Looking for something fun and exciting to do this school year? Whether you’re teaching in person, remotely or in a hybrid model, start a Project LIT Book Club.
Project LIT Book Club is a national movement to eradicate book deserts. Book deserts are communities that lack books. So high school teacher, Jarred Amato, and his students set out to eliminate book deserts across the nation. Today, there are over 1,500 Project LIT chapters in the U.S. and even a chapter in Zambia.
At The Center School in Stow, Massachusetts our Project LIT book club has met the past two years in person after school. This year we’ll most likely be meeting remotely. But, we are excited about what that might mean for our club. More about that later.
Each year we read four books. There is no fee to join the club; however, each student agrees to donate two of the four titles we read. Then, we give all sixty of the books to a school who could benefit from a more robust library. But, these aren’t just any titles.
These books, which all come from the Project LIT Book Club list, feature narrators who are underrepresented in children’s literature. For example, the U.S. population is 13.4% African American but only 10% of characters in children’s books are African American. Even worse is the disparity between the U.S. Latinx population, 18.5%, and our representation in children’s literature, 5%.
Last year we read Front Desk by Kelly Yang, New Kid by Jerry Craft, El Deafo by Cece Bell and The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Our club is run by myself, my fourth-grade teammate, Ann Bonner, and our assistant principal, Christy Nealon. Here’s what Ms. Nealon has to say about our book club at The Center School:
“Our book club is always the highlight of my week, month and year! Whether it’s collaboratively planning with the teachers or actually attending the book club with the students, I always leave feeling uplifted. I love that the goal is truly for students (and grown- ups) to enjoy reading and books and to enjoy connecting about books. I appreciate hearing what the students are thinking about their reading. I enjoy being able to connect with students on something other than discipline or problem-solving. It’s exciting for us to get to know each other as fellow readers. I also know this is one small but critical piece of our school taking steps towards being as inclusive as we can be and making sure that students have many ways to see themselves and others in literature.”
Last year we had fourth and fifth graders, thirty students all together, participate in our club. Here’s what a veteran two-year member, Ethan M., had to say about the book club itself:
“It is a very exciting program. I always looked forward to doing it. It’s very hands on, and a great way to get kids drawn into reading for fun. I loved discussing the books, and what we liked about them. We all had something different to say. It’s a very fun thing to be a part of.”
Here’s why Front Desk by Kelly Yang was his favorite title:
“I would say that Front Desk by was my favorite for multiple reasons. Number one, the main character, Mia, is very confident and brave. She is always confident in her ideas. Number two, Front Desk is very diverse. It helps kids learn that every race is equal. Lastly, Front Desk has a lot of thought put into it. It’s a very unique storyline, with lots of twists and turns in between.”
For me, my favorite part about book club, other than connecting with the students and reading great literature, was Skyping with Newbery winner Jerry Craft! Lucky for us, we read New Kid before it won the Newbery.
This year we’ll start off with Wishtree by Katherine Applegate and then read Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes and Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros. We’re still deciding on our fourth title. If any of you have read Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson or Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, leave a comment below and let us know which book you would choose and why.
Of course, we would have liked to have our book club meet in person. But since that’s not likely to happen, we’re thinking of ways to make our Google Meets super fun like bring your own popcorn or snack, discuss the books while in forts and maybe even start a podcast so that other elementary students can hear what we love about these books.
Still not convinced Project LIT is right for you and your school? Here’s why Ethan thinks you should go ahead and start a Project LIT Chapter at your school:
“I would tell them that it is an awesome idea, and that they should totally do it. It’s a very fun club, and it helps kids out in more ways than one. It opens your mind into a world of possibilities, and is a great idea for anyone who loves to read.”