After we finished our Mock Newbery experience, my lunch book club needed a new direction. My students said they definitely wanted to continue the book club.
- I liked having lunch book club because we all read the same book. We could support each other through the sad parts, and share the happy memories when something good happened. -Maria
- I liked book club very much because I got to talk to other kids in the school who were reading the same book as I am. -Ashley
- My favorite part of lunch book club is being able to talk with other people who have already read a book or are currently reading it. You get to talk with people and discuss it, which makes me understand the book even more. -Emily
We discussed three options to continue:
- Everyone just reads whatever and we talk about books in general.
- HARRY POTTER! There are so many students in the group that are reading his books for the first time.
- Author Skype Visits
After much discussion, we decided on #3 (though some students did choose to only continue reading Harry Potter).
We then looked through Kate Messner’s so helpful list of authors that are kind enough to do free school Skype visits. From this list, we chose four authors we were really interested in reading more of and chatting with:
- Dan Gemeinhart because The Honest Truth was on our state list for 2016-2017 and Some Kind of Courage had been on our Mock Newbery list, so most of the kids in the club have already read his books, but there was also his newest, Scar Island, we could read.
- August Scattergood because one student adored Glory Be that she read in elementary school and shared with the group how much she liked it. I also pushed for them to pick a historical fiction author to get all of the genres covered in the four visits.
- John David Anderson because Ms. Bixby’s Last Day had been on our Mock Newbery list and had been a favorite, and I am a huge fan of his other books which I book talked, and they were interested in them.
- Kristen Kittscher because The Wig in the Window had been a HUGE hit in my classroom last year and many of them had read it in my class last year, and they shared it with the students who hadn’t read it, and they definitely had to know how the mystery ended.
And we were so lucky that ALL OF THEM were available at some point before the end of the year, and it even worked out to one per month February through May. I then went about purchasing all of the books using a grant I received for middle school book clubs, and we began reading one author a month.
If you have ever been part of an author Skype visit, it is so amazing to see what wonderful questions the students come up with and equally fascinating to hear how the authors answer them. Some examples: With Dan Gemeinhart, we discussed “the parent problem” in middle grade and young adult literature as well as how he crafted his chapters in The Honest Truth; with Augusta Scattergood, we discussed the inclusion of diverse characters as well as her choice to add quirky exclamations in Making Friends with Billy Wong; with John David Anderson, we discussed the hero’s journey including Star Wars and Harry Potter and how he’s written so many different genres; and with Kristen Kittscher, we discussed her planning (or lack thereof) and her characterization.
Each Skype visit was different and after each one the students raved about the opportunity, and I want to second their excitement: We are so lucky to be able to spend any amount of time, much less almost an hour, with each of these authors!
- My favorite part of Skype visits is that we got our burning questions answered. Many readers have questions and they can only speculate, but we love reading so much that we get to talk with them. I feel as if we have become friends with the authors. -Emily
- I enjoyed Skyping with the different authors and learning how each of them wrote and planned a story. I loved reading the books and seeing the difference between the types of styles and genres each author wrote in. -Sarah