It should come as no surprise that reading is extremely valuable for children starting at birth and spreading throughout the course of their lives. It is the foundation for every subject and is one of the best tools educators can equip their students with. According to “The Joy and Power of Reading”, “Children who are routinely read to day in and day out—and immersed in rich talk about books and the various activities in which they are engaged—thrive.” Book clubs are one way to get students reading, talking, and thinking about text. Below is some advice on creating your own virtual book club for students.
Student Choice When Picking Books
Kate DiCamillo, a popular author, once said, “Reading should not be presented to a child as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” Giving students choice in the types of books they read is very important. Think about reading as an adult. When you select a book to curl up on your couch with you choose from genres, authors, or subjects you enjoy. It is much harder to read when you don’t like the book. The same goes for children. Let them have as much say as possible when selecting books. Take a class vote or offer a few titles and place students in groups based on which text they chose. You will find that students are much more likely to complete their work when they have some ownership and interest in their tasks.
Encourage Students to Get to Know Each Other
Once you have established your book club groupings (whether that be one book read as a whole class or several books in smaller groups), encourage students to get to know each other. For most students, it is much easier to talk to peers they know and trust than to strangers. Start off the first book club session with icebreaker games, have students post a get-to-know-me collage, or have every student post a Flipgrid sharing two fun facts about themselves. Making connections amongst each other will help facilitate better discussion throughout the book club and in general throughout their eLearning experiences.
Let Students Lead
A great deal can be gained from letting students lead the discussion. Sure, having questions or talking points is helpful to guide conversation. But let kids talk about what excites them in the text. If students spend the entire discussion on one section of text, let them. If they venture off the initial question and go a different route altogether, let them. This helps students become confident contributors and eliminates the need to cut students off to get through a designated amount of questions that they may not even be interested in discussing.
Get the Most Out of Your Time
In order to get the most out of the time your book club has together, it is important for educators to have their students come prepared. Assign portions of the book that need to be completed. Provide students with videos, worksheets, or websites they can review ahead of time. Not only does this give them guidance and purpose for completing the reading but also better prepares them for the discussion ahead. Better prepared students will contribute more and thus take away more from their virtual club. Set your students up for success so they can easily succeed.
Utilize Text-to-Self Questions
In order for students to gain the skills they need to not only read but to comprehend, students need strategies to help them self-monitor. Reading with strategy helps readers monitor their thinking and make connections between themselves, other texts, and the world. Students are actively thinking when they are making connections, and this makes for a much more engaged reader and reading experience. Provide students with text-to-self questions they can ask during portions of the book. Or, have students write down questions they asked themselves while reading and bring those questions along to the discussion. Text-to-self questioning can be used in a variety of ways and is very helpful for keeping students focused on the text.
Emphasize Preparation as Part of Participation
To have a successful virtual book club, students need to come prepared. If students feel it is easy in a classroom setting to sit back and let others do the talking, this can be even easier in a virtual setting. As educators, student preparation can be key for ensuring all students participate. Offer ways for students to contribute in a variety of ways, so everyone feels comfortable. Ask students to come to discussion with a drawing of their favorite character, with a quote that stood out to them, or with a question they’d like to ask the teacher. These sorts of ideas give even the quieter students a voice and helps to not put pressure on them or put them on the spot in front of their classmates.
Developing a love and appreciation for reading is one of the most valuable gifts a teacher can give their students. By creating a virtual book club that gives students choice, helps them get to know their classmates, and builds their confidence in contributing to conversation, lifelong reading habits can be fostered and a strong reading foundation can be laid. Try out a virtual book club using some of the suggestions above, and see how excited your students get about reading!