MACUL 2014–Elevate Empathy Through a Book Club & FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

Usually, I pontificate about something in the educational world in my blog. But not today. Today, the blog is directly informative and practical.

I had the great fortune of giving a Lightning Talk at this year’s MACUL conference in Grand Rapids. In it, I encouraged other communities to consider a community book club of their own. AND I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER THAT THERE WAS A BUZZ ABOUT IT.

So, here it is: what you need to know to start your own community book club and, later in the blog, the presentation to my session titled FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

Thank you,

About the Book Club

If you’re thinking about creating your own community book club, I strongly recommend the following steps as your first three steps:

  1. Find and read the book. I strongly recommend Emily Bazelon’s Sticks and Stones, but it isn’t a nice book to read. It calls out all of the complexities of bullying and has a fair share of difficult language. It is rooted in narratives AND data. 
  2. Get support from your superintendent. I think it’s just very wise to get the top person behind you. Be honest about the book, get his/her support, and then move forward with confidence.
  3. Form a committee. My recommendation is to get some power players in the schools–and in the community. A few willing folks have far reach to get people signed up. Just find people who have a passion and the book club will fly.
Now, links to all kinds of links we used. Take what you like:
Finally, this: I asked a student to chime in on her experience in the community book club. Here is her response.
When I think about the community book club we had last fall there are two things about it that stick out me: conversations between all types of people and the instrument of discussion. Discussion between teenagers and adults was the part I found to be most interesting. As a teenager I feel like there are very few times honest conversation about serious topics (or any topic) takes place between people of my age and people of our parent’s age. We might have serious conversations with our parents or a few other close, trusted adults but most conversation with adults isn’t real. It was nice to talk openly about a topic everyone has been affected by at some point in their life. It was interesting to hear the adult perspective and their stories. In order to have everyone be comfortable with sharing their thoughts and feelings I think it was important to have meetings with smaller groups as well as the whole group. Which brings me to the instrument of communication: Facebook. Facebook allowed me to participate in every talk we had with my busy schedule. It’s much too hard to try to find a day a group that big can all go somewhere and meet face-to-face. Having discussion on Facebook eliminated a lot of organizational problems. It also meant there was an automatic record of everything said for those who weren’t able to participate in real time. One problem with talking about such heated issues in a big group is that only one person can talk at once so whoever is loudest normally gets heard. On Facebook more than one person can post their opinion at the same time and no one has to worry about being interrupted. Typing helped me to articulate my thoughts better than when trying to speak them instantly. So, if I was to give any advice to someone looking to do a community book club (on any issue), it would be to involve people of all ages and backgrounds and to hold at least a few of your discussions online in order to make it as easy as possible for people to participate. Overall, it was a valuable experience and I would highly recommend other students to participate. -Carlyn
I SO badly want this idea to be a chain reaction. I’m willing to answer emails or have Google Hangout/Skype sessions. Please, just contact me:
Starting a community book club is a lot of work, yes, but it is incredibly rewarding. My best!
I absolutely encourage students to work for real purposes and for real audiences. Here is the link to my presentation. Friday Night Lights, Classroom Style
Let me know if you have questions. I’d love to have conversation about this.

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