From A Classroom to A Community of Readers: The Power of Book Clubs

Want to ignite (or reignite) the love of reading in your classroom? Select compelling titles, read them with your students, and implement weekly book club discussions. Watch your classroom transform into a vibrant community of readers. 

In my first year of teaching I initiated a book club for teachers. It was intended to bridge our personal and professional lives, and provide us with a regular opportunity to read, unwind, and have thought-provoking conversations as colleagues and friends.

Every four to six weeks I looked forward to book club. Whether the title was a hit or a flop, there was always plenty of food, animated discussion and anticipation for the next month’s selection.

A few years after my first book club, I switched to a new position and school district. For a brief period of time, I did not organize or belong to a book club. I found that without a book club I still loved reading, but something was missing. I reignited the teacher book club a few years ago, and while some of the members have changed, a few of the original teachers and our spouses still read and meet regularly.

For me, book club matters.

When I read a title for book club it is often not a text I would self-select. When I read a book for book club I read differently. I read with the purpose of holding onto my thinking. I read with intentionality. I am more metacognitive about my reading process, especially in sections of the book I plan to share or discuss. Some of my thinking might surface in the actual discussion, but depending on the menu, the venue, and the duration of time that has passed between my reading and our book club meeting, much of my thinking about my reading stays in my head, heart, or in highlighted sections of the text itself.

Bottom line: being part of a vibrant book club has made me a better reader.

This realization inspired me to make book clubs a regular, organic and dynamic part of my reading workshop classroom. I have seen a similar shift with students. Book clubs are making my seventh graders better readers, too.

They attend to their book club text with more motivation, depth and stamina than they do with other independent reading selections. They look forward to discussion days and bring insightful observations and compelling questions to the table. They leave discussions with new and shared understandings and thinking that is co-created within the club. They read with more passion and perseverance. They hold each other accountable through the shared experience.

From the struggling to the skilled reader, book clubs work. They shift the culture from a classroom of individual readers into a community of readers.  

Want to jump into book clubs but not sure where to start? Here are three tips to help you get started:

·      Planning – Know Your Readers & the Text(s): To launch book clubs as a class I selected a range of grade level appropriate titles that would appeal to different readers and interests. I read all five of the selections and documented my own thinking about the text. To launch the clubs I “book talked” all five titles and had each student select their top three choices. Using this information, I formed the clubs based on the needs of each reader, group dynamics, and the supports and challenges in each text.

·      Facilitation – Norms, Structures & Gradual Release: In the initial meeting with each book club, I asked the students to set norms for discussions and a reading schedule. The clubs met four times, so students divided the book into four segments that made sense with chapter breaks in order to reach a common goal and stopping place for each week’s discussion. Each book club member kept a three-column “journal” to hold their thinking in between and after book club meetings. The journal allowed me to formatively monitor the progress of readers throughout the process. In the first meeting I provided open-ended prompts and possible questions to model and support the discussion. In subsequent meetings I turned the discussion over to students and asked them to “mine” their journal for the best comments, questions, quotes, and ideas. I served as an observer and let kids do the talking and the thinking about the text after the initial meeting.


·      Troubleshooting – What Happens If…? What about absent students? Students who fall behind in their reading? Students who read ahead? Students who struggle to participate – either in writing or verbally – in the book club experience? There are many potential challenges and hiccups in the book club process. In my experience, however, the best way to troubleshoot book club issues – whether they are logistical, motivational, or academic – is to let the students brainstorm ways to solve the problem and support each other as readers. So far, every student has met the reading deadline in this cycle. I attribute this to setting reasonable weekly reading goals, closely monitoring the work during the first week, and “selling” book club discussion day as an opportunity not to be missed.

If you haven’t tried book clubs in your classroom (or if you’ve tried them but abandoned the practice due to time constraints, new standards, assessment pressures or any other legitimate distractions) I urge you to bring book clubs back to your readers. Create time and space for them to talk about texts with other readers. Let your readers do the work of making independent and shared interpretations. And watch students fall in love with reading (for the first time) or all over again.


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  • mbond

    Banned Book Club

    I work at a continuation high school with a population of at-risk youth.  I initiated the a Banned Book Club at the beginning of the year with the simple objective to get students to read more and to read outside of school.  Initially, I thought the idea of reading Banned Books might engage students to read content and philosophy that they might not have been exposed to in regular curriculum.  Lately, I’ve been discovering that our conversations and the students opinions and beliefs about life revealed through jounal writing have become a huge part of our discussions about the text in book.  I’m glad to be giving students an opportunity to discuss their ideas in an academic realm, and I’m for new ideas to engage students in the next book we are reading, a Clockwork Orange. Motivation and engagement are huge factors that affect student learning and performance at my school site, and I’m always looking for ways to engage student to value literacy and appreciate education.


