Forming Book Clubs
Book clubs are excellent for avid readers who want to have fun while fulfilling their summer reading. Here are some hints for establishing book clubs and having them run smoothly.
- First, choose a book. Next, assign reading. Then, meet to discuss.
- Before the club begins reading, the leader should assign an appropriate literary element as a focus for the book-club members. The leader will have to preview the book to determine what element is especially important or effectively illustrated.
- Elements of literature such as characterization, plot, setting, etc. make excellent general focus points for young readers.
- Encourage book-club members to keep reader response journals and to jot down notes pertaining to the focus point as well as anything else they want to record.
- Eleventh and twelfth graders would benefit from reading brief passages of literary criticism and then applying them to the story.
- Always take time to introduce the focus concept. Doing so will ensure that readers understand their assignment and will help make group meetings more productive.
- Some readers may benefit from using a graphic organizer while they read. Readers can use this method of note-taking instead of a journal. Having notes on hand will help students participate in the discussion group.
- Don't overassign skills! A book club should be pleasurable, not overwhelming.
- Instead of having book-club members read an entire book and then meet for discussion, consider breaking it into manageable sections. Either the leader or book-club members can decide how to divide the book.
- It is important to choose a facilitator for each meeting and provide him or her with possible discussion questions. The facilitator should use the questions to spark discussion rather than as a framework for the entire meeting.
- Prepare a reader's response question to begin each meeting so that members can give a "gut-level" response to what they have read. (Or have members create questions.) Let members know that they should always be prepared to defend statements such as, "I thought it was great," or "It was a boring story."
- When appropriate, help shift members' discussion to the focus point given them before reading the book.
- Have members create a book review for each book they read. Encourage them to place their reviews in the school and local libraries as well as posting to an appropriate site on the Internet (under adult supervision).
- Members may wish to visit the Internet Public Library's Youth division. The site features guest authors, such as Gary Paulson, Robert Cormier, and Jane Yolen, among others. Visitors can send questions as well as read the authors' responses to the questions of others.