Now Forming Book Clubs for Kids, Preteens, & Their Caring Adults!

Interested in starting a facilitated book club with or for your child/preteen? You’ve come to the right place!

This past September, I started facilitating after school and evening book clubs for kids and their caring adults. It has been an incredibly fun, new adventure! Currently, I am reserving space for book clubs for the summer of 2023 and the 2023-24 school year. I have just a few spots left for new clubs. If you’re interested in starting a club with your child/preteen for the summer, school year, or both, send me an email at cnosekliteracy@gmail.com.

FAQs

What do book clubs look like?
Book clubs involve a group of five to ten kids/preteens and their caring adults who gather to participate in casual and engaging facilitated book discussions. All kids/preteens participate in club discussions. Some adults choose to participate while others choose to just read the book beforehand. My role as facilitator for each club meeting involves selecting books based on group input, creating and providing discussion guides, and keeping the discussion lively, engaging, and focused during the book club meeting.

Who is this for?
The book clubs are for upper elementary/middle grade kids/preteens (3rd through 7th grade) and a caring adult in their lives. A caring adult could be a parent, caregiver, aunt, uncle, grandparent, etc. If you’d like to share reading with your child or you would like to give your child the opportunity to read many different types of books, this is for you! If your child loves reading, this is an opportunity for them to share books with other readers in a casual, engaging environment. If your child does not enjoy reading quite yet, the club is one way to start to try to change that. Making reading a social experience often boosts kids’ interest in books!

How do clubs form?
To get a book club going, one or two adults act as the group organizers who ask other parents and their kids to join the club. Clubs typically consist of neighborhood, school, or other groups of friends. Once the members of the book club are confirmed by organizing parents, I work with them to determine dates and times for the club meetings. Then, I take care of the organization and facilitation for the duration of the club’s season, whether it be a summer or school year.

Where/when do the clubs take place?
Club meetings take place in-person or on Zoom. I serve the San Francisco Peninsula/South Bay Area, specifically anywhere between San Jose/Los Gatos and San Francisco for in-person book club meetings. Forming a Zoom book club is available for those outside of the SF Peninsula and South Bay Area. In-person book clubs take place in comfortable, casual environments: the homes of participants. Each club determines a location for each meeting ahead of time. Summer clubs will meet once or twice to discuss one or two books. School year clubs will meet five to seven times throughout the school year to discuss selected books spanning different genres.

What is the kid/preteen’s role in the club?
The role of each child or preteen in the club is to read the selected book before each club meeting, read and think about the discussion guide, and participate during each meeting. Some choose to verbally participate in meetings more than others. Some prefer to listen more than talk. All engage in a mix of listening to each others’ perspectives and responding with their own ideas which leads to deeper understanding than what might take place as a solo reader. All levels of participation and ideas are always honored and welcome.

What is the caring adult’s role in the club?
Adults agree to provide their child/preteen with the selected book for each meeting. It is highly encouraged to use your local library or independent book shop. Some adults choose to read the selected books and participate in the discussions. Others choose to read the books for conversation with their child/preteen before the group discussion, but do not participate in the larger group discussion itself. It’s up to each adult and their personal preference. Either way, each book read will give kids/preteens and their caring adults a lot to talk about.

How are books selected and what guides the discussion?
I carefully take each group’s needs and preferences into consideration when choosing books for each club meeting. Selection considerations include genre preferences, past books read, and much more. A wide range of experiences and perspectives is always included in book selection. No two books will be alike! All clubs and readers are different, so choices are tailored for each individual group. All books chosen are written by highly acclaimed and often award-winning children’s and middle grade authors. Books are revealed a month before each meeting so participants have time to read before the group discussion. I also create and provide discussion guides tailored to each individual group. Guides help with ideas for consideration and thinking/talking points for each discussion.

What is the cost?
Prices vary depending on your location, number of participants, and number of club meetings. Send me an email at cnosekliteracy@gmail.com to learn more.

