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February 15, 2008

School Book Clubs

Posted by carol
My note in the newsletter last week about book clubs in schools and high school summer reading brought some good suggestions from readers. For those of you who missed it, I was pondering why schools have clubs for sports, arts, theatre, music and seemingly everything else under the sun, but not book clubs. The idea of reading for pleasure and talking about it seems like it would be a natural, but it's not.

Our readers weighed in with some ideas and feedback on this.

Cammie said, "I emphatically agree with you about having a book club in high schools. What a wonderful way for young people to embrace reading, not only for the pure enjoyment of it but for the learning aspect as well. I've been reading since I was old enough to get a library card ( and before that as well) my teenaged years included. I was never "popular" in high school, so reading for me was my oasis. I would have loved to have been involved in a book club then!" Her suggestions: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

On the topic of high school summer reading, Marion weighed in with this. " I have a friend who is head of the English department at one of our local high schools. She turned me on to Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Kids would LOVE it. It's not too long, with lots to talk about and very very clever. If the kids are reading "Farenheit 451", this would make a wonderful side read." My older son read this book and really enjoyed it.

Carolyn from Cincinnati suggested the following titles. "I liked Nineteen Minutes but I like Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas even better and would suggest it for high school students. Most students know little about the incarceration of Asians during WWII and the impact in the neighborhoods. I particularly like Dallas' writing as she does not exploit sex and violence in her books.

Some schools use A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd in their curriculum. If your son's classmates have not read those two, they generate marvelous discussion about race, obligation to family and other topics that are concerns for young people."

MH weighed in with the following, "Having taught high school English, I would suggest books about teenagers for a high school book club. An old standard would be A Separate Peace by John Knowles. Newer suggestions might be The Book of Marie by Terry Kay (To Dance with the White Dog) or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. She goes on to mention that "although it isn't a high school, my granddaughter is in a book club at her school, Woodward Academy, in Atlanta. She is in 2nd grade and read (an abridged version of) Marley and Me last month."

Mary who works at a library had the following ideas, "I read a book not long ago that I thought would be a great book for teens. It's called The Penny, by Joyce Meyer. Now you might ask, how did I happen to pick it up to read, especially since I'm a mere 63 years old. Well, I read mostly audio books because if I'm not doing two things at once, then I'm wasting time! This was an audio book and we don't catalog young adult audio books separately from the adult audio books. Before the first CD was over, I was already thinking that it would be a good book for teens, and then I hit that barrier again: How do we connect the books and the teens? Your idea of a book club at school is a good way to reach a limited number of teens and I could go for that!

We've struggled for years to find a way to connect teens with our books. My first, and I think best thought, is to make a separate section for teens only. I picture a nice corner with a sofa or cushy chairs, low square table -- large -- and floor cushions. The shelving in this corner would contain young adult books, audio books, and rotating fiction and non-fiction choices from the adult book collection that we think would motivate teens to look inside and see what it says. Unfortunately, our town is small as is our library. There is no room to do something like this.

I would be interested in any ideas you might have on the subject. I'll definitely look into whether our High School has ever tried to start a teen book club. A small inroad into that age group is better than none!"

Soooo great ideas from readers on this subject. I will add more as I get them.