The growth of library clubs in recent years shoo out the “shhh” and bring in the activities that help make libraries not only a place for learning but a place for learning to love to read. We spoke with librarians at two elementary schools and one high school with successful clubs to share their stories.
Paula Morgan at Sampson Elementary started her first library club last year. At her opening book talk, she promoted the idea of a dedicated time to read for fun. Enthusiastic fifth-grade teachers passed out signup sheets and 25 students signed up for the first club. “We had a ball!” remembers Paula. The first book was a personal favorite of hers and the kids loved Sasquatch Escape just as much as she did. Paula contacted the author, Suzanne Selfors, who then kindly offered a skype visit with the club which was the icing on the reading cake.
Kids bring their lunch to the library for the Fifth Grade Book Club, a time that works ideally for them and their parents. Paula will be offering the book club four times this school year, beginning with Mary Amato’s beloved The Word Eater. She was (happily) shocked when 92 students signed up—about half the kids in the grade. With the help of a keen instructional coach and a librarian parent from a local community college, Paula has made it work, even with the dramatic increase.
One cost-saving tip from Paula is that she picks books from the state awards list so that she knows that other schools in her district have books that she can borrow. Her newest book, The Golly Whopper Games, was announced last week and six of the 52 children who signed up read the book over the weekend. One, bless him, wanted to reread it one more time because he loved it so much.
- Don’t limit the number of kids
- Pick books that are easily accessible
- Make it work if it’s more successful than you anticipated
- Take advantage of serendipity such as enthusiastic authors offering skype visits!
Christine Margocs at Sommer Elementary has two different clubs that make the library both their home and their resource. Chris works with both the Newspaper Club consisting of rotating fourth grade teams, and the Fifth Grade Book Lunch Bunch.
The Newspaper Club has several teams of 8-10 students who publish and upload a school newspaper via Google S’More. Sommer Elementary is in a Google district so the kids all have gmail accounts and can collaborate on Google Drive. Chris is the constant for the Newspaper Club and helps the students learn how to do research, how to evaluate sources, how to find images—in other words, she helps them acquire library skills and immediately put those skills into practice with tangible results.
Chris just started her lunch book club and 32 students signed up immediately. “I gave them the option of reading a book as a group or discussing books they are reading personally,” she notes. The form also included genre preferences so Chris was able to put together groups with similar interests and goals.
One especially fun idea is her “mystery book” option. Chris wraps three books and provides just enough information about each title to intrigue the kids. They vote on their selection and then the book is revealed. The discussion groups include five students. They are welcome to swap groups as long as there are consistently five in each group.
Chris’ goal is for the library to be regarded as an exciting and active place. With multiple book clubs, journalists-in-training, and mystery books to lend suspense, there is no doubt that Sommer Elementary’s library is full of energy and discovery.
- Create a form that asks the students about type of club, preferred genres
- Find natural fits such as coordination with the Newspaper Club
- Create some extra excitement with “mystery book” options
Sandy Jones at Langham Creek High School uses her library club to help her with acquisition and she does not require that certain books be read unless they are preparing for an author event. They meet on Wednesdays during lunch and talk about books they have either read or heard about. Sandy also takes advantage of her Library Club members’ expertise, especially for graphic novels.
Students come from all grades and select the genres they want to read. A private Instagram account is the platform where they share ratings and reviews. Sandy also passes around Advance Reading Copies for the students to read. If a student is keen on a book, he or she places a flag on the book and those with the most flags go to the top of the acquisition list.
“Many are aspiring writers and we actively look for opportunities to write,” explains Sandy. She recently found a contest where the students write a letter to a favorite author and the winner will receive $1000. By finding these opportunities, Sandy is helping her Library Club members learn more about the craft of writing and how the publishing world works. One of her students self-published a book that did so well on Amazon that Barnes & Noble is now carrying the title!
Next, the library club is creating content for their own YouTube channel, providing yet another venue and format to talk about books they care about.
- Take advantage of your experts
- Readers are often writers—look for ways and means to write!
- Social media, whether public or private, can build their critical muscles
These clubs all started within the last five years! It’s never too late to start a library club and the excitement can be contagious. You may find yourself, like Paula, in a school where it’s “cool to read” or, like Chris, guiding young journalists, or, like Sandy, helping a future author find his or her voice. Whatever you do, library clubs can both increase the volumes being read and the volume level of your library space so that anyone can witness the engagement and excitement of the students.