Monday, April 29, 2013

Got ARCs? Start a Book Review Club!

Photo by DI
Got shelves overloaded with ARCs? What to do with them?

After years of TLA visits and writing book reviews for SLJ, a review committee, and my blog, I have a huge shelf of ARCs in my bedroom. I hate to throw them out, but I'm not allowed to circulate them in the library. They are taking over my room! What to do?

Obviously, I'll review some of them. But as I saw how excited my students were to get them last Friday night at TT4L, I began to formulate a plan. An awesome plan!

I cannot take credit for all of this. One of the library divas in my district planted the seed for this idea a few months back. I am expanding that seed into a really cool program that my students today were very excited about. Before implementing this plan today, I made sure to ask the publishers at TLA if this is an appropriate use of ARCs. Of the three publishers I asked, all three really liked the idea and agreed it was a great way to use them, even after publication. Yeah!

The plan: A Book Review Club

Getting started:

For now, I am not formally announcing the club. It's word of mouth only, plus a small sign on the library doors, but WOW, did "word" travel fast! Monday was the first day of sign-ups, and 23 students signed up to review. All three grade levels are represented, and 7th grade got so much interest that I'm creating two review groups.

Students who signed up got to choose one of my new ARCs. They loved this part! I asked them to at least start reading by Wednesday so they would have something to tell us about the book.

Meeting with the groups:

I plan to meet with each review group weekly during their lunches. Our first meeting is this Wednesday. Students are to get their lunches (front-of-the-line pass!) and bring them to the library. We are going to eat together and talk about our books. It's very informal--students only need to say what they've read so far and how it's going. I chose one to read also!

Student-written reviews:

As students finish their books, I am asking them to write a review inside the book. ARCs tend to have more blank pages at the front or end, so this is a perfect spot to review them. The review can be a few sentences or a few paragraphs, and the student should sign their name on their review (or they can create reading-related pseudonyms!).  I'll also write my review inside the book as well as on my blog.

My hope is that as time goes on, the reviews will get more critical and spark some debate. I plan to point my reviewers to Goodreads and Library Thing and encourage them to write reviews there as well. I am also willing to send reviews to the publishers if the students want to expand and type them up.

The Rules:

The ARCs will only be available to my book review group.

They will not be barcoded or shelved with our regular collection. I am having a book shelf built (using extra shelf leaves!) especially for these books, and they will be located in my office for my book reviewers.

Students who want to read one are expected to review it.

Our group's bylaws:
  1. Be honest.
  2. Be fair.
  3. Be respectful.
  4. Have fun!

That's it! I think this will be a really easy way to introduce my students to the newest books. I don't foresee this being a ton of planning on my part, other than making time in my day to meet with lunches once each week. My students are very excited to read books before everyone else, and everyone loves eating lunch in the library!

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