Harry Potter. Percy Jackson. Fantasy books are highly enticing for young readers. But beyond current pop culture titles there are a lot more great fantasy titles for young readers. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, and Catwings by Ursula Leguin are just a few of classic titles that our fifth graders have been enjoying in a new unit in which they are reading and discussing fantasy books in book clubs.
There are many reasons for having book clubs in school. Book clubs give students the opportunity to study a genre of text in depth and read books at a range of readability levels. An added plus is that the books in book clubs also tend to be more challenging than kids can read totally on their own. In book clubs, students are reading the same book or a book in a series as a group. This gives them the opportunity to talk to each other about their books, thus deepening comprehension. This conversation also allows students to orally rehearse writing in response to reading — a key test taking skill. Because books in book clubs are selected to be engaging for students, book clubs also allow students to increase their reading stamina.
Fifth graders are in book clubs right now. Fourth graders have just finished reading social issues in book clubs and are getting ready to dive in to historical fiction. Students read dystopia novels in grade 6 and look at how film makers depict young adult books in grade 7. Book clubs are powerful venues for improving reading skills and for building a culture that values books.
If you haven’t read young adult literature in a while, sneak your child’s books after they go to bed at night. Pick up the novel that she or he is reading and enjoy it. Then, take the opportunity to talk to your child about that book. Building habits of appreciating books together sets a stage for life long conversations with your child.