Oprah Winfrey launched her book club this week in 1996.
In September 1996, television personality Oprah Winfrey announced the first selection for her new book club, and her viewers responded by buying millions of copies of Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean. Credited with starting a resurgence in the popularity of reading and book clubs, Winfrey went on to promote books by contemporary authors such as Toni Morrison, Ernest Gaines, and Barbara Kingsolver, as well as classic authors from Tolstoy to Faulkner.
Book clubs promote the social nature of reading and invite students to enjoy reading for its own sake. Even though individual readers might process text successfully in isolation, having the opportunity to discuss responses, share insights, and learn from the interpretations of other readers can be very valuable. Consider trying one of the activities below to get your own version of a book club started in your classroom.
- Within a classroom, have students form groups of three to five. Working with your librarian/school media specialist, have each group choose an appropriate book to read and discuss in place of an independent reading assignment.
- If you're feeling more ambitious, consider collaborating with colleagues on a larger book club model. Take the "One Grade, One Book" approach and have all students in a particular grade level read the same title. Discussion groups from different classes can share their responses at designated times. For middle school and secondary students, consider launching a "One School, One Book" intitiative and unite all the readers in your school around an appropriate title.
See the resources below for tips and suggestions on getting book clubs (large or small) started in your classroom or school.
This site provides questions that can help groups make basic decisions about what their group will do. Edit this site's list of questions to customize it for the specific needs of your students or group.
Older students can use these guidelines from Oprah’s website to organize their book clubs. The list includes sections on how to host, getting things started, discussion questions, and growing your club.
Here is a gathering all of Oprah's official book selections in one place, dating all the way back to 1996's inaugural book club pick.
Although this online article focuses on an adult audience at a library (not students at a school), it provides honest and practical advice for starting a larger-scale book club project.