by Nicole Timbrell and Jenny Power
Every class consists of enthusiastic and reluctant recreational readers. Online book clubs provide a new way for teachers to use the enthusiasm of engaged readers to influence those who are indifferent towards reading. We (Nicole Timbrell and Jenny Power), two Sydney-based secondary school teachers, combined our professional strengths, as English classroom teacher and teacher librarian respectively, and set out to enhance our students' engagement with recreational reading by adopting online book clubs. We supplemented traditional reading promotion strategies with online book clubs hosted by Good Reads and Inside A Dog, to develop greater interest in recreational reading. By structuring our classes around these online tools, we extended the scope of our role as enabling adults to provide a stimulating reading environment that reached beyond the walls of the classroom.
Both Good Reads and Inside A Dog provide extensive databases of fiction and non-fiction which allow users to access book covers, blurbs, reviews and ratings for each book. Users create a profile and add books to their "online shelves" as a record of their past, current and future reading patterns. Teachers are then able to construct groups within these websites and invite their students to become part of the class book club. By adopting the model of social networking sites, both Good Reads and Inside a Dog allow users to become online "friends" in order to view one another’s profiles and share reviews and recommendations. The promotion of shared reading experiences among peers, and the ability of students to gain reading ideas and motivation from the more enthusiastic and capable readers within the class were found to be the most appealing features of these websites.
We managed our online book clubs by asking students to:
- Construct profiles to display current, past and future reading choices
- Reply to discussion points posted on the online book club home page
- Set personal reading goals to extend their repertoire and display these on their profile
- Write book reviews
- Read other students’ book reviews to make and receive recommendations
- Use the search functions of the website to seek recommendations for future reading
Benefits for students participating in these online reading communities include:
- Increased enthusiasm and inspiration to read books their peers had enjoyed
- An ability to better locate and select books for their interest and ability
- Improved knowledge of the etiquette of online communication
Benefits for teachers include the ability to:
Nicole Timbrell is an English teacher (Grades 7-12) at Loreto Kirribilli, in Sydney Australia.
- Monitor all students’ reading progress and keep a record for use during discussions with students and parents
- Personalise recommendations and provide individual suggestions for future reading
- Construct closed online reading communities which enable younger students to communicate in a moderated environment
- Set authentic writing tasks due to the publication of reviews and discussion posts to a real audience in a "live" online space
Jenny Power is a teacher librarian at Loreto Kirribilli, in Sydney Australia.
Nicole and Jenny share an interest in adolescent literacy, online reading comprehension and new literacies and work together to incorporate ideas from these areas into the English classroom.
This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).