Literary Nonfiction and Memoir Book Clubs: Organizing Groups and Resources for Success

We just started our literary nonfiction (my favorite genre!) and memoir book clubs yesterday!  In this post, I’ll outline the “legwork” I did to get the clubs formed and ready to go.


Book Sampling/Book Tasting

We began with a book sampling/tasting in early December; compared to years past, I kept this activity pretty low key.  I basically put 5 copies of each book selection at a table or seating area, and students rotated at their own pace.


Book Voting and Tallying/Sorting Votes

Once students completed the book tasting, they voted online in a Google Form their top three choices.  I downloaded each spreadsheet per class from Google Sheeets and sorted the spreadsheet by the first choice.  I tallied how many books got the “first choice” votes and calculated how many books I would need to meet the “first choice” requests if possible based on how many copies we owned from our bookroom (or didn’t own in several cases since I picked some newer titles for the activity).

Based on the needs, I created an Amazon wish list and shared widely through social media and my blog.  I am delighted and humbled to share that my list was pretty much completed, and I was able to give every child one of his/her top two choices.  I tweaked the working book club assignment list several times based on the incoming books purchased right up through the beginning of this week to make the clubs happen.  I actually finalized the list Wednesday night on the eve of issuing books!

I organized clubs either by book title or by related topics/genres.  You can see the clubs below by class period (I teach four sections of 8th Language Arts).

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Additional Support for Book Club Readers

The other important task I tackled prior to issuing the books and identifying the club members yesterday was to create a reading schedule for each book–all 15!  I created a master handout (you can access it here), ran copies, cut into strips, and stuffed them into the matching books.

We reviewed these schedules yesterday, and students are keeping them in the sheet protector with their overarching January course calendar.  I am also going to post these colorful versions in the room later today just in case someone loses his/her individual copy on plain paper.  This task was time consuming, but I felt it was an important one to help my students be successful in staying on track so that we can finish our books by January 31.  I am providing students two full days of class time to read and do their prep work (more on that coming next week!) with an optional third day; of course, they can also work at home on their book club reading and prep activities.


Next Steps

In my next blog post, I’ll share our first day of book club learning activities and how I re-organized my seating assignments to support my book club readers.  I’ll also share our first mini-lesson learning activities that got the students into their books to give them a “boost” with their reading and thinking!

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