Easiest Book Club Ever

Posted:18 October 2017

Author: Emily Robinson Leclair, Community Learning Network

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Comments: 2

Recommendations: 1


Earlier this year, Kelsey Lievers from Medicine Hat College’s ABLE program posted a discussion to the CALP Portal asking about a book club for readers with lower literacy and English Language Learners. I had some experience running the ‘Easiest Book Club Ever’ in my former library life and was happy to share. It has since occurred to me that other CALP staff might be interested in exploring a similar programming idea.

The format of a book club provides a fantastic shared learning experience:

  • 6 weeks
  • One 90 minute meeting per week
  • Facilitated by staff or volunteer(s) or combination of both
  • Allows for peer mentoring

To begin, your book club needs a name. I have pulled the suggestions below from the discussion thread Kelsey started. CALP staff quickly realized and responded to the challenge of attracting the right audience – adult foundational learners.

  • Book Club for Beginners (Mountain View Communities Adult Learning Society)
  • For the Love of Reading Club (Mountain View Communities Adult Learning Society)
  • Read Together Book Club (Thorhild and District Community Adult Learning)
  • Reading and Conversation Club (Centre for Family Literacy)

In addition to a clear program name, you will want to provide a brief program description. In Kelsey’s case, they included the descriptor “anyone who wants to improve their reading but needs some support along the way”. Other CALP staff suggested including details like:

  • Easy reading (Provost Adult Learning)
  • Free class for Adult Literacy Learners (Centre for Family Literacy)
  • Improve your literacy and language skills (Edson and District Community Learning Society)
  • Improve your reading and conversation skills in a warm and supportive learning community (Centre for Family Literacy)

I remember including these prompts in promotional material for the Easiest Book Club Ever:

  • Learn how to discuss a book
  • Practice reading strategies
  • Read a short chapter book

With a snappy title and clear program description, it is now time to consider your Learning Plan. To plan my book club I relied heavily on Pat Campbell’s Teaching Beginning Readers. This resource presents a list of ten principles for working with beginning readers and focuses on twenty instructional activities. Each of the six weekly sessions focused on one of the following reading strategies: prediction, character analysis, inference, retelling, summarizing and reflection. Remember - it is not enough to introduce these reading strategies once - instead learners are much more successful when you revisit them week to week.

Sample Learning Plan

Sample week 1 Lesson Plan

You need a good book to build upon these reading strategies. In fact, book selection is key for a successful book club. For this reason, I favoured the adult literacy chapter books from either the Good Reads or Rapid Reads collections. Both collections feature:

  • Canadian authors
  • clear language
  • a book length of 100 pages
  • fast paced, fun and engaging stories
  • writing intended for adult literacy learners 
  • supplementary reading guides for each title (free to download)

Gathering multiple copies of a book title may be one of your greatest book club challenges. Some Community Adult Learning Programs have turned this in an opportunity to collaborate with their local library while others have taken advantage of the Bulk Book Orders and Discounts for CALPs.

Finally, you will want to consider the space where your book club meets. When possible try to replicate a traditional book club:

  • arrange comfortable seating in a circle
  • include ice breakers and introductions
  • allow for the ‘right to pass’
  • encourage lively discussion 
  • provide refreshments and/or snacks
  • have fun!

If you are interested in starting your own foundational book club, you may want to start with the Centre for Family Literacy’s Power Point presentation Book Club: A Valuable and Fun Vehicle for Literacy Learning. This session was presented at the 2015 Literacy and Learning Symposium, and provides a great overview for introducing a book club to your Literacy and Foundational Learning programming. Many thanks to the Centre for sharing this resource with the CALP community!
For those CALP staff already running a book club, please share your experiences. You can comment below or join the online discussion.

Emily Robinson Leclair
CLN South Regional Support Staff

 

 

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