We met in our school library during intervention time for 40 minutes every other week. The first meeting was all about setting up the club and checking out former Newbery Award winners. Two weeks later, we started brainstorming the characteristics and adding them to the first page of the booklet. The next month, we started reading newly published 2012 books that were getting some buzz.
Each meeting talked about what we were reading, shared reviews, chatted about life, and checked out more books. I checked out a lot of titles from local libraries to lend to the kids, and our school librarian bought some titles through Scholastic Book Fair money. We also asked our principal to donate some money to the club through the building fund, and he generously agreed to do so, so I bought some books at Barnes & Noble. Our discussions were informal but lively, and some pretty sophisticated conversations started happening. I tried providing some generic discussion questions, but that didn't go over well. The most enthusiastic talks were when the kids chatted spontaneously and informally. We didn't have any trouble getting them to participate. Our biggest challenge was ending the meeting on time! Kids would say things like, "I thought this book was entertaining, and I would recommend it to my friends, but there wasn't a deep enough theme to make it a Newbery contender." Today, we met at the Lebanon Public Library where there is a beautiful little park in the back with a great gazebo and charming sculptures of readers. It was hot, but there was a delightful breeze that blew through the gazebo while we ate sack lunches and talked books and summer activities. We met for an hour. Then the kids went into the library to continue their Summer Reading Program and check out books. Great day! We're going to try to meet one more time before school starts, and then the club will continue through December (our school is fifth and sixth grade, so the kids in this club started as fifth graders, and will still be in the same building as sixth graders). In December, the club will vote on their choices for the award.
In January, my hope is that the club will be able to gather in the library and watch the ALA awards live and cheer on their favorites. Then a new group can form. Unfortunately, I will not be able to follow this particular group of kids in the fall since I'm leaving the school district, but I hope to keep in touch with them through the teachers who will take over. I will definitely try to start a similar club in my new school. Today, I gave each club member a handout that included many titles that are being talked about, many of which the kids have already read. Here are our favorites so far: