Five years ago my partner teacher and I decided we needed to do more for our students. One of the ways we chose to up the anti was by designing a trimester book club. Sounds easy enough, pick four books for every student to select a work, they read it, then attend a lunch time discussion. The discussions are facilitated by teachers across campus and disciplines. The fictional works switch after two years, while the non-fiction works change as needed.
When we began the Hunger Games trilogy caught the eye of many of our non-reading students. It progressed to adding in the Mortal Instruments, by Cassandra Claire, first three selections, and on to the Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth, and James Dashner’s hit trilogy The Maze Runner. This year we start off with Marie Lu’s Legend series and Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Series. Intermixed are the non-fiction reads 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (Sean Covey), Please Stop Laughing at me (Jodee Blanco), Soul Surfer (Bethany Hamilton), Imperfect:An Improbable Life (Jim Abbott), A Long Way Gone:Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Ishmail Beah), and I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai). Each of the non-ficitonal texts was chosen as stepping stones to get kids thinking. First getting them thinking closer to home. They need to begin thinking about themselves by first organizing their lives or maybe learning how to deal with bullying. Then they need to learn how to overcome life’s challenges. Finally, getting them to think on a global scale. Each work is picked as a deliberate piece to add some culture to their world. Since we have kids for two years they have multiple opportunities to each these works.
Three years ago my partner moved away and left me with the book discussion pilot. It has grown and continues to be a focus for bringing students around to the idea that reading can be fun and interesting when you have other people to discuss the works with. I have also been able to secure funding for adding ten copies of each work to our school library. Each year I only change out one work which helps spread the budget a little better. This little slice of independent choice has helped build a culture of readers. Students like the idea that they earn some extra credit tickets by participation in the school wide discussion and they see teachers of all disciplines participating in the talking portion. Our usual participation rate is about 150 students out of our total population of about 850. This is not too bad considering our population is over 50% socio-economically disadvantaged students.
Of course, most of these have a movie or some media piece attached but the bottom line is kids are being exposed to the idea of coming together to discuss and expand on ideas by their merit. This is actually by design so the books do not look so out dated. Research shows the literacy connection between reading, writing, and discussion is vital for developing strong connections for students to grow and become more productive in the world. I know I usually review the romance genre, but I think there is value in a wide variety of genre’s being read and maybe something here might spark you or a child you know to jump on the reading bandwagon!