Two years ago, towards the end of the year, I walked into our library, and I noticed a smattering of kids sitting around the library. They were doing homework, reading, eating, sitting silently, etc. I started talking to them, and they shared how they felt the lunchroom just wasn’t the place for them: it was too loud, too full of drama, or too cliquey. It was then that I asked them if they would be interested in a lunch book club–they all answered with a resounding YES!
This year was my 2nd year with my book club, and I am so glad that I can give kids a friendly place to eat lunch, but equally important, I am so happy that I can give them some amazing reading opportunities as well! Last year, we split our book club into Mock Newbery, Author Skypes, and Harry Potter clubs. This year, the students really wanted to have more opinions in what they read, so they voted to only do author virtual visits this year.
Funding: Book Grant
Our Orange County Foundation Grants has a grant that is given each year to middle school book clubs, and I was lucky enough to receive it! This grant funds my book club completely (books for the entire year and food for an end-of-year party), and I cannot thank the Foundation enough for having this grant that is funded by the License 4 Learning and the School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program.
Choosing Authors and Books
I want students to not find the book club to be a burden to their free choice of reading that we give at my school, so I do not give much guidance in their choices. We met for the first time in late September after I was told that I had received the grant. To start, we visit Kate Messner’s amazing list of authors who are gracious enough to virtually visit with students who have read their books for free. From this list, I had the students pick their top 6 authors (one for November, January, February, March, April, and May). We were so lucky that all 6 of the authors we contacted were able to visit with us, and we were able to find Fridays that worked for them and us!
My students purposefully picked their authors. They said they wanted a mix of authors they knew and didn’t know, and a mix of authors of different backgrounds and ethnicity. After researching the list and looking up authors, they chose:
- Michele Weber Hurwitz
- Laurel Snyder
- Eliot Schrefer
- Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
- Dan Gemeinhart
- Mitali Perkins
After we chose our authors and they had confirmed their availability, the group members were able to look at all of the author’s books and pick at least one title they wanted to read. They like doing it this way instead of the whole club reading the same book because it allows more freedom of choice. Once students chose their titles, I ordered them through the grant.
The book club originally was going to meet only Tuesday and Thursday, but after a bit they all wanted to start meeting every day, and I was so happy to do so (though it was not required). The book club is quite informal for 2 weeks out of the month: we just hang out together and eat. Then about 2 weeks before the author virtual visit, we spend our Tuesdays and Thursdays lunch periods chatting about the books, usually separated into smaller groups by what book they read. During their book meetings, they would also come up with questions for the author. We also use our online component (Canvas) to do online discussions. This allows students to put their thoughts down on a discussion board while they were thinking about it. Then they can use this if they need help during their book meetings. Finally, the last meetings before the virtual visit we get our questions in order and assign who is going to ask them, making sure that everyone has something to ask.
Each visit was as wonderful as the last! I always wish I had recorded them because I am terrible about taking notes when listening since the authors are so brilliant and funny and awesome!
I cannot thank these authors enough for their generous donation of their time! My students love this experience, and I am so lucky to be able to give this once-in-a-lifetime book club experience!