*As much as I love discussing books with the students at the school where I’m a teacher, my after-school/evening book clubs are not available to current students at my own school

#7 & #8: Read Aloud and Book Talk Daily

This post covers the seventh and eighth topics in the Building a Reading Community blog series to kick off the 2022-23 school year. All posts in the series can be found here.

Nothing quite ignites the fire within a reading community more than daily read alouds and book talks. These two practices will not only build your classroom community of readers, but they will also work together to ignite a love of reading in your students.

More on Read Alouds

Reading aloud with students is quite possibly my favorite time of our school day. Every read aloud is an opportunity for students build yet another connection with me and each other. Each new read aloud is a shared experience that we all now have in common. While read alouds can be instructional, my absolute favorite for community building are read alouds just for the sake of sharing a story together. Maria Walther offers a reminder that, “First and foremost, a read aloud should be a joyful celebration.” (Ramped Up Read Aloud, pg. 1). I wholeheartedly agree.

click here for live links to learn about children’s books

To read aloud with students, simply choose a book, gather students in the meeting area of the classroom, and read! If you’re interested in planning more in-depth read alouds and interactive/instructional read alouds in the classroom, chapter 3 of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading has you covered. Additionally, to learn more about which books to read, appendix E, offers a list of great sources to consult when looking for books to read aloud.

One important thing to note that I’ve learned in my 21 years as an elementary school teacher is that some books have staying power while others just don’t. If students are not enjoying it or learning from it, it’s time to let the read aloud go. Additionally, not every book is worthy of reading aloud. Weening books and being mindful of problematic titles is an important part of an elementary teacher’s job. To learn more about weeding books and spotting problematic titles, check out the work of Dr. Laura Jiménez.

More on Book Talks

Books talks are used to introduce students to a book and all that it has to offer. They do not need to be long or complicated. A book talk can be as simple as showing the cover of the book and reading the preview on the back or offering a partial summary to get readers excited about it without giving away any spoilers. I try to give one or two book talks each morning in our morning circle. Sometimes, I book talk an entire book box. I did this a couple days ago after reading aloud Kwame Alexander’s How to Read A Book. After the read aloud, I introduced my students to many of his novels in verse with a book box talk. Now, a few students are reading those books that were book talked! Eventually, the familiar procedure of book talking is turned over to students. If giving book talks is new to you, take a look at the Book Talk Teacher Tool that matches your grade level.

All posts in this blog series can be found linked here. More information and classroom tips about book talks and read alouds can be found in chapter three of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading

#6 Make Use of Common Procedures and Language

This is the sixth post in the Building a Reading Community blog series to kick off the 2022-23 school year. All posts in the series can be found here.

One lesson I learned in my early years as a teacher was that students learn more, I have more time to teach, and the classroom seems to work more smoothly when everyone in the room is on the same page with our use of language and procedures. This may not seem critical or important, but when these things aren’t in place, lots of teaching and learning time is wasted due to continual explanation and re-explanation of where to go, where to find things, what to bring, what to do, and how to do it.

A big part of being a member of a community is knowing the terms used and expected procedures and routines for how things work. For example, when I say, “Readers, meet me in the meeting area for reading workshop,” my students know it means it’s time to grab their reading notebook, pencil, and current book, walk to the meeting area, and sit next to their literacy partner because the lesson is going to start soon. This does not happen by chance. Rather, it happens intentionally with explanation and practice at the start of the school year. Eventually, it becomes a natural, expected part of our day to day community. Everyone is in-the-know and our reading learning starts off seamlessly without too much fuss or confusion.

If students forget what they need to bring or do, there is a co-created chart for reference displayed in the room. All it takes is the point of a finger or reminder from a friend to check the chart to support students who need a nudge. The chart is also helpful for guest teachers, new students, and visitors to welcome them into our community.

Plus, when a common set of procedures and language are in place, students feel supported and safe. They feel in community with everyone else who share the common procedures and language.

