Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Virtual Book Clubs Connect Students To Books, Authors & Each Other During Remote Learning

For the last 7 weeks, we have been away from our schools, libraries, teachers, families and most of all our students.  It's a difficult time, not only for missing all of the wonderful things about learning, reading and connecting within our school building, but by not being together as we connect, talk, collaborate and celebrate reading and learning with one another. 

Through all of this, one thing that has helped me and a lot of my teachers, are the ways we are continuing and growing our book advisory efforts, book clubs and collection at Van Meter.  And the best part, the way I can continue to get wonderful books into students hands and the right books to teachers to fit their curriculum and read aloud needs.  

That is one of my favorite things about being a teacher librarian and when we knew we were not going back to our school building and library for the rest of the school year, I knew that I had to think of other creative and meaningful ways to connect our kids, teachers and community to books and reading. 

Let me share what this has looked like so far. 
It started a few days after we were home from spring break in March when my friend and colleague, Tracy, needed a few books for her...
 ...X-STREAM Sundays STEM Lessons for the Week.
Each week, Tracy creates X-STREAM Challenges that are tied to picture books.  Since Tracy didn't have picture books at home to use,  I gathered together a bunch to share with her.

You can check out her X-STREAM Challenges Google Doc here in this post
That same week, I got texts and emails from our parents who have managed four different books clubs throughout this school year.  

They had seen my posts about Tracy's books and wondered if I could get books for them too. They wanted to continue the book clubs by reading and connecting with our students throughout the time we were doing remote learning at home. 

YES, I said, as I excitedly organized the book sets I had at home... 
...and ordered more books for them to use.
We have one 5th grade book club that has met throughout the year, but now there was another group of students who wanted to be part of a book club. 

So, my friend and colleague, Megan, and I met with her 5th graders to find some great fits for their new book club, and the one a parent did already throughout the year.  I created a the Van Meter 5th Grade Book Club Ideas Padlet for them to explore.

We did this together in a Zoom as we talked and voted on the next few books they would read.
For the books our book clubs needed,  I ordered them and had them delivered at home.  I went through each box, got them organized and let the teachers know they were here.  

It has become a common scene to see books out on our front porch waiting for teachers and parents to pick them up to distribute to our readers. 
As the book clubs read throughout the week on their own and met with each other in Google Meet and Zoom during the week, I reached out to the authors to ask if they would be willing to connect with our virtual book clubs and talk about their books.
Throughout the last several weeks, we have connected to several different authors and the...
 ...students, teachers and parents involved with the book clubs.
Nicole Valentine,
Stacy McAnulty,
Lynne Kelly, Elana Arnold,
Jerry Craft, Michael Buckley and others have been so excited to join our students and their virtual book clubs.

And connecting with all of these authors as our students, teachers and parents read the books, really does add another layer of excitement and engagement...something that is a huge goal of mine through the book clubs and in creating life-long readers.
As we read, connected and celebrated reading with our elementary, one of our middle school teachers and my friend, Lacie, was watching and getting excited about what these virtual book club opportunities could offer her students. 

So, Lacie and I met several times to talk and plan.  We decided to focus on her 6th graders within the....
genre of fantasy.  We created a Google Doc we would work in on Google Hangouts and by ourselves to build an amazing set of Fantasy Book to kick off the book clubs. 
We then took those books and Lacie created a Google Form to send out to her students.
She had no idea how many students would be interested in the Virtual Book Club but was super excited to have almost 40 sign up! 
I just love how she gives them this option at the end....If you are hesitant about fantasy, pease make the selection below so. can choose a book for you that has less fantasy elements. 

As Lacie organized her students and I ordered the books, she also sent out emails to both....
...parents and...
 ...students to share the plan for the book clubs.
As the new fantasy book sets came in,  
I checked them off our list and contacted Lacie to share I had received them.  I ordered a giant box of gallon sized bags so she could....
 ...put each book in a bag and...
 ..mark them with their name as she put them into the boxes for delivery.

As she set off to deliver the books, Lacie made sure to ask families how they wanted to receive the books....home drop off, meet at the local convenience store, mailbox, etc... She made sure to respect their needs and safety in this process.
I love the Google Doc Lacie used to get all of the different book clubs organized.  She made a chart for each book, included the name of the readers and then specific notes about such details as Email parents about pick up, Delivered to students, Email student about book and Dates and a few more important details that would make their virtual book clubs a success.
We are now in the first full week of the 6th grade book clubs and she is meeting with every one each week.  I can't wait to join some today too!  
To take the book clubs one step further, Lacie and I are going to have her students create movie posters after they read the book to share what they read and learned. 
As the elementary and middle school virtual book clubs took off, one more teacher reached out with even more enthusiasm.  Renee, my friend who teachers our high school English classes, wanted to connect to talk about how to get virtual book clubs going with our oldest readers.

We met online, along with the other English teacher, Brittney, and brainstormed books that would be perfect for our online secondary book clubs.  There were nonfiction, popular and historical fiction, and even a few graphic novels.  We worked in a Google Doc and created quit the list!

As we approach the last week of school, they will be sending out a Google Form to see who is interested in the summer virtual book club and which books they are interested in reading.

One thing to note, all of these books are coming to my house where I do not have the materials to catalog them, so they are going out in the gallon sized storage bags with a note and understanding the books will be cared for and loved.

Throughout this time, I have also had several requests by teachers and families to recommend books and set up mini book clubs with students and teachers.  That has made my heart so happy to do for them.
Last week, I created a Padlet for sharing different books around a few genres; I ordered, organized and curated books and reading materials; I attended lots of the virtual book club Google Meets and Zooms; I prepared for author visitors over the last two weeks of school; and...
...I even started the Van Meter Virtual Book Club, that came from a parent idea for our community. 
We used the same digital tools, like Padlet, to give us, even as adult readers, ownership, access and the joy to read. 

It was like our readers had a new and enriched sense of being readers and community.  It was really awesome to see.  

And, of course, that need to connect with one another. 
With one of our main goals being to get books into our students hands and lives, I have decided to do a Follett Book eFair online.  

Our students and families will be able to order books, the books will then be delivered to my house, and I will get the books to them through drop off and pick up.  It will be super fun to see the kids and get books to them as we go into the summer. 
You can read and sign up for Follett Book eFairs here.  I will write more about the process and our experience with the eFair on my blog next week. 
What started with an idea between Tracy and I, has led to something very special that has made a huge difference to our students and teachers during this time.

And it sure has made my heart happy to know our kids have books in their hands and that they are connecting as readers and friends. 

You can find this post on the District Administration site here too


  1. It was such a pleasure to meet with your students! Thank you for organizing and sharing all the background.

  2. What an amazing work you are doing! Thank you so much to share it.
    Stay safe and healthy.