5th Graders Engage in High-interest Reading in Book Clubs

by Michael Porter
Fifth graders in Mr. David Sandlin’s class are taking ownership of their reading assignments by becoming members of a "book club" within their class. These book clubs are a part of the Reading Workshop curriculum.
Working in small groups, students select a book they wish to read and share their interpretations of the literature within their group, very similar to how book clubs for adults function. At this point, the 5th graders are working with fictional books.
Interpreting literature is a high-order thinking skill, and sharing their thoughts with small peer groups may reduce anxiety versus speaking before the entire class.

“Students are more motivated to read when they’re doing it with others,” said Mr. Sandlin.
The class used Katharine Applegate’s novel Home of the Brave, a story of an African refugee who is adjusting to a new life in America, as a read-aloud text to model the interpretive thinking work the students are doing within their own book clubs. 
Mr. Sandlin has noticed a difference in the number of books being read through the book clubs. Students play a major role in selecting books for their book clubs, contributing greatly toward them taking ownership of their personal reading. 

“Students read at varying paces, so when it's a full-class novel, often students don't have the opportunity to read multiple books within a given unit,” said Mr. Sandlin. “Where we might read one book in a unit before, students are now reading 3 or 4 books in that same period of time.”
By moving away from the full-class novel studies, Mr. Sandlin can better differentiate his lessons based on a student’s reading level.
Ms. Tricia Finkenberg, Learning Design and Curriculum Coordinator, is a proponent of the book club approach.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to read at their own pace,” Ms. Finkenberg said. "The students benefit by reading high-interest books while learning the craft of the genre, and applying their reading skills later to their writing."