Every classroom community is comprised of unique individuals who make it a special place to teach and learn. The terms and procedures in my classroom might look a little different than the terms and procedures in your classroom. Spending time explaining, co-creating, teaching, practicing, and learning the terms and procedures in your classroom at the very start of the year will be time well spent that will make your students feel safe and confident and will ultimately save you a ton of instructional minutes in the future.

Up Next in the Series: #7 & #8: Read Aloud & Book Talk Daily. All posts in this blog series can be found linked here. More information and classroom tips about building a reading community can be found in chapter one of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading

#5: Teach Kids How to Choose Books

This is the fifth post in the Building a Reading Community blog series to kick off the 2022-23 school year. All posts in the series can be found here.

I just spent the first two days of school with my new group of 5th graders. We are already on our way to growing into a community of readers. Over the past two days, I observed my fifth graders choosing and reading books from browsing boxes set at each table. I also spent a lot of time listening to their conversations to learn more about them.

In a couple days, I’m going to give our first book choice lesson of the year. Years ago when I set students free in the classroom library prior to teaching about choice, I noticed some students didn’t know where to start and seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the reading options. This caused some of them to just grab a book without previewing it, which in many cases led to unengaged reading or repeated book abandonment. Because of this, I started explicitly teaching students how to choose books.

Two Questions to Consider When Teaching Book CHoice
  1. Interest: Does this book look like it will interest me?
  2. Readability: Do I understand what I’m reading?

Inviting students to ask themselves these two questions (or versions of the questions) when considering whether or not to select and stick with a book has the power to guide them in an authentic, transferrable way each time choice arises.

The way these questions are framed and explained in the lower and upper grades will vary. For example, when thinking about question two, in a first grade class, I might ask students to consider if they can read most of the words on a page yet. If not, this is a book that might be saved and understood for later instead of a book to read right now.* I avoid the terms “just right” and “at your level” because those are fixed, rigid, and often have a negative connotation with young readers. Instead, I opt toward language that emphasizes growth and learning. I’ve found students engage more in this deep thinking about their choices when it’s framed as “books to read now,” and then “books to look forward to reading later.” Those books for later can even be saved on a to-be-read list. Students learn that the more they grow and learn as readers, the more books they will be able to read and enjoy in the future!

In a fourth grade class, it will look and sound a little different. I might invite students to ask themselves if they want to talk about the book with a friend after trying out a few pages. If it is a book they do not want to talk about or a book that just isn’t holding their interest, it’s time to pick a new book. The big idea is that I want to give students tools and strategies so they can successfully choose books on their own. Much more is involved in book choice, but this is a good starting point to think about the language of book choice in the elementary classroom. Pages 49-54 in  Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading go much more in depth.

Keep in Mind
  • Book choice is an art, not a science. It might be messy and mistakes will be made. Embrace these times as learning opportunities for next instructional steps.
  • One lesson on book choice is never enough for all students. Some students will likely still need your support with choosing books they can read and want to read. Teach toward independence, but don’t expect it immediately.
  • *While kids must have access to books they can accurately read (decode and understand), they also need to explore books of high interest- even if they can’t yet decode all the words. For example, if a 1st grader wants to read a book about dinosaurs but can’t decode all the words, of course you encourage them to keep that book! They can have that book AND books they can accurately decode. Book choice is nuanced and complex. To learn more about the different types of books (emergent story books, decodables, etc.) that will especially support kindergarten and first grade readers, take a look at pages 96-100 in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading.

Up Next in the Series: #6: Make Use of Common Procedures and Language. All posts in this blog series can be found linked here. To learn more about teaching students how to choose books, take a look at pages 49-54, 86, and 115 in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading. Additionally, Kari Yates and I wrote an entire chapter about teaching book choice in our 2018 book, To Know and Nurture a Reader.

#4: Make the Shift to Asset-Based Thinking

This is the fourth post in the Building a Reading Community blog series to kick off the 2022-23 school year. All posts in the series can be found here.

