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Nurturing Community and Connection

During this period of physical distancing and remote learning, it is both more challenging and more important than ever to nurture a sense of community and connection with our students. Grounded in student autonomy and choice, a remote book club can help students feel a sense of control during this time of uncertainty, build reading into their daily routines, and make meaningful connections with each other through an exploration of literature. Use this guide thoughtfully and creatively and adapt the suggestions as circumstances require.

Goals of Facing History Book Clubs

  • Encourage community and connectedness
  • Practice perspective-taking and develop empathy
  • Encourage autonomy and choice
  • Develop students’ reading identities
  • Foster civil discourse
  • Increase reading volume and cultivate a passion for literature

Core Principles

One of the most important things you can do to support your students’ learning from home is to make sure that they are reading each day. While setting up book clubs for remote learning will require some extra effort and creativity, the same core principles that guide in-person student book clubs hold true: book clubs are opportunities for student-centered, student-driven learning. Regardless of how you adapt and implement the suggestions and resources in this guide, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Provide Student Choice: Let students, with their groups, choose what they read and have autonomy over what they talk about and when they meet.

  2. Set Daily Reading Goals: Encourage students to set a goal of reading 30 minutes each day. If that is a challenge, they can try starting with 15 minutes and increasing a bit each week.

  3. Keep Group Size Manageable: Create groups of 2–4 students. Larger groups may struggle to coordinate schedules and have a hard time facilitating virtual discussions.

  4. Support Regular Club Meetings: Let clubs determine how they will meet (through video, chat, email, or text). They may need to experiment before they figure out what works best. What’s most important is that they meet regularly, perhaps twice a week, for 20–30 minute sessions for 3–4 weeks.

  5. Prioritize Engagement with Books and Each Other: Similar to adult book clubs, students shouldn’t have to maintain daily reading logs or write book reports. The goal of book clubs is to (re)ignite a love of reading and foster community around literature.

This current moment presents unprecedented challenges for teachers, and it may be impossible to implement all of these recommendations. But if students are at home reading daily and connecting once or twice a week with their peers to talk about books (and life), it can be a wonderful and positive addition to their day!

Accessing Books

Two guiding principles of student book clubs are choice and autonomy. This moment presents a unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves in books that excite them and share that excitement with their peers. Choosing books that will appeal to your students is an essential step in creating successful book clubs.

One of the biggest hurdles to setting up remote book clubs is getting students copies of the books. It can be challenging to find books that are appealing to students, suitable for book club activities, and readily available to students at home. Your school librarian, local librarian, and resource specialist might be able to help you address this challenge.

Identify Titles That Speak to Students’ Identities and Interests

Use the following resources to identify titles that will appeal to a wide variety of student backgrounds and interests:

Get Books into the Hands of Students

Once you have a list of books in mind, you will need to make them available to students. Synchronizing which titles you want to suggest and which are accessible to your students may be challenging. You might begin by polling your students to see if some already have access to books that are suitable for a book club. If not, there are a variety of options to explore for getting books to students.

Accessing ebooks through public libraries. Some students have access to books at home or the resources to purchase them online, while others do not, and many local libraries have closed. Students who have a library card and device to read on can borrow ebooks from their local library, even if their branch has closed. Students who don’t have library cards should still be able to register online for an eCard. This will give them access to books, videos, magazines, and newspapers using free apps like Hoopla, OverDrive or Libby by OverDrive. Look for information about accessing ebooks on your library’s website.

Exploring the public domain. In addition to the library, students can access public domain books for free on the following websites: Project Gutenberg, Digital Public Library of America, Open Library, Google Books, and Feedbooks. Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library, has a new Universal School Library with a growing collection of digitized books. The collection is designed using principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion as central to the curatorial approach. 

Accessing trade books online. Open eBooks is a library containing thousands of popular and award-winning titles that are free for children from in-need communities. Educators can apply for free accounts with Epic!, a digital lending library with over 40,000 titles for children ages 12 and under. EL Education created a Remote Learning Support: Trade Book Guidance page on their website with information about trade publications online, including publishers granting limited open access to their content during the COVID-19 crisis.

Opting for audiobooks. For students who benefit from audio support, Audible Stories is offering a collection of books in six languages for free while schools are closed. Students can also use text-to-speech readers such as NaturalReader, which also includes a font option to support students with dyslexia.

Questions to Consider:

  1. How many of my students have a book at home that they want to read?
  2. How many of my students have a public library card?
  3. How many of my students need physical books because they can’t access ebooks at home? How can I help them get copies of their books?
  4. How many of my students need accommodations (audiobooks, enlarged font, extended time)? How can I ensure that they receive them?
  5. Whom at my school can I collaborate with to address these questions (e.g., co-teacher, planning partner, department chair, resource specialist, school or local librarian)?

Download Our Remote Book Club Guide as a PDF

Remote Book Clubs: Nurturing Community and Connection

Remote Book Clubs: Nurturing Community and Connection

This guide provides tips and resources for launching remote book clubs that foster a sense of community and connection among students. 

Get More Resources and Strategies for Remote Learning

View our resources for supporting teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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