I recently had the opportunity to participate in an online book club and it’s made me hope that all of our students have similar experiences as readers, inside and outside of our classrooms.
In addition to the many education and leadership blogs I follow, I also follow a number of healthy living blogs. One of those bloggers, who happens to read and share her thoughts on many Young Adolescent novels (especially dystopian society stories), invited her readers to participate in a book club together. She announced the book- The Circle, by Dave Eggers- and encouraged her readers to message her if they wanted to participate. She created a private Facebook group and invited interested readers into the group. That process began in early November, with the announcement that we would discuss the book beginning on December 1. Having never participated in an online book club before, I didn’t know what to expect. I began to read at my own pace, keeping the December 1 deadline in mind along with my other work and personal obligations. With over three weeks notice, I could set a reading schedule that wasn’t stressful for myself. Because I knew I would be participating in the online discussion, I had ownership of not only finishing my reading but making relevant notes I hoped to discuss with the group. This, as well as the interesting story concept, kept me engaged throughout the month leading up to our discussion date.
On the night before December 1 the facilitator of our group posted an explanation of how our book club would work. Each day for the following week she would be posting a question for us all to respond to. Each morning I was excited to log on, read the question, and see what others had already posted in response. Each evening I enjoyed going back through all the comments that were posted after mine, seeing who I agreed with or disagreed with, and who sparked a new thought for me. Midway through the first “discussion” our facilitator introduced a second group leader who would help keep the conversation going and who would also contribute questions. This was a great way to build capacity of another leader and bring in a different perspective throughout the week.
At the end of the week, most of the posters were clambering for a commitment to read another book together and to have an even more open discussion in our Facebook group. Our facilitator asked for book suggestions and many people have shared what sound like great novels! As we wait to hear what book we will be reading next, I am busy making connections to our students as readers. Many years ago, in my own middle school classroom, I facilitated a variety of student book clubs. However, those were very much led by me, with the students participating through my directions and support. Thinking about my own recent experience and knowing now what I didn’t know then, I would handle book clubs in a different way. I would keep these ideas in mind:
- Voice and choice matter – I’ve said this in regard to coaching teachers, I’ve discussed in when reflecting on leadership and professional development, and I will repeat it again when thinking about students. Students are more likely to be positively engaged in book clubs if they have a choice in their reading material and discussion topics as well as if their voice is heard throughout the process.
- Writing supports reading and thinking- Having to write out responses to online questions helped me formulate my thoughts more articulately. In addition, the act of reading others’ responses helped make the connection between reading the novel and discussing the content with others more meaningful.
- Online collaborations are powerful- I participated in this book club in my own time, at my own pace. The fact that it was online allowed me to respond to questions while eating my breakfast in the morning or read others’ responses after dinner in the evenings, all from the comfort of my own couch. I wasn’t motivated by a grade or a requirement, but my own interest, not only in the book, but in the thoughts of strangers from around the world. The people who participated in this book club were from various countries and professions and brought such unique perspectives to the conversations- ideas I wouldn’t have considered on my own or within my personal circle. What if students used online collaborations in this way?
What about you? Have you ever participated in an online book club? Have you read The Circle? I’d love to hear your thoughts!