One of the more powerful things a teacher can do to both positively build a reading community and enhance teaching and learning is to embrace the mind shift of seeking out what students are doing as opposed to what they are not doing.

When students feel valued and that their strengths are seen and honored before all else, many positives will arise. Some of the benefits I noticed in my own classroom when I made this shift years ago were that students became more likely to share, their motivation grew, they felt safer to take risks in their learning, and they started to support and lift each other up more.

If making the shift to asset-based thinking about students is new to you, consider framing your thinking around these questions. Sometimes, the first questions will be all you need. Other times, you’ll need to use the second question to guide your thinking.

  1. What is this student doing well? or What is a reading strength I see in this student?
  2. How can I turn this observation into a positive to better serve this student?

I actually have these questions written on a note taped to my conferring clipboard. So, every time I meet with a student, I’m reminded to seek out the assets before all else. Below are two examples of intentionally pushing my thinking as a teacher to make the shift from deficit-based thinking to asset-based. The more you make the shift, the easier it will become. Eventually, it will become your default way of thinking if you continually work on it.

It’s quite easy to notice all the things that aren’t going well. Noticing the positives, or reframing the perceived deficits to be assets will change the trajectory of your reading community in a big way!

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Up Next in the Series: #5: Teach Student How to Choose Books. All posts in this blog series can be found linked here. To learn more about shifting to asset-based thinking about students, check out pages 16 and 107-108 in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading.

#3: Establish Daily Supported Independent Reading Time

This is the third post in the Building a Reading Community blog series to kick off the 2022-23 school year. All posts in the series can be found here.

Now that we’ve explored getting to know your students and getting books in their hands from the start, let’s move on to establishing a predictable time for reading each day. In some schools, teachers still need to actively make the case for the beneficial role of voluminous reading. If this is the case for you, there is help in the research!

Oodles of studies have found many different benefits to students engaging in a high volume of reading. If you’re interested in taking a look at some of those studies, Donalyn Miller beautifully wrote about and linked many of the research articles seven years ago in her piece titled I’ve Got Research. Yes I Do. I’ve Got Research. How About You? Over the years, I’ve referenced this piece again and again when helping teachers make the case for independent reading in their schools. More recently, Dr. Richard Allington and Dr. Anne McGill-Franzen, published Reading Volume and Reading Achievement: A Review of Recent Research, which also shows evidence that reading volume plays a key part in reading development.

The way to achieve a high volume of reading for all of your students is by creating an established time for daily supported independent reading in class. Unfortunately, there is some misunderstanding about how daily supported independent reading time looks and works in a classroom setting. Some think that independent reading time is unproductive in classrooms; hence the need to still make the argument for it. But, this is simply not true. After reading Miller and Moss’ No More Independent Reading Without Support, I started adding the word supported when speaking and writing about independent reading time. This is a critical piece. While students are engaged in reading, the teacher is always actively supporting them. This support can come in many forms: book choice support, environmental support (places to comfortably sit, help with eliminating distraction, etc.), intentionally planned instructional small groups based on student strengths & needs, individual reading conferences, and authentic reading stations/centers (mostly in the primary grades). Without support in place, many students might not experience the success in reading that they all have a right to find.

A reading community cannot be established and continually nurtured without a sacred time each day set aside for supported independent reading. In my own teaching schedule, this time occurs each day from the moment students walk in the door for about 25-40 minutes. Then, there is another supported reading time later in the day as well. With all of the distractions, interruptions, and schedule irregularities that take place in elementary schools (have I ever mentioned the lost hour in my classroom a few years back thanks to an ant invasion?), this guarantees my students will receive the reading support and time they need each day. All teaching schedules and situations are different, so I recommend taking a look at your schedule with the expectation that interruptions will arise, and selecting a time of day or two for daily supported independent reading with a contingency plan in case an interruption pops up. If you’d like to see sample schedules, here are two from my colleague’s kindergarten classroom and my own fifth grade classroom.

