Nardos King on Book Clubs and Student Engagement

Nardos King serves as Principal for Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria Virginia, and has widely praised for her focus on engaging and motivating students.

At the 2012 Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy at Virginia Tech, researchers discussed how book clubs could increase student engagement at the collegiate level. The researchers broke students into small groups and assigned books that were related to the course, rather than textbooks. Students had to meet with their groups every week, write journal entries about their reaction to the week’s chapter, develop discussion questions, create written answers as a team, and finally make a group presentation on their book. College students in courses that used this book club format reported that they enjoyed higher levels of comprehension, engagement, and enjoyment of the source material students than they had ever experienced in traditional college classes.

As an avid book club member, I wonder if such an approach would work for high school students. For instance, a biology class studying cancer or cell biology could also read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, which discusses the origins of the cells we use for research, and the life of the woman who donated those cells. A history class studying the era after the civil war might read “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President,” to help them understand the Garfield assassination. These book clubs could help our students achieve so much more, all while helping them develop both a love for reading and greater critical thinking skills.

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