“What are you reading?” and “Have you read _____?” are two of my favourite conversation starters with children and adults alike.
As long as I can remember, I have defined myself as “a reader”. Each school year, I introduce myself to my new class and tell them a few things about my life. One of those things is always that I love to read and that books are extremely valuable to me (this also fits well with our Social Studies discussion on beliefs and values). I have so many strong memories that center around books.
About 15 years ago, I was teaching a grade 9 L.A. class and we would do 10 minutes of silent reading at the beginning of every class. I would read as well. The Stand by Stephen King was the book I was engaged in at the time. Our 10 minutes was up and I was just at the exciting part of the story and I couldn’t stop! We read for the whole 50 minute class, mainly because I was unable to tear myself away.
I have dampened many a pillow when brought to tears by an author’s creation of characters and plot line AND I have turned out my light during early morning hours because I have not been able to put those characters and plot down for a few hours to sleep.
Last year, I started a book club for my grade 8 Social Studies classes. I picked Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus because it fit with our curricular study of Japan’s Edo and Meiji periods.
I had 6 or 7 kids who read the book and 4 girls who actually showed up to the book club meeting. However, I wasn’t discouraged…the girls that came were completely enthusiastic and excited about the book and about actually having an in depth discussion about it. When we were done, they expressed a strong desire to do this again, and I promised them that we would.
So now, I am following through with that promise. This time I have opened the book club up to any and all students in the middle grades (5-9) who are interested and I have invited all the teachers and parents as well. Our choice this time is The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.
I’m really hoping to share the excitement and enthusiasm that the four girls showed during our book club last year. The more opportunities students get to read and talk about their reading without the pressure of assessment, the more successful they will be when they are being assessed. Parents and teachers will also be able to do some great modelling and involvement in their child’s school lives.