable

    One way to make your club sustainable is to collaborate with others. Getting a colleague on board means the club will go on when you are not available. Having someone to brainstorm with will also help to keep you both engaged and inspired.

    Give students as much responsibility as you can. Can they run meetings? Take notes? Make a snack roster? Letting the students take control will free up your time now and make it more likely that the club would be able to continue if you are not there.

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