The Many Formats of Book Club

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.

All ready for family book club at 5pm. #barrowreads #barrowbuddies #bookclub #reading #librariesofinstagram

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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.

Fourth grade lunch book club continues with What Elephants Know. #bookclub #reading #barrowreads

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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.

Family Book Club: The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

Over the summer, a group of librarians in Clarke County began brainstorming a quarterly book club at our schools using some of the Georgia Book Award nominees.  Our hope was to have in-person book clubs at our schools but also to connect our elementary schools virtually through Flipgrid and Google Hangouts/Skype.  We selected 4 of the 20 books on the book award list based on a variety of themes and interests.

We also invited other elementary schools to join us and we now have at least 10 of the CCSD elementary schools reading and connecting about the same books.

At school, I have a group of 10 fourth graders who meet during lunch to read the first quarter selection: The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall.  During lunch, I read aloud while they eat and follow along.  We pause along the way to chat and also make an agreement about what page we will all read to before the next meeting.  I also made a Flipgrid where we can chat about collections of chapters during the times we aren’t meeting as well as hear thoughts from other schools reading the book too.

Because there’s so much interest in the book, I wanted to extend the opportunity to read the book to our families.  Through a Donors Choose project, I secured additional copies of each quarter’s book.  I’m sending home a form to invite families to sign up to read The Seventh Most Important Thing.  By signing up, they agree to read the book, add to our Flipgrid, and attend an in-person book club on October 19th after school where families can sit together and chat about the book as well as read aloud favorite parts.

I can’t wait to see the discussions we have around this book and future book club selections.  I can’t wait to see how families come together around the same book.  This is a new piece of building our reading community, and we’re expecting the miraculous as we go.

If you are a Barrow family who wants to participate, download the form above or look in your Monday folder.

If you are someone also reading The Seventh Most Important Thing, please feel free to add to our conversation on Flipgrid.  https://flipgrid.com/sevenththing