Middle School Book Group Ends 2016 on a High Note

Final meeting of BRiMS, that 's me in white

Even though it was standardized testing week, I held our last regularly scheduled monthly BRiMS (Books Rule in Middle School) meeting on Wednesday during lunch. It seemed silly to cancel it since the students' lunch period was actually longer than usual last week. I liked the fact that I didn't have to cancel just because testing was being held in the morning--in some schools I would have to do so. We did have a lower turnout than usual, but I had been reminding kids about the meeting in emails, the daily school memo, and signage in the library. I do believe that the students need to learn how to take responsibility and keep track of meeting dates and times. Some forgot, some didn't read the book, and others just chose to go to the cafeteria for lunch.

This year, I finally found a rhythm with the way that I organize what we read for each monthly meeting. For half the meetings, there was an assigned book and the other meetings were set by some sort of theme be it genre or time of the year. I think that this method has worked well. There is a BRiMS page on the library website that announces ahead of time all books and themes and dates. After the meeting, I post a picture of the day and a blurb about our discussion to document the meeting. 

Let me first talk about reading around a theme. At the first meeting, students brought in a book they read over the summer and loved, and for April, they had to select a book written by a woman for National Women's History Month. The students like selecting a book that is meaningful to them as well as a book that they like reading. That is the positive. The problem when we read on a theme is that the students all read a different book. If all 30 members of book group attend, there is just not enough time for everyone to share. When one of the kids tries to tell the whole story of their selected book and goes on for 10 minutes, the other members of the group get restless. The discussion for that day needs to be lively and needs to keep moving from one person to the next. If everyone feels like they could contribute if they choose to do so, then I think it has been a good day for book group. It takes work on my part, and some discussions have been better than others, but I see it as a work in progress. 

Gummy worms were the perfect snack to eat while discussing Rump

For the four books that have been selected for the year, I try to do the selections way ahead of time. I have selected books based on a skype session with the author like I scheduled this year with Jen Calonita. I have selected books that I have bought as a set with Scholastic Dollars from my book fair. I have selected books based on students interests. It is hard to find a book that everyone likes, but we have had some great conversations about these books. Our discussions always start around the book, but I try to maneuver the topic so that all can have a say even if they have not read the book. This happened when we talked about memory after reading Sonnenblick's Curveball: the year I lost my grip. It also happened the other day when we read Shurtliff's Rump and discussed mash ups and retellings of old fairy tales. Publishers and authors often post reader's and teacher's guides that I find helpful when I lead a discussion. There was a great resource for Rump that I found on the author's website. I don't usually plan much for the discussion, and I usually have no guide. I like to ask a lot of questions, and that is the basis of the meetings. I start asking questions based on what I thought about after I read the book, and then we go from there. 

I have been leading school book groups in middle school and high school since 2003. I think that these groups offer an opportunity for kids who do not usually join clubs or organizations. I like not having too many rules, and I am always willing to go off topic if need be. It is a group that is suppose to be fun for everyone involved, even me. It is a way that I get to share my love of reading with a group who also loves to read. This is something every librarian can relate to!


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