Give a Book drops in on a school book club

Give a Book was recently invited to see Sydenham School’s book club in action. Sophia visited the school to see how their lunchtime book club, set up by Book Clubs in Schools with books given by us, has been faring.

How it works:

  • A book is chosen for the students to read in small study groups of about four children from younger years and two 6th formers to lead the discussion.
  • The books they were reading included Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night Time and To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The club is a discussion group where students are able – and apparently often do – to ask the 6th formers about certain words they don’t understand and talk about the characters and themes together
  • In between meetings, the students read another few chapters of the book on their own.
  • The dedicated school librarian has provided a handout for Sydenham students to use as a guide for their discussions

Sydenham’s approach to reading is exemplary. The first thing that greets you as you walk into the school is their wonderful library, which used to be the assembly hall. Its great glass doors are closed during the book club’s lunch time slot, during which time only the esteemed members of the book club are allowed into the library. Other children walk by curiously to see what all the action is inside.

Sydenham is also lucky enough to have the library staffed at all times, and under their watchful gaze the librarians have seen the bookclub membership increase exponentially. What’s especially interesting about the book club in this case is that students sign themselves up for it, rather than being selected by their teachers, something which has ensured that all the slots are filled every week (notwithstanding the occasions where library staff have been known to venture out of the library and collar potential truants – which has been known to happen)!

The results of so much tireless enthusiasm from various adults are clear. The younger children are delighted to have a chance to hang out with the sixth formers; the sixth formers are delighted to be looked up to (and to put it down on their UCAS forms); ‘soft skills’ are developed all round; and, almost without realising it, kids are reading and discussing great books for the sake of enjoyment, and not in order to pass a test. They are exploring ideas they may not have encountered, and talking to each other across different age groups in a way that is structured just enough.

Overall it was inspiring to see something so simple having such a powerful effect. When asked, all of the kids in each group were eager to tell me why they joined, and what they felt they got from the group: because it helps me to understand what I’m reading better, because it is introducing me to good books which I had never heard of before, because I enjoy reading.