Thursday, January 17, 2013

Variation on a Book Club

Warrior Cats
A few months ago, while chatting with a fellow homeschooling mom and the children's librarian after an event, the topic of book clubs came up.  The other mom was sharing experiences her children had at recent book club meetings.  Many times the books were not of interest to her kids or it was obvious that others had not read them and couldn't contribute to discussions.  We wanted to look at starting our own book club, but finding the right book would be tricky.  Our pool of children would be small and span a wide group of ages.   

And then I threw out an idea,  "Why do they all have to read the same book?  Why can't we just allow each child to read what they want to read and then share with the group?" 

Therefore sealing my doom to start a new book club based on this idea.

In all honesty, this project has been an easy one with much support from those involved.  The librarian made the children's section of the library available to us an hour before opening on the days we will be meeting.  She also suggested that we bring lunches and have time to just hang out after our discussions.  I found a book in  my pile of resources, The Reading Teacher's Book of Lists with a section titled, "Book Report Alternatives".  This is a list of 50 ideas for sharing a book with others, including examples like number 25, compare the movie and book versions of the same story, or number 38, paint a mural that shows the key incidents in the story.  I shared this idea list with the parents that planned to attend.  Our local homeschooling parents have a Meetup group, so I posted the event on there. The most difficult part of the project came next.

I had to get the boys motivated to work on their presentations.

EM chose the final book in the first series of the Warrior Cats books, The Darkest Hour,  as his book for the meeting.  I told him it might be a good idea to just share about the world of the Warrior Cats, instead of focusing on the plot of the book he chose.  I knew it would be difficult not to give any spoilers to the story if he went into very much detail about that book.  He sat down with a couple of index cards and made his notes.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly he took on this task.

book club poster
 JT chose the book Stowaway by Karen Hesse.  This story is historical fiction about a young man who stows away on James Cook's first voyage on the Endeavour.  JT made a poster showing the route of the journey and also historical maps from before the trip to show how maps changed after these exploratory journeys.

The day of the book club meeting we packed our lunches and book projects and headed off to the library.  The only other family to show up for the first meeting was the mom from the original discussion.  I had high hopes that more would take part, but I have learned not to expect too much when starting something new.  I was just happy that we had enough kids to have a meeting.

In all, there were five participants from age 9 to 14.  Everyone shared a book they were either currently reading or had recently finished.  Several wonderful discussions were sparked by the speakers.  Warrior Cats turned out to be a favorite of a few.  Two shared books that were based on video game worlds and that led to much discussion.  The librarian helped to facilitate when the speakers were unsure of what they wanted to say.  When all had shared their books, we broke out our lunches and kept the discussion going.

We ended up staying at the library for almost four hours that day.  My boys and another participant logged on to the library computers while I chatted with the adults.  Hopefully next time we will have a larger crowd to share the fun.

In the end, my homeschooling mindset of one size does NOT fit all, worked well with the book club.  Not everyone is going to want to read the same book...and they shouldn't HAVE to in order to participate in a book club. It's already difficult enough to get most kids to sit down and read a book when they have so many other options for entertainment. Hopefully, the book club discussions will bring new books to their attention, allowing them to expand their reading options.

Reading has always been one of my absolute favorite things to do.  I want my boys to share in that joy.  Nothing beats getting immersed in the world of a book. 

And that adventure should never be turned into a chore.

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