In a slightly selfish act, I created our Homeschool Book Club just so my students could read books from the Bluestem Illinois Readers’ Choice Awards list. You see, I was in the midst of my term as a Reader for the Bluestem Committee. I wanted to interact with students who had read the very books that I had voted for….or against. Looking at my decision more generously, our homeschool students hadn’t been able to cast their votes in this statewide award. Honestly, I was excited to give them a chance to do what non-homeschooled children across our state did every year: vote for their favorite book!
First things first, I registered our Library as a voting site for all of the Illinois Readers’ Choice Awards (Monarch, Bluestem, Caudill, and Lincoln). I created a schedule for our Book Club to ensure that we would read at least the minimum number of titles required (for Bluestem, that’s 4 of the 20 nominated books). All the parents received a copy of the Bluestem list, in case they wanted to read along with our choices or in case their students wanted to read additional titles. Our Collection Development Librarian supported my efforts by purchasing extra copies of each book to make sure we’d have enough. And then we began!
Homeschool Book Club meets once or twice a month in addition to our other programming, so our choices are limited to what we can finish in those few hours. Non-fiction picture books and shorter chapter books work well. During our first two years, we have read 7 and 8 books. Within the confines of the list and our timeframe, I try to choose a variety of formats, genres, creators, and perspectives.
Together, we devour the books, discuss the books, and do enrichment activities based on the books. We keep tabs throughout the year on what is currently our top choice if we were voting right then. And each March, we submit our votes for the Bluestem Award. During every Book Club, the homeschool students amaze me with their insights. They will bring up things I hadn’t even considered.
What is the future of Homeschool Book Club? I’m excited that some of my readers are old enough for the Caudill list, so I’m going to offer back-to-back Book Clubs for Bluestem and Caudill. However, the looming presence of COVID-19 means that our meetings will be virtual. Will the conversations work as well over Zoom as they did in person? Should we add more e-books from the list or will patrons be comfortable checking out print copies? What enrichment activities can I do, relying on limited supplies in homes? Should I stop doing those? More questions than answers at this point, but that seems in keeping with the world right now!
I’d love to hear about the book clubs you offer, whether for homeschool students or not. Do you focus on your state’s awards list? What have been your struggles and successes? How will you adapt your book clubs in light of COVID-19 concerns? Share in the comments below.
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