We are excited to share this guest blog series written by Madison Dearnaley.
Madison works as Information Services Teacher Librarian at a secondary library in a P-12 school and believes that reading is vital for learning and expanding worldviews. Most importantly she believes that reading is for enjoyment.
In this 3-part series, Madison shares her tips for running a successful book club in a school library. In part 1, Madison discussed getting started. Part 2 looks at promoting and recruiting. This blog was originally published on the Madison’s Library website, republished with permission.
So, you’ve decided to start a book club. Maybe you already have a few students on board. You have talked to possible recruits and decided your who, what, when, where, and how. If you have done this in consultation with your possible members you should already have some people ready to join. But whether you are starting from scratch or just want to swell your numbers, you will want to let people know you have a book club and how they can join.
Tell your parents. They are often the people who will encourage (or force) the students to join. This method of promotion is also two-fold, as it has the added benefit of promoting the school library and everything it does, and you do, for the school community.
The teachers know the students best. They know the keen readers, the writers and those looking for a connection they might find at a book club. I find many of my joining book club members come from teacher recommendations. Teachers will point a student out to me and ask them to invite the student or will encourage the student to join. Chat to class teachers and English teachers and make sure they know when and where your book club is and how students can join.
Does your school library have social media accounts? What about your school? Make sure you share posts about the creation of your book club. Also remember to post regularly about book club activities so people can see what you do and it might just get them interested enough to join.
A poster about your book club might be an obvious promotion method, but it surprisingly effective. I have posters about all my different book clubs just inside the door of the library. I like to change the graphics I use fairly regularly to catch the eyes of students. The person who most frequently points out my posters is the registrar, giving tours to prospective parents. My posters give her something to tell parents about the library and things we do for students.
Make sure your principal knows about your book clubs. The other people who need to know are your admin staff. So often, the people at the reception desk and student services are talking with parents and students and can make recommendations about joining the club or can help to direct students to the meetings. These people are so often the heart and hands of the school, so keep them in the loop. Admin staff are also usually responsible for putting together extra-curricular lists, so check to see if this happens in your school and make sure book club is recognised as an extra-curricular activity on school lists and reports.
Make sure it is easy for students to join your book club. Some of the most frequent questions I get are “how do I join?”, and “how much does it cost?”. I clearly need to do more to promote that it doesn’t cost anything to join book club.
My book clubs are very informal, so I tell students all they need to do is turn up to join book club. Sometimes, I think this might make it a little hard for the shyer students to face joining a full room. I love having an online platform, as I can add students to the page first as members, they can start to see the notices and join the online chat before coming to a face-to-face meeting. Having informal book clubs does mean that other students sometimes drop in with their friends. Others come only a few times a term or drop off their attendance during musicals or other busy times in their life.
How will you let your book club members know about upcoming meetings? I have used both email lists and online school platforms that offer notices. If your school runs daily student notices, make sure to add your book club to the list. If you have new members join, make sure to add them to your list. You might like to offer an email list for parents of book club students so they can remind students when their book club meeting is.
I personally haven’t tried this, but I really want to. I’d love to create special invitations for potential book club members. These could be handed out at orientation sessions or to regular borrowers.
If you are lucky enough to have book club members, how do you keep them coming?
What do your book club members get to identify themselves or as a reward? Think about other extra-curricular groups and their benefits. Do they get break-up parties at the end of the term, special badges, certificates of attendance? I give my book clubs a party at the end of each term, with a bit of party food and a more (or even more) casual atmosphere. I would love to give my book club members special badges so they can be proud of their group. I have had Year 12 student leaders for the library group have badges and stand up at assemblies to promote meetings.
One of the post popular book club benefits I have offered book club members is extra borrowing privileges. We used to do it more formally, so those who attended 3 book club meetings were given extra borrowing allowances. Now I do it more informally, knowing my book club members and letting them borrow as many books as they need. It has been great for our loans stats and just gives our great readers a bit more flexibility.