If you are looking for something to inspire your book clubs for next year, read Join the Club: Bringing Book Clubs into Middle School Classrooms. Like the author, Katie Doherty Czerwinski, I had read all the professional books on literature circles from years past (Harvey Daniels’ work and Moving Forward with Literature Circles from Scholastic) and helped many teachers develop book clubs in their 4-6th grade classrooms. But there has not been much written about the topic of late. So I was happy to read and thoroughly enjoy this new text from Choice Literacy. Even though is says “middle school” in the title, what the author describes would be applicable for upper elementary grades also.
In this short text (only 89 pages – don’t you love that for a quick summer read!) Katie talks about how she gets started with her book clubs. She doesn’t rush into having students pick novels. I love the idea of using short vignettes, picture books, or poems early in the year to get all her students used to the idea of talking about texts. She writes, “They need to understand that responding to each other has a purpose: it helps us connect to each other and more often than not, learn something new about ourselves, each other, literature, and the world around us.” (p. 19)
Czerwinski shares her schedules, some reflection questions she begins with to get kids started, titles of texts she uses, how she forms her groups, and ideas for problem solving when she runs into road blocks along the way. She doesn’t shy away from telling us about instances when students are not prepared or won’t talk in small group. I appreciated her candor; you could tell she was speaking from experience. Because of her dedication to making book clubs work in her middle school classrooms, she was willing to support children as they learned how to make their own book choices and their own decisions about how to keep a conversation on topic. In the later chapters she shares how she assesses students to gather information for her mini-lessons as well as how she deals with the dreaded “grading.”
My book is all marked up in the margins and I’ve already suggested it to a middle school reading teacher and a fifth grade teacher. I hope others will pick it up this summer!