Middle school book club encouraging young readers

CARIBOU, Maine — About a dozen young readers have been meeting monthly for a year to discuss literature as part of the Caribou Public Library’s middle school book club. 

Children’s Librarian Erin Albers said the program has been going over well with the youngsters for the past year, and that the idea to start a book club came from seventh grader Alex Hale.

“I wanted a book club somewhere, and tried to start one at my school in fifth grade,” Hale said, “but it didn’t work. Everyone watched movies instead of reading the book so I gave up on that.”

His next move was to ask Albers about opening a book club at the Caribou library. Receptive to the idea, she decided to put out clipboards in which interested parents and their children could provide names and phone numbers, and in a couple months, in October of 2017, the book club began.

“It worked pretty well,” said Hale. “We had a lot of kids.”

Young readers like, from left, Ella and James Bennett, meet at the Caribou Library once a month for the middle school book club, a program that has been active for one year.
(Chris Bouchard)

Hale said he’s been reading since he was “about two,” and that his mother would always read to him because “she loved to read,” and “instilled that love of reading in me.”

“I’m what you’d call a nerd,” he said with a laugh. “I read a lot.”

Hale’s favorite books are medieval fantasy, and he said he is particularly interested in dragons.

“The theory of giant flying lizards that breath fire? It’s just awesome,” he said.

In addition to the book club’s monthly requirements, Hale is currently reading the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, and says he always needs to read books in a series in order, and will try to read prequels first if he has the opportunity.

He also finished reading “Lord of the Flies,” which he enjoyed as it “had some really interesting themes.”

“The Hobbit” is among Hale’s favorite books, so much so that he will sometimes “sit down and commit passages of it to memory.”

Albers said that one one of her goals with the book club is to introduce young readers to new literary genres and to have them tackle a different type of book every month, ranging from classics, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and  non-fiction.

“It’s worked out really well,” she said. “Non-fiction isn’t as exciting for the kids. They’re not like, ‘Oh, good. It’s non-fiction month.’ And overall, I thought the program could draw them out of the kind of books they like to read all the time.”

Members of the Caribou Public Library middle school book club, from left, Abraham Bouchard, Alex Hale, and Althea Wilcox, meet every month to discuss literature. (Chris Bouchard)

Each meeting begins with an “ice-breaker,” in which Albers will ask a series of questions that each member will go around answering. Some questions asked during their October meeting were, “What’s your favorite fast food?” and “Would you rather live in a rocket or a submarine?”

“We also talk about one literary device a month,” she said. “We start out with plot, climax, conclusion, and then get into more difficult things like points of view and anthropomorphism.”

Looking ahead, Albers said the library is “always open to new folks interested in joining,” and that if the the group grows large enough, she may split the book club into two groups, since the current age range is 10 to 16, and two groups would give the older members more of a challenge while not overwhelming the younger readers.

She was particularly impressed that club members chose to continue meeting through this summer, and looks forward to hosting the club in the coming months.

Hale shared that sentiment and said he hopes to see more youths join the book club.

“I hope there will be more kids in the upcoming days,” he said. “I bet there is a pretty good percentage of people who would like their kids to read here, and I hope they can come in.”

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