Whatever time of day you choose to dedicate to supported independent reading time, the key is to be consistent while still embracing flexibility. If reading time is interrupted, think about and have a plan for how you can fit it in later in the day.

If it seems that more time needs to be created in your school day, take a hard look at your schedule and ask yourself what you can eliminate. If a literacy coach or a like-minded supportive grade level partner is available, you might consider asking them for schedule advice as well. Many teachers find more time in their schedule when they eliminate old practices like morning seat work (worksheets to keep kids busy) and Daily Oral Language drills, which have not been shown to improve students’ authentic reading and writing.

In the words of one of my fifth graders from this past school year, “Reading books I love everyday and talking about them with my friends was the best part of 5th grade!” I’m so excited to support more students find this joy within the reading community this school year!

In the coming posts in this series, I’ll discuss more on supporting students during supported independent reading time. Stay tuned!

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Up Next in the Series: #4: Make the Shift to Asset-Based Thinking. All posts in this blog series can be found linked here. To learn more about daily supported independent reading time, chapter two in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading has you covered!

#2: Make Use of Browsing Boxes From the Start

This is the second post in the Building a Reading Community blog series to kick off the 2022-23 school year. All posts in the series can be found here.

Choice and access to a classroom library full of books is an incredibly joyous, central part of thriving classroom reading community. Getting books into students’ hands from the get-go is key for setting the tone that reading is the central focus of the school year together. However, for students who have not experienced choice before, this access can also be quite overwhelming. Contrary to what some might think, choice is something that actually needs to be taught to support elementary students with making solid book picks for themselves (the fifth post in this series will take a deep dive into teaching choice).

To ease the overwhelm and still provide all students choice in their reading at the start of the school year, give browsing boxes a try. During the first two to three days of school while I am still introducing procedures for the classroom library and tweaking it a bit based on learning more about my students, I place browsing boxes full of books of different topics, genres, and readability at each student group table. Students browse though the books in the boxes while chatting with their table mates. The boxes provide book access, more opportunity for student conversation, and choice in reading without the overwhelm a larger classroom library might bring at first.

Steps to Getting Started with Browsing Boxes
  1. Gather large boxes to fill that will be placed at student tables.
  2. Select a wide variety of books including different genres, topics, and even books from past grade levels that might serve to give some students the comfort and familiarity they need in a new classroom. I like to ask my colleagues in the grade levels below me about some loved books in the prior school years.
  3. Place the books in the boxes.
  4. Places the boxes at student tables for student reading choice. Encourage students to try out some of the books and even settle in to reading one or more. Also be sure to encourage conversation around the books: What looks good to you? Have you read this book before? etc.
  5. Use with flexibility! Remember, browsing boxes are a starting point, not a gatekeeper to other books. If a student sees a book of interest in a different browsing box or somewhere else in the room, offer the book to the child!
  6. Take note of the books students are gravitating toward. This will be valuable information for you moving forward. Swap books out if needed.
  7. Have a plan for removal or an extension of the browsing boxes. They may continue to serve a purpose in other ways throughout the school year, but their purpose is to be a starting point of comfort to get students accustomed to choice. They are not the end point when it comes to choosing books.

Browsing boxes work in every grade level. Many kindergarten and first grade teachers even make use of them well after the first weeks of school. As long as boxes are kept fresh with books being added and swapped out, browsing boxes can serve different purposes all year long in classrooms. They can even be used instructionally. Pages 52-53 and 100 of Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading discuss using browsing boxes along with instructional reading more in-depth.

The key thing to remember for the first days of school is that browsing boxes offer curated choice in a way that is manageable for students before complete open access to the classroom library is given.

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Up Next in the Series: #3: Establish Daily Supported Independent Reading Time. All posts in this blog series can be found linked here. To learn more about building a reading community, check out chapter one in Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Teaching Elementary Reading.