“Book clubs are fun and exciting. It is like a roller coaster ride because you get to enjoy all of the twists and turns with your friends.” ~ Grace Crimi, The Willow School fifth grade student
Our 5th grade students take real pleasure in books. They are open to a variety of interpretations from classmates, and they are confident in their ability to engage in literary conversations. One big reason for this passion for reading and talking about reading is is their active participation in book clubs.
Many of you parents participate in book clubs because it is an effective mechanism for comprehension and analysis of texts. More importantly, after reading a good book, you want to share it with a group of friends, talk about the twists of plot, share your perspectives about the complex characters, and discuss deep universal themes that run throughout the book. When you, as an adult, finish a book, chances are that you do not call a friend and say, “Let’s get together and make a diorama!” Instead, I’m sure you say, “You’ve got to read this book! Let’s meet for coffee and talk about it!”
Students crave these authentic methods of exploring books just as much as adults do. Currently in fourth and fifth grades, students are participating in book clubs in which members of the group read the same title and then join together to discuss the text. Teachers serve as facilitators and helpful guides, but they are not a part of the clubs. Book clubs are student-led and student-driven, both heady concepts for students in these grades who are developmentally craving more and more independence and autonomy. Given a deadline for the completion of the book, the book club members are asked to create their own reading schedule, and through modeling and prompts, they learn to bring their own thought-provoking interpretations, insights, favorite passages, and general questions to their book club meetings. The students are encouraged to “talk long” about each topic that is presented, a concept that means to dig deep into each topic and explore all realms of the subject before moving onto the next student’s idea.
The end result is a group of students who beg for book club time. They read enthusiastically, knowing that they will be able to explore the depths of the book in a way that is instinctively social, and facilitates multiple interpretations. Throughout this process, the students are partaking in an activity that promotes good manners, strong listening skills, open mindedness, and acceptance of others’ ideas.
I’m proud to be a part of a school community that values such authentic learning experiences and finds ways to instill the joy of learning in tandem with academic rigor.
Below are the thoughts that individual fifth graders have about book clubs:
“Reading usually gives you an amazing feeling that you can’t express, except for when you can talk about it. Book clubs let you say how you really feel. Some people don’t realize it, but when you tell someone else about what the story means to you, it’s like letting a huge breath go that you have been holding back for a while. It’s incredible to share and compare your thoughts to someone else’s, and it might change your outlook on the story and maybe even your life.” ~ Cambria Grossman
“When I’m in a book club, I get this sense of independence that I get nowhere else.” ~ Alexandra Thuren
“Book clubs help people learn to communicate with other people in a fun way. We are able to feel the difference between just talking about a book and having a real conversation about one.” ~ Samantha Graff
“When you express your thoughts among others, you can influence them, give them ideas, and make them think about a topic from a different perspective. Book clubs do so. People can share their thoughts with a sense of freedom. And all ideas are welcome.” ~ Maddie Wolfe
“When you read a book, you read it. When you are in a book club, you understand it.” ~ Manraj Kahlon