Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Book Club

I love Tuesdays. At lunchtime I run a small book club with the Year 6 teacher. We like to think of ourselves as a bit like Richard and Judy, but without the embarrassing bra incident or condescending banter.

We started it back in February with ten Year 5 and 6 children who were interested in reading and keen to discover new authors and books. Each week, one member suggests a title and we go off and either buy the book (from ebay or Amazon 'new and used'), borrow from a friend or take a trip to the library. Depending on the length of the book, we give ourselves either a week or two weeks to finish, with opportunities to discuss the books in between.

So far it's been fantastic. I've read a real range of books that I would have never have chosen, plus it's really got me back into reading for pleasure rather than just purpose. We've read Joesph Delaney's Spooks Apprentice, Michael Morpurgo's Born to Run, Elizabeth Laird's Red Sky in the Morning and Once by Morris Gleitzman. Through these we've covered shaggy dog stories, disability, the Holocaust and dark magic - fantastic! The children within the group are expert debaters and we have a 'no hands up' policy so we can have a real discussion around the table where everyone can chip in and feels comfortable to comment. Most of the children have gone on to read books by the same authors or more books in the series.

I've also set up a Book Club Forum via our VLE 'DB Primary'. Children log on and write their own reviews and I post the forthcoming books so that everyone has a good chance of getting hold of them. We even had our own Book Club Fuddle on our last session before Easter. If you're not familiar with a 'fuddle' it's a picnic where everyone nominates themselves to bring something to the feast. We had a ball and there were plenty of biscuits, buns and chocolates to go round!

When it came to suggesting a book myself, I chose A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. Obviously, this book is a little controversial because of the various swear words that appear throughout the story. We discussed this before we chose it and asked for parental permission to read it within the group. I'd read the book as a teenager and been inspired not only by the story but by the fantastic description Hines uses to paint pictures of even the simplest of things. I hoped that the children would appreciate that too.

Well it got a mixed reaction to say the least. Some children found the dialect hard to understand, others decided they never wanted to visit Barnsley and others really appreciated the story of downtrodden Billy and his desperate bid to have a little escapism via his Kestrel. They children were very mature about the colourful language used and understand it's affect on the reader and the impression it gave of the family. It was one of our best discussions yet as there were so many facets of opinion. I've suggested that the children re-read the book again in five years time and see what they think of it then.

I think a book club is a fabulous way to get children to reflect on their reading, in a way that a Guided Reading session doesn't seem to. The children have even passed their books onto their parents for them to read, so we're getting a thumbs up from them too!