    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Banned Book Club – Love it!


      Thank you for sharing and commenting. I love this idea and your action research around the “banned book” club :). What are the results so far? Have you seen a spike in student reading and engagement? 

      I agree that a link to journal writing and “real life” can make for some in-depth conversations about books, and ultimately can make books matter more for our students. My 7th graders are wrapping up their book club discussions this week and then they will independently write a reflection on their blog (and share it with others in the club) that responds to the question – Why does this book matter?  They can look at any angle – the theme, character(s), time period/setting, conflict, etc. of the text to answer that question. I’m looking forward to learning from them why they believe any text and the text they just shared with other readers “matters.” 🙂

  • Dawn Kotsko

    book Clubs

    My students love them – – I put thme in clubs based on book interest, as oppossed to reading level.  It is the best time of the year for thema nd me.  The end product is a book trailer that they write, film and produce.  They love it.  This year I have added blogging using EDMODO – -they are so excited.

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Book Club Love…


      So happy to hear that your students love book clubs! 🙂

      I too, have had great success with students choosing texts based on interest vs. levels. Students also know enough about themselves as readers after a book talk or preview to know if they are going to be able to access and persevere through the text, but I think that their voice in the process is critical. When we group students by level (or choose books for them) we take away an opportunity for them to be agentive learners. I often “nudge” readers to certain books 🙂 but try never to choose for them or limit them by a “level” — it’s amazing what a motivated reader can do regardless of what their “level” on an assessment suggests about their reading ability. 

    • Marissa


      I’m new to Edmodo.  Which app did you choose for blogging?  Thanks!

      • JessicaCuthbertson


        Hi Marissa!

        Hope you are having good success with Edmodo. I really liked it for quick formative checks (entrance/exit slips, etc.) and to give each group their own “space” to collaborate outside of face-to-face meetings.

        For blogging, our school has a Google domain so we used Blogger since it was an application attached to their Google domain log-in information. It worked pretty well but this year I really want to work on connecting my student bloggers with other bloggers so that they receive/respond to comments beyond those they post on each other’s blogs. Let me know if you want to partner our classes up for some sort of blogging experiment :).

        Happy back-to-school (or enjoy your remaining days of summer) depending on your school calendar!

        • Jennifer

          Blogger for Book Clubs


          I really like the idea of using Blogger as a means to communicate for a book club….I just can't get my head around how to use it effectively….the kdis would choose a book, I'd group them according to book choice…and then what? I understand your gradual release of responsibility in creating expectations as a group and meeting the first few times together…the kids read separately, respond separately (in a Shared doc?), and then come together only 4 times? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. 

          • JessicaCuthbertson

            Blogger & Googledocs

            Hi Jennifer!

            I think you could tackle it any way that makes sense for your students (and when in doubt let the students decide for themselves what might work :). In general I use book group discussions (face to face and online via Edmodo or a shared googledoc would work) for “formative” check-ins with the group as they read and along the way and Blogger for the more “summative” check-ins — students independently respond on their individual blogs to an open-ended prompt (reading response format) and some have chosen to co-author a book review after they finish the book and post the final product to each of their indivdual blogs (and/or a class website). These final reviews can also be shared on sites like Goodreads as a means of interacting with other readers who have read the text. 

          • Jennifer

            Thank you!

            I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Your input is helpful.

          • JessicaCuthbertson

            Of course!

            My pleasure — thanks for reading and posting! If you’d like your students to share their work with another audience of readers as they get blogs or other artifacts up and going let me know! I’m sure my 8th graders would love reading and responding to your students’ work :). 

            If you have additional questions, celebrations or wonderings feel free to private message me here in the Collab or hit me up on Twitter – @JJCuthy. Hope 2015 if filled with wonderful reading for you and your students!

  • Jane Terry

    Book Club Journal

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences. I really like the idea of asking members to fill out a journal as participants will all have something to share and take away from each meeting.

    • JessicaCuthbertson


      Thank YOU Jane for reading and commenting!

      For their final reflection I’m having kids independently reflect on the question – Why does this book matter? They are choosing the angle (theme, characer, conflict, setting, etc.) for this reflection and they will post it to their individual blog, comment on each other’s (other members in the club) and then determine the patterns and trends for a “final product” – book review, class book talk, book trailer, etc. 

