The Knoxville High School Language Arts department has implemented book clubs during the 2020-2021 school year as a way to encourage students' literacy.
The idea to create a book club framework came from a book study that the high school language arts teachers participated in last year. The concept gives students more choice while still having the guidance of their supervising teacher. Book clubs also assist teachers in being able to add more titles to the Language Arts 1, 2 and 3 classes. Students meet in their book clubs during class time once a week and participate in discussions. The goal is for students to simply talk about the books in conversational ways that are more approachable.
Lindsey Carlson, High School Language Arts Teacher, explains that students have been giving positive feedback from this new approach. Books are being read at faster rates than in previous years. “There is a saying in literature that there is no such thing as kids who don’t like to read. They just haven’t found the right book yet,” says Carlson. Allowing students more freedom to choose the books they are reading and then being able to talk about them in small groups has kept their interests.
For 10th grade, the list of books students choose from all have themes of mental health. Knoxville High School Language Arts teacher’s did a lot of planning and preparation when it came to choosing books. They met with several groups who have professional experiences when it comes to mental health. The feedback allowed the teachers to plan their approach when it came to all of the different titles. Each book has listed trigger warnings which allow students to avoid topics that may make them feel uneasy. Teachers also communicate the importance of person first language and help implement appropriate discussion. This includes not labeling people as their mental illness.
Because of the mental health focus in the 10th grade, the Your Life Matters organization partnered with the department to purchase all of the titles. The implementation of book clubs in the language arts department directly aligns with Knoxville Community School District values of being a leader in 21st century learning as well as being a caring community.