School counseling book clubs in elementary school are some of my favorite twists on a classic small group counseling. I love sharing a good book, watching students make connections to the characters, seeing first hand my students reading and comprehension levels, and helping them improve their reading. Books clubs provide wonderful opportunities for you to combine social-emotional, academic, and career standards.
5 Tips for a Successful Book Club
When choosing a book, think about what connections your students can make.
I often work with our ELL students in school counseling book clubs and we read Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks. When Ravi, a new student from India moves to school he struggles to navigate middle school and quickly tries to befriend the school bully. Joe, a student with APD, is struggling with his own middle school woes - his mom is a cafeteria worker. There are so many opportunities for ELL students , new students, and students with special needs to make connections.
Consider how many sessions your group will meet.
Chapters books are great, but consider asking how long will it take to finish the book. When I use chapter books I have to plan for several months and sometimes even a semester of sessions, due to the length of the book, sessions, and time it takes us to reflect and connect.
I also account for a few minutes at the start of our club to review what we read last time. Consider creating a group routine to help you manage your time if you are using longer chapter books.
During April and May, I use American Girl’s Guide To Starting Middle School for a much shorter school counseling book club. I let the students pick a chapter at the start (or end) of each session that they want to read and discuss. Allowing them to focus on what is personally meaningful means I can conduct a much shorter small group than if we read the entire book.
Think about when is the best time to meet.
I do a lot of lunch bunch groups, which we all know is a struggle. Eating, reading, following along, discussing, wait are you eating? It’s a lot to juggle. Since our school counseling book clubs have a reading/academic focus I’ve been able to get buy-in from teachers to use other times of the day. For example, during our intervention time is a great time to pull students who don’t receive a specific tiered service.
If you are struggling for time, consider a less formal book club with more of a class feel. In years past I have invited my fourth and fifth grade girls to a girls only book club. We either met in my room or I borrowed a teachers classroom during lunch and read An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong. I read aloud from my copy as they ate and we found times to “turn and talk” to make connections and share opinions. At the end of the book we celebrated by watching the movie.
Ask your librarian about class book sets.
In several schools I have discovered a “book room” filled with class sets of books collecting dust. So often the titles are classics and applicable to my students. Often the teachers don’t have time to use the books or they have also moved on to a newer title, but the books are still relevant and ready to be used. Ask your librarian what happens to old class sets at the end of the year and see if you can check out or become the owner of a few.
Get rid of the paper.
There are some amazing book study guides online and I used to use them all the time. As much as I loved having some great data and activities to show their comprehension and connections, I found that not only did doing paper activities eat away at our time, but the students didn’t enjoy the group as much. Seeing me is a time in their day when they can finally put down their pencils, so now we focus on games and discussions. You can still find wonderful discussion guides online, like this one for The Hundred Dresses.
Need a Good Book?
These are my favorites by topic!
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Relational Aggression, Bullying, Relationships
Middle School Transition
Thinking about running a club? Check out these tips for different types of student clubs school counselors can run.
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Laura Filtness is the School Counselor in Knoxville, TN and was the 2017 TSCA Elementary School Counselor of the Year. You can visit her blog, Paws-itive School Counseling or follow her on Twitter @sassy_school. Laura creatively infuses her love of dogs into her counseling program. The best way to sum up Laura’s love of her dogs is that she proudly once won a crazy dog mom contest. Her dog, Boss, is a certified therapy dog with H.A.B.I.T. and loves helping kids read.