Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Member Spotlight: Marianne McShane

Marianne McShane is Middle School and PreSchool librarian at Brunswick School in Greenwich CT.  Born in Northern Ireland, she grew up with a love of story and continues to share her passion for storytelling with her students.  When not telling, reading and talking about stories, she enjoys playing harp and dancing at ceilis. If you would like to start a similar book club she will be happy to answer any questions.  mmcshane@brunswicksschool.org

Get Them Talking…About Books!
As Middle School librarian at an all boys school,  I am continually searching for ways to generate a buzz about books and to encourage the boys to read outside their normal “comfort zone.”  I love creating excitement about books the guys might not pick up on their own.  This fall I decided to try a Parent Son Book Club.  Not only might this entice students to expand their reading horizons, but it would also provide families a shared reading experience.

With the enthusiastic support of my principal, I picked a date and chose the book.  The club would meet in a month’s time to talk about Trouble by Gary Schmidt.  I ordered multiple paperback copies, displayed posters around the school, and emailed an announcement to all the Middle School parents.   Asking for an RSVP allowed me to compile a list of participants and, more importantly, send out a reminder a few days before the first meeting. 
 The very next day replies were already popping up in my in-box.  Parents were excited about participating in a program with their sons.  Boys from all grades wanted to take part.  Twelve families and three faculty members, including a math teacher, signed up.  I began to worry if I had ordered enough copies!

The Club Meets
It was the day of our first meeting and all was ready.  Refreshments were available, chairs arranged in a circle around our cozy library couches, and a list of discussion questions prepared.  Would boys come back to school with their parents at 6:30 in the evening to talk about a book they had shared?  That was the big question, but I needn’t have worried.  In they came – boys with fathers, boys with mothers, a couple of teachers, and the principal.  After chatting over tea and cookies, we sat down to talk.  I started by asking each boy whether he would recommend the book to a friend, and why or why not.  Everyone had a contribution, and an impassioned, informed discussion began.
Students listened respectfully to one another, acknowledging each comment.  Parents were impressed at the level of insight and delighted at this opportunity to connect with their sons.  Teachers enjoyed seeing their students in a less formal setting.   The hour flew by and we were still talking. Not only had I achieved my goal of sparking interest in a particular book, but I had helped create community around reading.  As one mother wrote the following day,

   “Every parent, especially a mother, wants to find ways to share things with their 
     son. Offering a book club is a terrific opportunity for me to stay connected to
     him and his school.”

Families engaged in discussion.

Moms, Dads and boys examine trail maps of Mt. Katahdin, the peak featured in Trouble
The popular display for Left for Dead, our second book, featured a model World War II Destroyer.

Tips For Success
Inviting parents to participate in a book club with their children is a terrific way to highlight the power of reading together and to promote your library. Students, parents, teachers and administration will see your program in a new light.  Give it a try.   Pick a great book, provide sufficient copies, and pull out that favorite cookie recipe.  Promote your program.   Check publishers’ websites.  Many provide discussion questions you can use as a guide.   Now sit back, enjoy the book and wait…
Meanwhile I’m busy narrowing down choices for our book for the third meeting of the year.   Brunswick’s  book club was so successful that it is fast becoming a once- a-trimester tradition.
If you plan it they will come!

1 comment:

  1. This is really wonderful! Thanks for sharing the success of your program. What a terrific idea.