The 21st Century Version of the Book Club

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 -- Stephanie Abbott

At some point, most of us have probably been part of a book club. The monthly reading selection came from a bestseller list. You met at a neighbor’s house and spent an evening sharing ideas. No matter your experience, it’s a great way to promote reading, socialize, and hear others’ perspectives—all activities that are critical in education as well. So how can the book club get a new look for the 21st century classroom? A quick Google™ search on the topic yields millions of results—that’s no shortage of inspiration! Here are a couple of my favorite ideas help book clubs make the digital leap and appeal to today’s students.

Many schools are adopting 1:1 or BYOD programs to take greater advantage of the technology available to their students. Why not utilize these devices for digital book clubs? The McArthur Public Library and Biddeford Intermediate School in Maine have developed a great partnership to do just that. The library hosts a student book club, which makes use of both the students’ own devices and the library’s technology. Students in the group regularly tweet their thoughts and questions to the authors they are reading (and often get a response!). The project maintains a blog where students can post reviews or “digital trailer” videos that they are encouraged to create. The program’s coordinators also set up Skype visits with authors and other students across the country who are reading the same books. Close coordination and resource sharing between the library and school has cultivated enthusiasm for the book club and helped a large and diverse group of students develop a love of reading.

Today, there is no need to have a hard copy book for each student. Look to a digital solution to extend your supply of books! For instance, Reading Eggs, Edmentum’s learn-to-read program for pre-K–6th grade students, offers a library that includes over 2,000 e-books. Search for books by genre, keyword, or reading level. Like a modern day version of a card catalogue, you’ll get the information that you need to make the best choice for your students. Encourage your learners to search through the library for themselves, perhaps even nominating the next book for your class to read! When students access the Reading Eggs library from their individual accounts, they have the ability to save their favorite books, take comprehension quizzes to earn rewards, and even write their very own reviews for their peers to read! After all, as this Washington Post article points out: “Nothing contributes to a student’s interest in (and proficiency at) reading more than the opportunity to read books that he or she has chosen.”

Regardless of the method you choose—whether paper or digital, virtual or face-to-face—a book club can work wonders to get your students excited about reading. Students certainly enjoy the social aspect that discussion provides and benefit from the sharing of ideas. Furthermore, the experiences that reading connects students to—seeing characters work through a plight or overcome a challenge or simply enjoying a ridiculous tale of adventure—build empathy and compassion. Hopefully, your book club endeavor will expand hearts and minds and open your students to new ideas.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s engaging learn-to read programs based on the five pillars of reading? Explore Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress!

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