July 1, 2008
Tift Co. - Something rather encouraging happened near the end of a dead end street last week. A group of kids decided to join their hearts, brains and voices once a month to discuss the same book. No comic books or magazines, but children's literature.
"I just thought of it," says six year-old Caelan Collins as she sits at one end of a decorated table waiting for her fellow book lovers to arrive.
Caelan decided she'd imitate her mother who organized an adult book reading club several years ago, and she wanted to have one that involved her six year-old girlfriends.
Caelan decided to call the group: Bookworms.
"I like reading," says Caelan who got the desire honestly. When her mother, Chanon, was given a choice between playing with dolls or going to the library as a child, she chose the library without hesitation. Her love for literature appears to have been passed along to Caelan.
Soon, the door chime rings and her friends came in one-by-one and found their places at the decorated table. It was rather easy. A place card propped up by two pink, foam curlers let them know where to sit. A plastic pink cape formed the table's centerpiece where two blow driers and bottles of shampoo, one for each reader as a party favor, and hair bows sat. Magazines became placemats. The beauty shop decorations re-enforced the story.
They read Barbara Park's book, "Junie B. Jones is a Beauty Shop Guy," about a girl who goes with her father to a hair salon for a hair cut. Junie becomes infatuated with the activity and decides to try, on her own, to imitate the hairdressers. She cuts her dog's hair, her hair, even cuts her slippers that she hid under her bed. She found cutting hair looked easier than it actually was.
After a healthy snack of bananas, blueberries, pigs-in-blankets and pink lemonade, the group talked about reading their first book.
"What did you like most about the book," asked Caelan?
"Where she cut her slippers and where she cut her dog's hair," says Julieann Brooks.
"Where she cut her hair and it was small like mine," says Sally Katherine Kennedy.
"You look like a lovely woman," says Caelan about Junie's comments on her father's hair style.
Occasionally, Caelan's mother, Chanon, poses a question.
"Have you ever done something where you've learned a lesson," asks Chanon.
"Not to mess with my brother," says Sally Katherine Kennedy quickly.
Keeping seven young ladies on-task discussing a book had its challenges. They made their own bookmark at the end of the club meeting.
"We're going to save our spots when reading," says Caelan.
The young ladies will save themselves a lot of personal disappointment by continuing to read and discuss books.
Research by Dr. Taffy Raphael, an expert on book clubs, finds lasting benefits.
"Students get more excited when they read outside the classroom; improve their memories of books long after they finish reading it. They develop more critical thinking and their writing skills improve," says Dr. Raphael.
While her research concentrated on third through sixth graders, she believes the same patterns and benefits exist for younger readers.
The Bookworms already know the book to discuss at their next club meeting.
"It's Judy Moody Declares Independence," says Caelan.
In about two hours, seven young ladies participated in their first book club meeting, discussed the book, made their own personalized bookmark, and little did they know of the long-term benefits of reading.
They just had fun.
Read a summary of benefits of book clubs at: www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/showarticle/595.Teachers will find http://www.planetbookclub.com/teachers/index.html a good resource for organizing book clubs.