Sunday, December 11, 2011

Connecting In Our "Somewhat Virtual" Book Club

Two weeks ago something a little difference took place during our book club at Van Meter.  Two of my students, Collin and Paxton, sat in my office and Sebastian, another one of mine, Skyped in sick from home.  But these weren't the only ones that were there to discuss Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause that day. There were also students Skyping in from Jane Lofton's library at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, California and Joyce Valenza's library at Springfield Township High School in Philadelphia.  

This was the second time that the "Somewhat Virtual Book Club" met this year.  A month ago we read and discussed The Hunger Games.  We have plans to pick up that conversation when the movie comes out in the spring.  

As I sat there and watched how much my students enjoyed the book discussion with their new friends over 1000 miles away, I smiled as I thought that this new book club started as a simple conversation between Joyce and I.  I love how it now includes five teacher librarians and their amazing students around the country.  

Yesterday, Jane posted on her blog Mira Costa HS Library Blog.  Thank you, Jane for sharing our story and for letting me share it on the Van Meter Library VOICE too.  

I cannot wait to see all of you again in January when we discuss Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  My group has plans to not only see the movie Hugo together but we are going to meet at the Barnes & Noble coffee shop during the next book club.  

Happy Reading Everyone! 

Connecting Our Library Club Across the Country

December 10, 2011
virtual book club map & books
One great activity that has been occurring at the Mira Costa Library has been the growth and development of TLC: The Library Club, now in its second year. Last school year when we established the club, it was primarily a group to support library programs, and the club met every other week. I very much appreciated the help the students offered with our D.J. MacHale author visit, with library displays, contests, PR, and more. They also conducted a very successful book drive and sent the collected books to a shelter. This Fall, the students took the initiative to expand our club by meeting weekly and incorporating more discussions of books in addition to supporting the library.
Then, in October, we had the opportunity to expand our club beyond our school when I responded to a generous open invitation from Joyce Valenza, Teacher Librarian at Springfield Township High School in Pennsylvania, to join several school library clubs in a virtual book club discussion of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. Despite some technical difficulties with my computer and the challenges of time differences, our club members were able to join the group for approximately a half hour of a lively discussion of this engaging book. And, they are looking forward to “Round 2,” when we have revisit Hunger Games after the movie comes out in March.
photo of TLC Members discussing Blood and Chocolate
TLC Members discussing Blood and Chocolate
On December 1, we had our second virtual book discussion about Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. Two of the other schools – Springfield Township HS in Pennsylvania, led by Teacher Librarian Joyce Valenza, and Van Meter in Iowa, led by Shannon Miller –  were able to attend this session, and one student who was ill even Skyped in from home. The students enjoyed a very lively debate about the different characters and clearly had very divergent views about how sympathetic they were. I was so impressed by their insightful comments and their ability to disagree with each other while always remaining polite and considerate.
Photo of TLC Members discussing Blood and Chocolate
We are now reading Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret and plan to compare it to the new Hugo film in January.
To bring the groups together, we have been experimenting with different platforms, including Google + Hangouts and Skype. These are some of the tools that we teacher librarians have been using for webinars, virtual conferences, and professional organization meetings. Communicating across the miles in this way has also offered our students an opportunity to practice virtual meeting skills they are sure to be using in many other contexts.
I know that I have been enjoying the opportunity to communicate across the miles – and connect and plan with talented Teacher Librarians Joyce Valenza, Shannon Miller, Michelle Luhtala, Colette Cassinelli, and Amy Lott - at least as much as our students.


  1. Okay so hook me up. We want to do Across the Universe by Beth Revis. But of course i want to join this party so what's after Hugo??

  2. Hi Kathy

    We would LOVE to have you join us my friend. :) We have a wiki that I can add you to if you would like.

    I am not sure yet what we will read....We did a little brainstorming after our conversation last time. Joyce recommended Libba Bray's Beauty Queen and we all agreed that would be a wonderful choice.

    Lets talk this week.

    <3, Shan

  3. Hi, Shannon,
    I'm planning to start some lunch hour book groups at the senior high level, and I'm wondering when your somewhat virtual book club meetings take place to see if it would work out to join with you, or whether I should start my own version.