Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Growing Readers, a guest post by Sara Swenson

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.

525,600 minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?

Seasons of Love – Rent

The opening song from the musical Rent continues to say a year is measured in love and that’s what we’ve done these past 20 years at Edina High School. We’ve measured each year with the love of reading.

The EHS Breakfast Book Club started to bring students together to talk about books. A school librarian and an English teacher, bagels, and books. Four times a year we gather to talk about the book we’ve all read. Sometimes we all like the book, often, we don’t and that adds to the richness of the discussion. Sometimes we’re fortunate to connect with the author (in-person or online) and then our students dive into asking about characters, the writer’s inspirations, and writing habits. 

Our club members range in age, from students in grades 9-12 and are representative of our student population. Friends bring their friends to book discussions, other students bring the kids in their carpool because we meet before school. During the pandemic, we shifted seamlessly to meeting online. Our school library is a busy place; so, for book club, we meet in a classroom, a comfortable discussion setting where we move the seats into a circle.

Is what we do magical? I think so. We’ve carved out a place for readers to gather with other readers, to talk about books, and to explore books they might not choose on their own. We’ve also been intentional about creating a program where students can work on developing assets determined necessary to be successful in the future. As teacher leaders, it’s our mission to help students grow in their reading lives and start to make bridges to different types of books. Our list of past reads reflects that philosophy. The emails we receive from former students now in college, sharing how they have started book clubs in their dorms tell us we’re making a difference.

Can you do this at your school? Absolutely!

Nuts and Bolts

Find a teacher to collaborate with.

Determine what kinds of books you want to read. (Our goal is to help kids start to bridge reading adult books, so we focus on those types of fiction and non-fiction stories.)

Set a meeting schedule and location for the year. (We are a late start school which is why we meet before school.)

For each book, make a bookmark with the book club discussion date/time/location. It’s a helpful reminder for students as they read. (Mine are not fancy, black, and white, printed on cardstock.)

Treats are fundamental. Determine what will work for your group.

Help students learn to lead the discussion. (A few days ahead of time, I typically ask 2-3 students to have a question ready to ask the group.)

Model with your teacher partner how to add onto a comment to the discussion or disagree with something said

Reassure students that it’s OK not to finish a book.

Have the next book ready to go, so that when you finish discussing the current read the next book can be distributed.

Decide how you want to communicate with students. (I use Remind.)

Funding – we started with grants and are now self-funded via student dues, approx. $40 for the year.

You can do this! Book clubs provide a place for readers to gather and find other readers. They are a pathway for students to grow in their reading and make meaningful connections with adults. School book clubs are essential for students and their teachers.

20 Years of Reading by The Numbers

87 books read

21 author visits

Over 1,000 student readers through the years

Copious amounts of bagels and donuts consumed

Sara Swenson, MLIS, NBCT, Media Specialist, Edina High School, Edina, MN