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Words to Worms: YA Book Club in the Library

By: Laurie Katusin Swallen, Library Media Specialist at Tuslaw Local Schools

Since I became the librarian in our high school, I wondered what it would be like to have a book club in the library. I questioned if students would be interested and if they would participate. When could I have it and how could I make it fun? Would a book club be successful in our high school?

This year, I decided to jump in. I had to consider the logistics of making a book club work in our school—such as when to have it, where to meet, and how to get kids interested in coming. To start, I chose a book I thought would be popular (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), and I began to publicize the club through the morning announcements and flyers. I talked to my workers about it and asked other kids I knew were readers. The good news was that there was definitely interest. Before our meeting, students were to read the book and come prepared to talk.

In my district, we have four lunch periods, but often, students have a lunch in one of the first two lunch periods with a study hall the opposite period. In a forty–two minute block, they have a study hall and lunch. I decided to meet during those early lunch periods and to provide pizza and drinks.
I was worried about students being able to get the book because we only carried one copy in our high school. I did try to get copies through the public library, but unfortunately, because the book was being released as a movie, the books were not available quickly. What I soon discovered was the students were very resourceful. They would finish the book and share their own book with a peer. They worked around homework and who had more time to read. Never has a kid not participated because they have been unable to get a book—the kids checked with each other and somehow, all had access.

Before our first meeting, I did some research on the novel and pulled together some questions in case our conversation lagged. The only other preparation was ordering the pizza, reading the book, and the promotion (creation of flyers and an announcement). Students signed up in the library, and I sent a reminder through our school email.

The day of our first Book Club meeting, I was a bit nervous about how it would go. We have a separate room in the library with longer tables, and we pulled them all together so that we could sit in a group. We ate and had a spirited discussion on the characters, themes, and what students loved or disliked about the book. At the end of our meeting, I passed out a sheet with possible choices for books for our next Book Club. Students read the descriptions and voted on the next book. I am always surprised by the next book choice, as it never seems to be the one I think they will pick.
This year, we met four times—October, December, March, and May. I feel as if thisis the right amount for us because it takes time for students to read around schoolwork and their jobs. Also, as I mentioned earlier, students tend to share books, so this allows for time for the kids to read and pass on their copy. This year, we read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Anderson, Replica by Lauren Oliver, and This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp.

As the year has progressed, Book Club provided many wonderful surprises. Students who do not usually come to the library are signing up. I started with about ten kids at our October meeting, and our May Book Club had 19 students and five teachers. Everyone is always excited to discuss, and some can barely stand to wait until our meeting. For our December and March meetings, students wanted to have a potluck. We have not only read good books and had awesome discussions, but we have also eaten extremely well while doing so! This experience has come to be one of my favorite parts of my job. I love the students’ excitement and enthusiasm, and I cannot wait to hear how they feel about what we are reading. Teachers are signing up to participate, and each meeting, more teachers attend. Our students love to see their teachers in this less formal setting. Book Club has been a wonderful addition to our high school library; it has brought together a community of readers and given us all something wonderful to look forward to throughout the school year.