      If you try (or have tried) journaling about books with kids please share the results here! What are your “go to strategies” for spreading and sharing a passion for reading?? 🙂

  • BriannaCrowley

    Books: My Get-Away

    When I first read your post, I was thinking about how I read my books. During the shool year, I mostly “read” by listening to books I’ve downloaded on my Audible account because as a fellow English teacher (HS), I am constantly reading essays, textbooks, and all other manner of text before my students. 

    I “read” while cleaning my house, and I swear to you I find it realaxing 🙂 But reading your post reminded me of the exhileration of sharing reading, not just consuming it. I may be inspired to start my own book club in the spring!

    I also thought this post may be interesting to the greater public, so I posted on CTQ’s profile. 

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      GOOD vibrations 🙂


      Your comment made my day — I deeply love and follow all things “good”/GOOD :).Your comment reminded me of all of the ways we can “read” texts and our world :). I recently tried Audible as a way to bring grade level texts to my struggling readers. I had one book club engage with the audio version of their text and their comprehensio and discussions were incredibly insightful and complex. 

      Thanks for reminding me of all of the ways we as teachers can read (or listen 🙂 alongside all of the student readers we support.

  • Matt Renwick

    thank you

    Jessica, thank you for sharing your resources. I emailed this post to my book club advisor for 4th and 5th graders. She co-facilitates our book club after school, for all students, but specifically for those in need of intervention. For older students, I have found that engagement is as strong an intervention as anything else.

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Engagement Matters


      Thank you for sharing the post and resources with a colleague. I couldn’t agree more — I’ve seen readers make tremendous gains over the years across reading strands (decoding, fluency, comprehension, etc.) when they are engaged and excited by what (and how) they are reading. I’m convinced all readers benefit from reading a text with others in a book club. Book clubs give readers a real purpose for reading and a place to safely discuss and explore what they are reading with their peers. 

      I’d love to hear about you and/or your book club advisor’s successes with and/or strategies for implementing book clubs as well

  • zep

    book clubs

    I’m intrigued by the work of many, notably Steve Hargadon, to take these kinds of activities into the 21st century and beyond the limits of classrooms. Book Clubs exist on-line globally so that potentially every student could pick a different book (no longer does the teacher need to entice a single or single set of selections, this act in itself democratizes schooling) and engage in the laudable benefits of book clubs. Bravo for the starting idea which certainly makes school more enjoyable for kids, now let’s take the next step.

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Love it!

      I agree that book clubs offer a great opportunity to connect with readers in both physical and virtual spaces well beyond our classroom walls! 🙂 Platforms like Goodreads and other tools allow readers to connect and share their impressions of a text digitally. My students started blogs this year and I’m trying to leverage the social and digital aspects of book clubs in the upcoming semester. So far, however, I’ve found that even my most tech savvy and digital junkie students still really like (even prefer!) the real-time, face-to-face discussion time with their peers over digital platforms — I wonder how (and if) this will shift as they progress through middle and high school? 

  • Vicki Willett

    Book Clubs

    I am presenting on Using Book Clubs to Engage Staff and Students at Reading Recovery.  Would you mind, will give you the credit of course, if I used your slide show as a way to introduce the books to the kids.  I teach first grade and do something similar, but I am sure we will have older grade teachers, coaches and administrators in the session.


    Vicki Willett

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Of course!

      Always, always feel free to share away – sorry for the delayed response I somehow missed this comment but am always willing to say yes to sharing resources with colleagues :). 

  • Wendy Heffler


    Do you recommend that the book club choices share a similar theme? This is for 6th graders.

    Thank you!

    • JessicaCuthbertson

      Thematic Can Be a Great Way to Go….Yes And…

      Hi Wendy,

      A thematic approach with overarching essential questions can be a great way to structure book clubs for sixth graders. I think it all depends on your instructional goals and your readers’ needs. I’ve facilitated book clubs with a thematic lens and with no thematic lens (books by level/interest based for readers, by gender, etc.) all with great results as long as students feel they have voice, choice and agency in the process.

      Good luck, have fun and keep me posted if you go the thematic route on how your own book club journey with sixth graders goes! (And happy summer! 🙂 

  • Taya Tayler

    What an excellent post CTQ

    What an excellent post CTQ have shared, “from the classroom to a community of readers and uk rushmyessay writing Good to see that where the spirit and the power of book club lead you, yesterday you were nothing now everyone recognize you, well done.