As we anticipate the coming of spring, I look forward to the fresh blossoms of new life springing forth. The dormant seeds buried beneath the snow are surely building in anticipation as well, moving toward their moment of arrival. Perhaps all of nature celebrates their “coming out” with grandiosity. As our students become more independent as readers and thinkers, they too blossom as they take on the act of participation within Book Clubs. In moving toward more independence, there is much that takes place before Book Clubs even begin in a classroom, as it is the instructional context in which the teacher offers the least support. The best gauge for determining a child’s readiness is his ability to think deeply and converse during the contexts of Interactive Read-Aloud and Guided Reading. When readers have developed the ability to build in-depth discussions that are centered around an engaging text, we see powerful learning take place.
Sometimes referred to as Literature Study or Literature Circles, Book Clubs have the potential to expand readers’ understanding of an array of texts while increasing their enjoyment of reading. Opportunities for thinking within, beyond, and about the text while collaborating with others to reflect on, analyze, and be critical expands reading comprehension and the appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of literature. Readers, like freshly blossoming buds, grow to a more sophisticated level of thinking while developing a sense of agency in the intellectual life they share with others. Their ideas are valued, rather than evaluated. Book Clubs are inquiry-based so readers try out tentative ideas and search for information to confirm or refute their thinking (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001). They also build on others’ ideas, using language to “grope towards a meaning” (Barnes, 1992).
If you haven’t engaged your intermediate learners in the practice of Book Clubs, or you’d like more information about this integral component of the Reading Workshop, I encourage you to investigate chapters 17-20 in Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency: Thinking, Talking, and Writing About Reading, K-8 (2006), and/or chapters 15-17 in Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6: Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy (2001), both by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Your readers deserve to celebrate authentic, powerful engagement with text with grandiose opportunities for blooming.
Barnes, D. (1992). From Communication to Curriculum, second edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (2001). Guiding Readers and Writers Grades 3-6: Teaching
Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Fountas, I.C. & Pinnell, G.S. (2006). Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency: Thinking,
Talking, and Writing About Reading, K-8. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.