Posted in Thoughts

Book Clubs in the School Library

While working on a recent group project (centered around creating new programming for a school library), I got to read a lot about book clubs, and how they have changed in recent years. When most of us think about book clubs, we probably imagine a group of mid-30s housewives, drinking wine while discussing the latest Oprah Book Club pick. Obviously, this is not what a book club looks like at the elementary or secondary school level! Today’s book clubs provide students with many different ways to reflect on the books that they, and their classmates, are reading.

I thought it would be a great idea to compile some of the different ideas and decisions that go into creating a school library book club into a single post, for easy reference. Hopefully, this resource will be useful for others who are looking to create a school library book club of their own!

You can view the information and resources I have gathered after the jump.

There are many questions that you will need to ask yourself before embarking on your book club adventure.

What should your book club look like?

The basic structure of a book club can vary greatly. For example:

  • You could have a small book club, of 7 – 10 younger students, who all read the same book, and engage in a guided conversation with the librarian about the text.
  • You could have a slightly larger book club, of 10 – 15 older students, who all read different books on the same topic (or by the same author, or in the same genre), and then break out into small groups to compare and contrast the content and style of their chosen books.

What your book club will look like depends on what your objectives are for the club. You can refine these objectives by answering more of the questions below.

Who will participate in your book club?

  • Will you separate students by grade levels, or combine all students into one group?
  • Will students have to apply for membership to the club, or will it be open to all who wish to attend? Will you have a cap on how many students can participate?
  • Will the book club be designed for voracious book readers, or for slower readers who may need additional practice and support? How will you accommodate learners of different levels and different learning styles? What about special education students and English-language learners?
  • Will you invite parents and other community members to attend?
  • What about the teachers and other staff members at your school? How can they participate in, or otherwise support, your book club?

What will your book club read?

  • As mentioned above, you can have students all read the same book, or have them all read different books that center around a common theme.
  • Will you select the books, or will students be able to choose their own books to read?
  • If students will all read the same book, where will you get multiple copies of the text?
  • If students choose their own books, will they choose from the entire school library catalog, or will you provide them with a curated list? Will they use websites like Goodreads or Biblionasium to find new books?
  • What kinds of topics will your book club discuss? Will you integrate other content and subject areas into your book club?
  • How can you ensure that your book selections will appeal to a diverse group of students?
  • How will you introduce the books and themes to students? Can you integrate other media, like videos or music, into the meetings? (Consider book trailers, interviews with authors, video book reviews, playlists that others have created for the book, movie or TV show adaptations of books, etc.)

What will students do during the book club meetings?

  • Will meetings consist solely of discussions, or will your group also participate in activities related to the book they are reading? (These activities could be arts and crafts-type activities, or more like STEM and MakerSpace projects.)
  • How can you integrate technology into the book club? Can students blog, use hashtags on Twitter, or create digital projects about the books they’re reading?
  • How will you moderate student discussions? Can students work together, during the first meeting, to come up with a list of expectations for the group to follow?
  • If you chose to do activities, will students all do the same activity, or will you set up stations that students can choose from or rotate through?
  • Will you provide students with additional time and space to read after the discussions have ended?
  • Will snacks be provided? (Students love snacks, but the custodial staff also loves a clean library!)
  • How often will your book club meet? (You want to give students enough time to read the books, while also balancing their school work, extracurriculars, and social life!)

How will you integrate student choice and voice into the book club?

  • Even if you choose the books for your book club, you can still solicit feedback from your students. What genres of books would they like to read? Do your students enjoy more realistic fiction over fantasy and sci-fi? How do they feel about the activities that they do during book club meetings?
  • Encourage students to offer suggestions for the club. You can solicit feedback at the end of the year, or after meetings. What would they like to see in next year’s book club? What kinds of books do they think the next group of students would enjoy? What changes could be made for the remainder of this school year, to improve the book club experience for them and their peers?
  • Encourage students to offer book suggestions for one another. Have they read a book that they think another student would enjoy? Why or why not? Ask students what books they would recommend for younger students in another book club. What books did they wish they had read in their younger years?
  • Offer students the opportunity to be creative, as much as possible. Would they like to read a book aloud to a younger group of students? Could they put on a play based on a book, or multiple books, that they have read? Can they create their own playlist or book trailer for the book? Could students team up to create a Jeopardy-style game show about their books for the other students in the book club? Could students read additional books, similar to the book they read for the club, and share what they thought with the rest of the book club?

How will you share the book club’s accomplishments?

  • You could feature the club on your school website, or the morning announcements. Could the book club have their own website, featuring student book reviews and other student-created content?
  • You could publicize the number of books read by your club, and set a goal for the group to reach by the end of the school year.
  • You could have students work together to create library displays for the books you have read together, or students could organize a “Student’s Choice Awards” event to share some of their favorite books with their classmates and community.
  • Students could also create advertisements, posters, or book trailers for their favorite books. How would they get a classmate to want to read this book?
  • Students could collaborate to create a list of unanswered questions about a particular book, and the club could follow up on this list by sending the questions to the author of the book (via email or Twitter). Can local authors be invited to visit the club to answer these questions in person? Could a local community member be invited to visit the book club to talk about the theme or topic of the book?

What are the objectives for your book club?

Now that you’ve had some time to brainstorm about what the perfect book club looks like, in your head, it’s time to bring that idea into reality. Your book club can offer students many of the following benefits:

  • improving student reading levels
  • increasing student reading comprehension
  • giving students opportunities to utilize reading strategies
  • giving students opportunities to socialize with one another, outside the structured classroom setting
  • exposing students to ideas and life experiences that differ from their own
  • giving students affirmation of their own life experiences and identities, as they read books featuring characters that they can relate to (this is especially important for students from diverse populations)

If you’re looking for more information on book clubs, here are some great resources that I came across during my own research:

Finally, if you would like to view the presentation that my group put together, on creating a book club with supporting STEM activities, you can click here.

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Autistic school librarian and former special education teacher. MA Ed in Special Education and MLIS with a focus on Youth Services and Storytelling. I love learning about libraries, autism, books, and dinosaurs.

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