"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Discussing books with teens

OK. I admit it. I am shamelessly promoting a product for a company without an endorsement. The product is called Table Topics: Book Club Edition and I used them this past week to get teenagers in my Library Club to talk about the books they are reading. They worked really well.

Our club decided to read two books and hold a small version of a book club during our scheduled club time.
The two books we read were: Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell and Shattering Glass by Gail Giles. The kids really liked both books but I've only read Shattering Glass so I joined the discussion for that book. Only one student in the group had finished the book, yet the cards allowed us to talk about the book, open up the plot, wrestle with the characters, and learn more about the book than we would have had we just done book talks or if I led the discussion. Even the kids who hadn't finished the book had insightful comments to make and everyone decided to finish reading the book based on our discussion. Best of all we had fun together. I was just a member of the group not some know-it-all-librarian in charge.

Here are a few sample questions that really were great conversation starters:
  • Will this book be relevant 30 years from now?
  • What one question would you like to ask the main character?
  • What life lessons are found in this book and do you agree with them?
  • If you were a teacher what question would you ask on the final essay?
I often remind myself how much I enjoy talking about books with other people who have read them. Teens are the same. They enjoy sharing their insights and want to disucss controversial topics from their books.

Shattering Glass had a lot to offer teens looking for a good book to discuss. The main themes of the book were popularity and following the leader. Students could identify with the daily issues of negotiating life at a high school while trying to maintain a clear sense of identity. Things don't go so well for the characters in the book. Hopefully things will go much better for my students now that they've had a chance to discuss the mistakes the characters in the book made. I like to think so anyway.


  1. Would those work for our Book Club? I liked those questions better than some of the ones we get at the end of the books. How many students show up to the club? It sounds like lots of fun.

  2. Hum. I think it would be worth a try. I'll bring them with me to club next time we meet and we can give them a try...or at least discuss the option of trying them.

    When I used them with the teen group one of our questions related to the protagonist. There was no clear protagonist in the story so the kids really had to grapple with the question and everyone jumped in and gave their opinions. That kind of interchange doesn't usually happen with the questions we use. I often think out book club questions that we get from the publisher (or wherever they come from) are too leading and limiting.

    Table Topics questions would probably get old, too, over time, but it would be a fresh approach occasionally.

  3. Yes, I thought the ones in the back of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet were dull and very leading.They didn't really elicit a lot of discussion or maybe it was the book itself. It was a book that overexplained and overdramatized everything. There really weren't any hidden layers to it. And we didn't really need a travelogue of Seattle either; the constant geographical name dropping got tedious.


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