Books are something social—a writer speaking to a reader—so I think making the reading of a book the center of a social event, the meeting of a book club, is a brilliant idea.
[Now you can listen to the Big Fresh as a podcast!]
My First Official Book Club
I’ve never been part of a book club. I feel like this admission may hurt my credibility as a professional. So let me explain a little more.
I’ve been part of groups reading the same book, and I’ve organized such groups, especially in the 13 years that I served as an instructional coach. I put staff book groups in motion because I believe in the importance of professional reading. I worked alongside teachers to make book clubs happen in classrooms at all grade levels because I believe in the power of choice and conversation. When I was a middle and high school teacher, book clubs were part of the classroom community, and I constantly changed the structure of classroom book clubs on my quest to honor more student choice and independence in conversation.
Although this may reinstate my professional footing, the truth is, I still lack “official” book club status. What do I mean by official? Here is my list, which lacks all authority of someone who actually knows what it is like to be part of a book club.
“Official” Book Club Characteristics
- It’s not a read-one-book-and-be-done kind of group. There’s a perpetual meeting time, and you show up if you can show up.
- You can still be involved in connecting with others about the book even if you can’t show up to the conversation. In my imaginary book club experience, this means we would use a hashtag to share what the book makes us think and wonder, as well as other connections we have, such as recipes and songs or quotes and memes.
- The conversation is driven by people who believe connections and stories lead to a better world.
- Anyone can join, and everyone receives a warm welcome. Additionally, we are open and kind to views different from our own.
Doesn’t this sound dreamy? It makes me wonder why I don’t find a book club to join. There are a million of them.
“Have you ever thought about starting a Choice Literacy book club?” Christy Rush-Levine floated the question to me.
“Aren’t there a million book clubs?” I asked, ignoring the serendipity of her question.
Christy pretended I wasn’t cynical and said, “I’d be interested in being part of a book club that reads books teachers use in their classrooms. I think the conversation would be powerful and help instructional practices become more authentic.”
Christy knows I’m a pushover for authentic instruction. She knows my propensity for teachers being readers and writers for themselves, rather than masquerading for their students. Christy nudged a little more. “I’d be happy to help you get a Choice Literacy book club started.”
“I don’t know much about starting ‘official’ book clubs,” I said.
“You know about building online communities,” she countered.
I discovered a Brian Andreas quote that has been giving me pause this past year. It goes like this: “There are things you do because they feel right and they make no sense and they make no money and it may be the real reason why we are here: to love each other and to eat each other’s cooking and say it was good.”
If you’re looking to join a book club, might I suggest you read along with us at the Choice Literacy Book Club? It is my first “official” book club. You can find more information on the site by clicking here.
This week we look at finding meaning in reading. Plus more as always—shine on!
Editor, Choice Literacy
This month’s Featured Contributor is Bitsy Parks. Bitsy has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years. She is a first-grade teacher in Beaverton, Oregon, where she finds joy in nurturing young students to discover their reading and writing identities and build a foundation for a love of learning. Bitsy has degrees from Colorado College and Lewis and Clark College. She is an adjunct instructor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. You can find Bitsy on Twitter (@BitsyParks). This month you’ll find her on the Big Fresh Podcast, taking over our Instagram feed, and offering Choice Literacy courses. Find all of Bitsy’s articles and videos on the site by clicking here.
On the podcast, Heather Fisher discusses her new article about coaching feedback (linked below) and current thinking about finding meaning in reading.
Join the Choice Literacy Book Club! Christy Rush-Levine selected an Own Voices middle-grade fantasy novel for the February read.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills slow down the “Article of the Week” nonfiction reading activity, making space for more reflection and thoughtful discussion. This article was first published in 2019.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills reference the book Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. Although it’s been a few years since its release in 2017, the ideas are critical today. Check out the Scholastic book site with an overview of the book, a blog post with five prompts to use in a reading conference, and links to 11 videos of the 10 tips (plus a bonus tip) for teaching students to love to read.
The Yarn podcast has been publishing episodes for more than five years. Travis Jonker and Colby Sharp share a behind-the-scenes look at children’s literature. As you work to support students in discovering central ideas, themes, and writing summaries, nourish your own ability to do the same by listening in on The Yarn.
Make sure to follow along with the Black Creator Series. In this educator-focused series highlighting the work of Black authors and illustrators, Sonja Cherry-Paul, director of Diversity and Equity at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, will lead discussions with children’s book creators about their work and the powerful ways their books can live in classrooms.
New members-only content is added each week to the Choice Literacy website. If you’re not yet a member, click here to explore membership options.
Bitsy Parks takes into account her recent consideration of implicit biases and examines her classroom library and read-aloud choices with urgency and excitement.
In an encore video, Aimee Buckner tackles text choice, notes, and main ideas all in less than five minutes in this conference with a fourth grader. The ideas from this 2012 video are timeless.
In a course, Bitsy Parks takes you into her primary classroom for a close-up look at how she organizes and then gradually releases the library to students over days, weeks, and months. She provides lesson tips, strategies, and templates to help you plan and make choices about when to introduce bins and browsing skills. You end the course with the information and resources needed to integrate instruction on how to use the library into your daily minilesson and conferring routines. Free to members.
Matt Renwick explains how teacher evaluation can be integrated into school-wide plans for literacy improvement by attuning to “promising practices.”
In this Coaching Minute, Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan explain the value of using the same notetaking forms teachers use with students as they coach teachers. The practice not only informs their coaching, but helps teachers think through the strengths and weaknesses of the tools.
In a new course, Matt Renwick guides instructional leaders to implement and strengthen instructional literacy walks. Through literacy walks, leaders seek out promising practices, note and name them during formative visits, and lead coaching conversations with teachers. The outcome is not only school improvement, especially in literacy, but also a community of learners who engage in continuous improvement as a natural stance. Free to Literacy Leader members.
If the reader isn’t responsive, if she doesn’t let the text awaken emotion or inspire thoughts, then she can barely be said to be reading at all.
—Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, Disrupting Thinking
That’s all for this week!