Who Says Book Clubs Are Just for Moms?
I was honored to host the most recent Whole Child Podcast where we talked about ways we reflect, recharge, and refresh as educators. One theme present in the podcast discussion and one we hear about over and over again is reading. While we encourage students (of all ages) to read often, as adults we find it difficult to find the time to read between full-time jobs, raising our children, and, heaven forbid, our own hobbies.
Summer seems to be a time where things slow down a bit. But I find that even as I write that sentence, I'm glancing at my calendar for the next meeting, what camp my kids are in this week, and what time I need to get them so they can go to the next activity. So maybe summer is a time where things don't necessarily slow down, but the schedule changes.
One change I'm happy about this summer started with an e-mail from a friend, a fellow dad and my older son's coach for many seasons of sports. Based on a suggestion from our children's school librarian, he asked if we were interested in a son-father (note the order) summer book club. The message went out to about 10 of us, and the response was overwhelmingly supportive. In a matter of a day or two we were off and running with the book Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things.
The format of the book club is fairly simple. Our elementary school makes bags of books available all summer with 10 copies each, a discussion guide, and a promise to return the books in a timely fashion. We picked a two-week window to read each book, and then planned to get together for burgers, hot dogs, and veggies (of course) to discuss the book at the host's house. Last night was our first meeting, and I must admit the former teacher in me was curious to see how this would go with my own child, not to mention a bunch of his friends.
The evening started out with the boys playing and dads talking, as any good summer night should start. Once the grilling and eating was done we sat down to discuss the book. A quick icebreaker activity (name the best thing you've done so far this summer and something you're looking forward to doing) helped everyone feel comfortable. We started with the discussion guide questions, but quickly started to improvise our own. Alvin Ho is about a boy who is reluctant to talk at school and has many issues with anxiety. He is scared of many things and has a peculiar way of dealing with adversity. I was impressed with the connections that the boys made to the character but also how understanding they were about his issues. When we got to "best and worst" things about the book, at least two boys were critical of how short the book was and how they thought it ended too quickly. As rising 5th graders, I was a little surprised at how aware they were of character development. It was a quick read, but the perfect length so that even the most reluctant readers in the group would stay interested as we move through the summer. The discussion fizzled about the book pretty quickly once someone realized there was ice cream for dessert.
What started out as a suggestion from the school librarian at "Success Night" at our elementary school grew into a great way for us to read, reflect, and bond together as fathers and sons. I realize we're fortunate to live in a community that has the resources to do this, but it seems to be a relatively easy thing to put together for the summer. The books are available through the school library and the system is well organized.
As I think about my own goals for this summer, one was to read more, and read for fun. I never expected the opportunity to arise to have a son-father book club, and now I'm even more curious about what the next discussion will bring us.
Kevin Scott is a strategic advisor for Constituent Programs at ASCD, facilitating its programs and initiatives created for younger educators, such as the Emerging Leaders and ASCD Student Chapter programs. He also provides services and consultation to ASCD affiliates. Before coming to ASCD, Scott served as member services manager for the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) at the National School Board Association (NSBA), where he facilitated meetings with members, wrote CUBE's Urban Edge newsletter, provided content for NSBA's BoardBuzz blog, and maintained CUBE's presence on Twitter. Scott spent seven years teaching 7th grade history in Fairfax County Public Schools and has worked for other associations as the education director.