“My seventh graders will love this book!”
“Do you think spirit bears are real?”
“I liked the voice of the main character but was the problem solved in a realistic manner?”
These are some of the discussions heard as my Teachers As Readers (TAR) group meets, sipping a glass of wine and discussing the latest book we have read. Teaching children to read isn’t just about spelling and grammar. Sharing the joy of reading should be a huge part of what we do as teachers. One of the most pleasant ways for teachers to become familiar with good books is to read to them! And what better way than by forming a TAR group in your school. Teachers As Readers are book groups that meet, on a social basis, to read and discuss Young Adult (YA) novels.
As a writer, I loved joining my book group because it made me a much more critical reader. Now I have to analyze why I like a story or what I didn’t like about a character. Gayla Clark is an educator who has been instrumental in starting up TAR groups for 16 years. “I like to stretch my mind,” she says, “to read books I would never have chosen on my own and hearing diverse interpretations of them. The social aspect is also rewarding.”
A TAR group can meet in any comfortable setting: your local children’s book store, a library meeting room, a member’s home, even a restaurant or a quiet corner in a cozy pub. Start by inviting teachers in your school or from across your district. Invite a public librarian, parents, a local bookseller. Having up to ten or twelve members is great since not all of them will make it to each meeting.
Alexa Parker teaches children’s literature and belongs to a TAR group. “I like the range of people in the group,” she says. “Some are teachers, some are retired, some are librarians but all of us love to read YA novels.” Belonging to a TAR group has affected her reading in a positive manner. “I pay more attention to style and plot. I mark sections I want to discuss during our meetings.”
Set a meeting day and time that best suits most people. This can be shortly after school or during the evening. Most TAR groups meet once a month. Next, decide on titles to read. You will need access to 10 or 12 copies of the same book so select titles that are readily available in libraries or can be ordered in paperback. Ask teacher/librarians for recommended titles. These can come from Best Books for Kids & Teens catalogue (Canadian Children’s Book Centre), Red Cedar lists and other award-winning lists such as ALA and Newbery. Select six to ten titles—one for each of the next six to ten months.
TAR group members agree that they are better equipped to recommend books to their students. Reading and discussing YA novels gives teachers an understanding of what is out there and helps them discover titles and authors that their students will be interested in.
Sharing the joy of a book is contagious. And once your students are hooked on good books, the sky is the limit!
Starting a TAR Group
- Invite about 10 others, including teachers, librarians, parents, any booklovers.
- Select a comfortable meeting place.
- Set a monthly meeting day and time.
- Decide mutually on titles to read for the next several months.
- Set guidelines for listening and discussion skills.
- Read and enjoy!
Teachers As Readers starter kit with video, IRA (http://marketplace.reading.org)
Find Recommended Titles Here
Recommended YA Novels
After River by Donna Milner
Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher
Amazing Grace by Megan Shull
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson
Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby
Cages by Peg Kehret
Chanda’s Wars by Allan Stratton
Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane by Polly Horvath
Daughter of War by Marsha Skrypuch
Dooley Takes The Fall by Norah McClintock
Flood by James Heneghan.
Gotcha by Shelley Hrdlitschka
Gravity Journal by Gail Sidonie Sobat
Grist by Heather Waldorf Haddix
Hubcaps and Puppies by Rosemary Nelson
I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven
Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson
Jesse’s Star by Ellen Schwartz
Keturah & Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Little Brother by Corey Doctorow
Log Jam by Monica Hughes
Mountain Girl/River Girl by Ting-Xing Ye
No Fixed Address by Maureen Bayless
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Surviving The Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
The Baby Project by Sarah Ellis
The Blue Helmet by William Bell
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
The Droughtlanders: Book One in Triskelia Series by Carrie Mac
The End of the World as We Know It by Lesley Choyce
The Freedom of Jenny by Julie Burtinshaw
The Smell of Paint by Sheryl McFarlane
The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani
The Space Between by Don Aker
The Story of My Life by Farah Ahmedi
The Warrior’s Daughter by Holly Bennett
Throwaway Daughter by Ting-Xing Ye and William Bell
Torn Away by James Heneghan
Tweaked by Kathryn Holubitsky
Voices by Eric Walters & Deborah Ellis
What’s a Serious Detective Like Me Doing in Such a Silly Movie? by Linda Bailey
Witch’s Fang by Heather Kellerhals-Stewart
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Margriet Ruurs is the author of 28 books for children. She conducts author presentations in schools around the country. MARGRIETRUURS.COM
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s March 2010 issue.