My entire teaching career I have heard students complain that they don’t like to read. To be honest, I can sympathize with them since I did not enjoy reading until my junior year of high school.
In school students are asked to read literature for class, then they are quizzed and tested on what they read to assess how much they remember and understand. For many students this formula leads to a disenchantment with reading. Instead of being an escape into a story, it is a forced exercise. By middle school, many students have lost that wonder they felt when listening to children’s stories growing up.
So how do we get kids interested in reading?
Online book clubs can make it easy for teachers, librarians, media specialists and administration to engage a single class or an entire campus in an online book club.
The objectives of an online book club:
- Inspire a love of reading.
- Encourage students to read for pleasure.
- Begin a thoughtful dialogue about literature.
- Provide students with an opportunity to think critically about literature and practice reading strategies.
- Build relationships between students, teachers and parents that will strengthen our school community.
At the beginning of your work online, it is helpful to review the following expectations for online communication to ensure interactions are respectful and supportive:
- Use each other’s names.
- Be considerate.
- Ask questions.
- Listen to all the ideas presented and stay open-minded.
- Respond instead of reacting.
- Reread your messages before sending to avoid confusion.
- Actively engage in the conversation by posting thoughtful responses to the questions and replying to the other members of our book club.
It is crucial that students understand that a successful book club is grounded in respect. They may not always agree with one another’s perspectives or points of view, but they need to stay open-minded and supportive in their online discussions. Remind them that a variety of opinions will make the conversations more interesting.
Selecting books according to a monthly theme can be fun and provide inspiration:
- January: Art Appreciation
- February: Black History
- March: Nutrition
- April: Earth Day
- May: Space
- June: Summer Fun
- July: Independence
- August: Travel or Back to School
- September: Character Building
- October: Explorers
- November: Celebrate Reading
- December: Holiday Celebrations
Collaborize Classroom Book Club: Facilitator’s Guide
Here are some suggested guidelines for facilitating your online book club using Collaborize Classroom– free education platform. Remember that each community is different so feel free to adapt these ideas for your school.
Organizing Your Site:
If you are using your Collaborize Classroom site to facilitate a school-wide book club, divide participants into groups according to grade level. Use your grouping functions so only members of a given grade level can see the questions for their group and the responses from peers, parents and teachers involved in their conversations.
Grouping by grade level will allow you to:
- Choose titles appropriate to a given grade level.
- Differentiate the language you use for each group to ensure students know what you are asking.
- Limit the size of the conversation to ensure that the number of responses and replies is manageable to read and respond to.
At the start of each month, begin your online conversations by presenting a general question related to the month’s theme. This question can be used to break the ice and encourage students to get to know one another on a personal level before delving into a discussion of the text.
Once the members of you book club have had an opportunity to respond to your icebreaker style question, you can proceed onto discussion questions specific to the book. Use the group’s participation in the icebreaker conversation to compliment strong responses, encourage members of the community to develop their explanations with details/examples and gently correct missteps online.
Posting Questions for Discussion in your Online Book Club:
When designing questions for your book club, it is important to
- Begin with a catchy title to draw interest.
- Include media when appropriate.
- Use a variety of question types to keep the conversations varied.
- Layer your questions to allow flexibility in the way the members of your community respond to the question.
- Embed directions for how you want students to engage with each other. (e.g. how many peers should they respond to?)
Frequency and Types of Questions:
It is important to keep your book club community active and interested. To fully engage your participants it is important to post new questions regularly (approximately 1-3 questions a week) and to encourage your members to respond to a minimum number each week.
Your questions should be a combination of novel specific questions (ex. Are you surprised Nailer tried to save his father?) and more reflective topics (ex. Do you think it is more important to have luck or to be smart?). Combining specific questions about the book with more personal reflective questions will allow students, teachers, and parents to discuss the book specifically but also have an opportunity to connect what they are reading to their own lives. The reflective questions will help your group members get to know one another which will foster relationship building.
Publishing to the Result Page:
Make a habit of publishing all of the Yes/No, Multiple Choice and Vote or Suggest questions to the Results Page so your group can see the tangible outcomes of their conversations. You can use the results of a conversation as a spring-board for a follow-up discussion.
For example if you asked the group “Are you surprised Nailer tried to save his father,” you could embed a screen shot of the results into a new discussion question and ask the group if they were surprised by the outcome of the conversation. This would give them an opportunity to reflect on the points made in the initial discussion conversation.
As the facilitator of an online site it is important to decide on your role and make that role transparent to your community. Your facilitation style will depend on a variety of factors. Consider the following questions:
- How many people will be involved in your online book club?
- How many different groups do you plan to create on your site?
- What is the age of your student population?
- Do you have time to design questions and be an active voice in the discussions?
Some facilitators may decide to be involved participants in their book club conversations posting their own responses to the questions and replies to other members of the group. Involved participants can model strong responses, engage with the group to form relationships and address questions/concerns within the actual conversation. If you choose to be an involved participant, identify a manageable goal for your own participation. Do not dominate the discussion with a disproportionate amount of postings.
In contrast, a facilitator who is working with a large number of participants may choose to be a silent facilitator who focuses on designing questions and creating opportunities for the book club to meet in person monthly or every other month. The silent facilitator sets the stage for conversations by posting thought provoking questions but does not intrude on the conversations. Instead, discussions are driven by the participants and any questions or concerns are dealt with via the internal mail system where participants can communication one-on-one with the facilitator.
Book Club Events:
To continue building your community, it is a great idea to plan face-to-face events that build on the work done online. These events can be monthly or once each semester depending on your time and the excitement of the group.
- Get the group together at the end of the month to discuss the end of the novel.
- Plan a potluck where the members of your group bring food inspired by your novel to share.
- Plan a “movie night” where you go to a theatre that is showing the film version of your book or plan to show the movie in the library if it is out on video or DVD.
- Skype with the author of a book you have read.
- Plan a community service project on campus inspired by a piece of non-fiction.
Be creative and engage the members of your book club in planning fun events to make your community stronger. Building a book club community cultivates a culture of reading at your school!