Books

Discussing American Girl Books – A Program without Dolls

This fall I am going into my fourth year of the American Girl Book Club for seven to ten year olds. The program is about forty five minutes. It is separated into 3 parts: discussion and snack, creation of project, and clean up. When the child signs up they are given a book and bookmark with a picture of the main character, date and time. They have approximately a month to read the book and return it for the program. I own a few copies of some, though mostly I use Interlibrary Loan to get the majority of the books. There is a wide range of books which is extremely helpful because they are about diverse people and subjects. There are no dolls allowed in the program and the children are told this at sign-up. The reason: all girls are American Girls and everyone should feel welcome. The name gets them interested, but I feel the stories and activities keep them coming back.

The children eat their snacks of brownies or cookies and juice as soon as they arrive. (When they sign up I ask about food allergies and buy accordingly.) From a prepared list of questions that I make after reading the book, I ask the children about the stories. It seems to me almost every child reads the book. Our discussions are amazing. They answer the questions with intelligence and understanding of the situations occurring. In most cases they are eager to answer, but patiently let others speak. This is especially wonderful to see in shy children who get the full support of their peers. The subject matter in many of these books is not light reading. They deal with death, slavery, prejudice, survival, and even war. I never call on anyone who does not raise their hands though most of them go up. I learn something new from every group.

For the creation of the project, I look at what is happening in the story for my inspiration. I research the time periods and events that are happening in the books to tie the projects in with them.

I love the sites the Crafty Crow, that Artist Woman, and use my Pinterest board for other ideas. I test out my ideas before the program to make sure I have the right supplies and that the project actually comes out the way I have planned. A simple log house out of craft sticks for Kirsten was such a mess that it turned into a lovely frame. After the example is done, I take a photo of it with my iPhone, email it to myself then type out the instructions and add the photo. Sometimes I do this step by step and others just the finished project.

The kids love to get messy, therefore glue, glitter and jewels are often a part of what we make. I never know who has previous experience with the materials so sometimes it is challenge when only one girl can thread a needle. That is why my perfect group is twelve children, but I try to take fifteen to allow more to attend. I never know what the children are going to create and love to see their end results.

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Our guest blogger today is Shelley Holley. Shelley has worked in library services since 2001. She has been a Children’s Librarian for almost six years at Southington Library in Southington, Connecticut. For more information on the American Girl Book Club, you can reach her at holleys@southington.org. Her blog is http://shellibrary.wordpress.com/

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

 

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