Lesson 2: Incorporating Book Clubs into Reading Curriculum


Erica Riekert's Portfolio Page | Unit 2: Incorporating Student Agency and Decision-Making in Reading | Lesson 1: Using Choice to Create Lifelong Readers | Unit 3: Incorporating Student Agency and Decision-Making in Writing Essays

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Lesson Kickoff


When you hear the words Book Club, what do you imagine? What would one look, feel, and sound like in your classroom?


Book Clubs are a bibliophile's dream. When I imagine a book club, I see like-minded individuals sitting around someone's living room discussing the book of the month. It's a space for lifelong readers to formulate opinions, examine themes, and discuss stories across a wide array of genres. Book Clubs have become popular in mainstream culture. Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon have book clubs!

The purpose of a book club is to bring a community of like-minded people together to learn from each other. If book clubs are so enjoyable, why wouldn't we incorporate them into our classrooms? Book clubs introduce students to the joy of reading. It allows them to grow into lifelong readers and provides them with the skills necessary to succeed.

Book clubs are an ideal place for students to build autonomy through choice. In the book, Breathing New Life into Book Clubs, Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen explain, "Too often, teachers only envision book clubs where students all read the same text and it's typically fiction. The truth is that book clubs can look many different ways- they don't have to be based around the same text; they don't have to be based around the same genre" (p.17).

In the last lesson, you learned how to guide students into finding "just right books." Book Clubs act as a vehicle for lessons that engage and support students as they read their choice books.

Teaching Point

In this lesson, you will learn how to incorporate a productive book club into your reading curriculum and different ways to assess students as they participate in their book clubs.


Guidelines for a Productive Book Club:

Read Chapter One from the book, Breathing New Life into Book Clubs by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen.

File:9780325076850 sample.pdf

Key Takeaways:

The Six Reasons Book Clubs are Important:

  • Engagement: Book clubs provide choice and autonomy in making the reading curriculum more engaging.
  • Reading Skills: Students can directly apply reading lessons to their book club to strengthen their reading skills.
  • Critical Literacy: Students learn from different perspectives, critique social norms and constructs, and develop empathy towards others.
  • Discussion: Book clubs cultivate a forum for in-depth discussions and help students form bonds with one another.
  • Self-Discovery: Students can see themselves in their reading. They examine their lives and identities.
  • Technology: Students can use digital spaces to conduct discussions.

The Essential Components for Book Clubs:

  • Discussion: Students apply lessons to their book club discussions by asking questions, making connections, talking across themes, and setting reading goals.
  • Planning: Students plan their book club meetings- what they will accomplish, the best use of time, what to discuss, and how much to read before their next meeting. Planning teaches compromise, goal setting, time management, and reflection.
  • Reading: To create a meaningful and authentic experience, students are allotted time during their book club meetings to read together.
  • Digital Tools: Teachers use digital platforms (Padlet, Kidblog, Flipgrid) to create a forum for students to share their ideas.
  • Written Response: Students use sticky notes, digital platforms, and journals to respond to their readings. This process is less formal than writing an essay or report. It allows for the direct transference of skills learned from reading mini-lessons.
  • Observation: Teachers move around the room to observe student progress and where there is room for improvement. Teachers make informal assessments as they conference with the groups.
  • Coaching: Opportunities to provide quick feedback or give a suggestion.
  • Assessment: Through observations and written responses, teachers assess their students' progress.

Watch the following videos to explore book clubs and how they foster student autonomy.

Read the following article and watch the video below from NEA's Read Across America Program called "Book Club Basics."

Types of Book Clubs:

When building Book Clubs in your classroom, think about your students' interests, not just their reading levels. According to Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen, "we want to caution against forming clubs based solely on reading levels. Our students can always sense if they're being grouped by ability, and this can cause anxiety and disappointment" (p. 17). When we label students by their ability, we deny them opportunities to grow as readers. Grouping student based on their reading level is a detriment to their autonomy and confidence. When students can choose "just right books" for their book clubs, teachers can differentiate instruction among varying reading levels. Students reading at different levels can engage with each other, build their skills, and support one another as they develop a deeper understanding of the text.

Five Types of Book Clubs:
  1. Genre-Based Book Clubs
    1. Most common book club.
    2. Each club reads the same genre. Mini-lessons focus on the reading skills for that particular genre.
    3. Members of a book club read the same book, but each book club can read a different book. For example, if the genre is fantasy, one group can read Gregor the Overlander while another reads Ranger's Apprentice.
    4. To prepare for this type of book club, teachers need multiple copies of each book.
  2. Goals-Based Book Clubs
    1. Book club groupings are arranged based on student reading goals.
    2. Students take agency over their learning by determining strategies to help them achieve their goals.
    3. Students choose their books and set their reading goals.
    4. Students support each other and build confidence during the process.
  3. Identity-Based Book Clubs
    1. A safe space for students to have open conversations about identity.
    2. Student clubs are created based on gender, religion, sexual orientation, culture, and race.
    3. Identity-based book clubs empower, validate, and help students feel valued.
  4. Theme- and Topic-Based Book Clubs
    1. Allows students to explore their interests and passions with like-minded peers.
    2. When students can choose books based on their interests, they are more likely to remain engaged in lessons and motivated to read.
  5. Series- and Author-Based Book Clubs
    1. Great opportunity for teachers to incorporate different types of books into their curriculum.
    2. When reading series, students become experts on character analysis, motivations, and traits.
    3. When reading a particular author, students begin to appreciate the author's craft across their books.

As mentioned above, one of the essential components of a book club is assessment. In student-led book clubs, teachers are the coaches and observers. Teachers often use informal assessments, like student reflection, written responses, and observation to track student progress.

Two Strategies to Assess Student Progress:

Observation: While circulating the room, you can collect artifacts or quick jottings of your observations to help assess student progress. These notes include specific things you hear during discussions and examples from students' written responses. You are looking to see if students are using their time wisely, planning their meetings accordingly, and setting reasonable goals.

Coaching/Conferencing: Based on your observations, you can customize your coaching plan to meet the needs of each book club group. You can also pull students from each group who are experiencing similar challenges. For instance, if you notice students from different groups are struggling with analyzing themes, you can instruct a small group mini-lesson that addresses that particular challenge.

Sample Assessment Materials

Two Sample Artifacts:

Image courtesy of Choice Literacy
Courtesy of Choice Literacy
Sample Conferencing Form:
Conferencing Template.png

Check for Understanding

Use the following quiz to check for understanding.

Active Engagement

Incorporating book clubs into the reading curriculum is an engaging way to support students in becoming lifelong readers. Read the following outline of a reading workshop lesson provided by Park Hill School District focusing on Experience 1. Park Hill Schools use Lucy Calkins's curriculum for reading.

Review the following lesson plan for finding "just right books." This lesson plan uses a template provided by Responsive classroom and modeled after Lucy Calkins's Reader's Workshop.

Source from Park Hill School District

In lesson 1, you highlighted parts of your lesson where you incorporated student choice. Ask yourself:

  • What choices did I provide my students (organizational, procedural, cognitive)?
  • After learning about students selecting "just right books" and book clubs, where in the lesson are there additional opportunities to provide choices for my students?


Apply what you know about choice to create a reading lesson.


  1. Review the sample lesson on Fantasy Book Clubs as a guide. This lesson plan is modeled after a Lucy Calkins lesson from Reader's Workshop.
  2. Fill in the lesson template provided by Responsive Classroom.

File:Sample Fantasy Book Club Lesson Plan Using Guide.pdf



Share the lesson you created with other learners using Padlet. Provide positive and constructive feedback on the other lessons posted.

References and Resources

Calkins, L., Cruz, M.C., Ehrenworth, M. (2015). Units of Study for Teaching Reading: Fantasy Book Clubs: Grade 5. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.

Cherry-Paul, S., Johansen, D. (2019). Breathing New Life into Book Clubs. Heinemann.

Park Hill School District. (2022-2023). Reading Curriculum (Grade 5). [Program of studies]. https://resources.finalsite.net/images/v1659710570/parkhillk12mous/jncssblymui1t9ezxmul/5thGradeELA-ReadingCurriculumBOE6-23-2022.pdf

Next Unit: Unit 3: Incorporating Student Agency and Decision-Making in Writing Essays