Connecting With Readers – Lunch Bunch Book Club
One of my driving philosophies when teaching reading is this: Teach kids to do things that real readers do.
In essence, this means I want students to develop the patterns, strategies, and behaviors lifelong readers – both children and adults – use in their everyday reading lives. After all, why spend time teaching something students don’t need and won’t use? Students are savvy; they know when something is useless and they stop paying attention.
As I honed and developed this method of thinking, I would run into the same roadblock every year – book clubs. I would read professional literature about how to facilitate amazing book clubs. I would listen to teachers describe the deep conversations students were having. I would read blog posts offering step-by-step instructions about how to organize the perfect classroom book club.
One problem. It never worked for me. EVER. No matter how much I read or how motivating the books were, it simply didn’t work. Some students would be finished with the book when we were only supposed to discuss chapter two. Others would start the book and have great success, but when they had to wait for the meeting, they would lose interest and move on to other books. A few students would secretly try to sneak in some reading of a book they loved instead of their book club book.
I was fighting the wrong battles. And I was losing.
The reason I was losing was because what I was asking didn’t make sense. What adult book club decides to read only the first three chapters in a fiction book, have everyone stop reading, and then discuss? Nobody. Especially not in a fiction book. (Nonfiction might be different.) Why was I demanding that students put aside the book in which they were deeply engaged just so they could be ready for our next meeting?
My solution? I scrapped the whole system. There would be no more sludging through a book you didn’t want to read in my room. Everyone was happier. However, I did miss some of the discussions we sometimes had. Occasionally, a student would discover a favorite book through a book club, and even though they were a struggle, I did enjoy exposing kids to books they might not have picked up otherwise.
Finally, I found a middle ground – Lunch Bunch Book Club. It’s amazing. It’s also amazingly simple. At the beginning of each month, I do a book talk about a book I enjoy. I announce the date we will hold the discussion, and I leave a bunch of copies of the book on a table. Students who are interested can read it; those who aren’t, don’t. Throughout the month, when a student finishes the book, they let me know. At the end of the month, anyone who reads the book comes and eats lunch in the room as we talk about the book. It’s wonderful!
The reason it works is because it is real. When adult readers meet at a book club, they have all finished the book and there is food. It works for kids too! It creates a memorable experience and help you connect with your readers. I hope you give it a try!