For the first quarter of the year, I’ve been exploring how to start book clubs in our school in a variety of ways. I hoped that by offering a variety of ways to engage with a book, that we would support many different interests, availabilities, and format preferences. Our book for quarter 1 was The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall. I offered 2 main ways of participating in our quarter 1 book club: 1 was reading the book during a lunch book club with me and another was a family book club where students and families read the book together.
For both book clubs, I created a shared Flipgrid where readers could leave thoughts, questions, favorite parts, etc for various segments of the book.
My lunch book club met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to chat about the book as well as listen to me read aloud. Then, they would continue a set number of pages before we met again. The students enjoyed this time out of the noisy lunchroom. We got to know one another better through our discussion of the hard topics of the book, and we had many laughs and sad moments as read aloud. Many students read way ahead in the book because they were so excited and eager to know what happened, but they continued to come and listen to me re-read the parts they had already read and continued to contribute to the conversations.
Nine other elementary schools in our district also read the book. We decided that at the end of our school-level book clubs, we would use Skype and Google Hangouts to connect our schools together across the district so that our students could talk to one another. My students connected with Angie Pendley’s students at Gaines Elementary. We used Google Hangouts and a set of slides to guide our conversations. Students took turns at each school stepping up to the camera and sharing their thoughts about the questions. It was fun to hear from students in another school and see a different perspective on the book as well as many connections to what we experienced when we read.
The family book club read at home on their own and we held one face-to-face meeting at the end of the book. We had about 21 families reading the book, so I hoped to have a large group discussion.
However, due to many schedule conflicts, we had a very small group. Even though it was a small group, it was a mighty discussion. We chatted as we gathered and shared some snacks. The author, Shelley Pearsall, offered to connect with us for a few minutes over Skype, so we took time to connect with her and ask some questions about the book. We learned how the title of the book started out as “Metallic”, but the publisher changed it to the title we see today. We learned about the research that Shelley Pearsall put into the book to match the 60’s time period as well as learn some facts about the life of James Hampton and his art piece.
Some of our families asked about the other characters in the book and how their stories came about. We even got to see a brainstorming page that Shelley Pearsall used to map out the 7 things and their connections to Arthur and the story.
After our Skype, we used the same questions that our lunch book club used to have a rich discussion. I loved hearing parents and children talking together on equal ground and sharing their wonderings, excitement, and sadness from the book. I definitely want to build upon what we experienced because it was a wonderful first experience that I would love to see more people be a part of.
For quarter 2, I’m trying to build upon our book clubs. With the help of 2 UGA students, I am continuing the 4th grade lunch book club and adding on a 5th grade group. I’m also expanding he family book club to included more grade levels in the hope that more people will be able to attend our in-person event. This time we are using 3 different books instead of the same one. As always, it’s a work in progress, but our reading community is growing. One of the things I loved hearing from some of the parents is how excited they were to read together as a family. I also had family members tell me they had never been a part of a book club and they were excited to finally try one out.
Onward we go.