Young Adult Lit/Crit

February 5, 2008

The Book Club Companion

Filed under: Book Clubs--O'Donnell-Allen — katefrazer @ 11:25 pm

I found all of the reading we did for class this week pretty interesting, but since I’m a facilitator for O’Donnell-Allen’s The Book Club Companion, I’m going to focus on that particular text.  I really like how the first chapter is dedicated completely to explaining exactly what a book club is.  I was particularly interested in the difference between a book club and a literature circle.  I really had no idea what is was, and I think O’Donnell-Allen makes a clear comparison.  After doing all of the reading, I’m really thinking that both book clubs and literature circles have great benefits for students.  Then I began thinking, could both of these techniques work in the same classroom?  Could you use lit circles sometimes and book clubs others?  Or would students be better off using one or the other consistently? I guess I’m wondering what others are thinking about this topic.

One particular sentences from these three chapters really stuck out with me.  “Classroom life is just to unpredictable to come with any guarantees,” (pg 36).  First off, this made realize just how realistic O’Donnell-Allen is.   After only a few years in classroom, I absolutely agree with this statement. (I probably would have agreed with it after a few months!)  However, the flexibility and student-centered nature of book clubs seem to make them a good tool to meet the unpredictable nature of all classrooms.  Do other people agree? These are just a few of the interesting points I wanted to bring up about the book…other than the fact that I’m thinking about how I can use book clubs with my kids! Kate



  1. Kate,

    I completely agree that the distinction between book clubs and lit circles was clear and understandable. I especially liked the illustration on cooperation versus collaboration and the “puzzle piece” metaphor (12). Although these chapters were only a beginning, and many times O’Donnell-Allen mentions that she’ll get into specifics later, I thought she wrote just specifically enough to get me seeing the application while learning the theory.

    My favorite part was around the end of the process when O’D-A decided to do research and “took a vow of silence” to really see what would happen if she just let the students “go it alone” (47). Her observations about the “Novel Workshop Record” were the result of: 1) trusting her students and 2) approaching the idea as research rather than discipline.

    I know that some of you are teaching right now, and I’m curious about how quiet reading can work in the classroom. Has anyone had experience with assigned personal reading time?


    Comment by joycehansen — February 6, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  2. After I read O’Donnell-Allen, I was thinking about the question she raised in ch. 3 about responding versus responding critically, and which is more important. I wonder if you can have one without the other; does one lead to the other? I had the luxury of taking a class that was entirely book clubs; we read only the novels we chose and kept reading journals to keep our discussions on track and prove to the teacher that we were reading. I was able to input more of my opinion and ask questions and get different answers from my book club peers than I would have in a large classroom setting. I liked the idea of allowing the students to choose how they would respond to the books, like the 1-2-3-predict pictures.
    One thing that surprised me in O-A is the suggestion of redecorating a classroom to be more inviting to readers. I gues because I would call myself a reader, that I never had any problem diving into my book at a desk and losing track of time until the bell rang. I would be hesitant to try the bean bags and sofas and allow lying on a carpet, but admittedly for the fact that it would be more difficult to see who was reading, doing math work or sleeping. Has anyone tried this or experienced this in a classroom?

    Comment by ebrazee — February 7, 2008 @ 4:50 am

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