Running a Book Club

I’ve been asked on Twitter by a few different people how I run/fund my high school book club, so I decided I should write a post about it.  I’m still working on improving it, so if you run a book club I’d love to know what you do to make it fun.

The Premiere jewelry party fundraiser

The Premier jewelry party fundraiser

I’ll start with a little bit of background.  After our librarian left and we found out that she wasn’t going to be replaced, I asked my principal if I could take over book club.  We had a secretary working in the library, but she wasn’t familiar with the books and was really hired to work on technology stuff.  Later in the year we hired a technology person who would work in the library, but again, he was mostly brought in to help with technology issues in the building.  Thankfully my YA class and my well known passion for reading helped gain me some members, albeit a small amount of members.  I think the first year I ran it we had fifteen members, but only six or so came on a regular basis.  Since then our numbers have grown, but I still have a tough time getting more kids to come regularly.  We meet after school for about an hour since it’s difficult to arrange a time during any other part of the day.  At first we met almost once a week because we wanted to discuss books and we were working on improving/decorating the library since we don’t have a librarian.  When I started this book club, we chose together which books we’d read and I usually bought a few copies of the chosen book with my own money.  I honestly can’t remember if we did much fundraising that first year.

The second year was much better.  We spent more time making displays in the library.  We started holding fundraisers to purchase the books we’d read and we also held fundraisers to purchase books for the library.  My kids loved doing this and were really motivated to raise money.  When new books would arrive, we’d find ways of displaying them so more students would travel into the library to check them out.  That year I really felt like I was running the library in my classroom and our actual library.  I wasn’t down there organizing books and checking them in and out to students, but I was trying to find ways to purchase more books and put eye-catching displays together.

The cupcakes we ate while Skyping with Sarah Ockler about Bittersweet.

Some cupcakes we ate while Skyping with Sarah Ockler about Bittersweet.

This year, my students and I have given up trying to decorate the library because the technology teacher was pulled to teach full time.  The same secretary is down there, but she’s working more on technology issues.  We also have an online schooling program going on in the library, so it isn’t being used at all anymore by our students.  They go down there to check out text books and some might still check out library books, but I don’t know how often that happens.  Hopefully more than I think.  The fundraising we do goes towards purchasing our book club books which I still donate to the library.  If we get our library back, I’ll be happy to have my students work on displays and fundraising, but this year that just doesn’t seem worth it.

I do have a larger group of students this year which makes it fun getting to know them and their reading preferences.  Last year and this year we’ve put all of our names into a bucket and we draw a name every time we choose a new book to read.  This way each student gets to help choose our next book.  They still ask for my advice, but I try to make sure each students gets to read a book they’re interested in.  We’re constantly on Goodreads looking for our next book.

Most of the fundraising we’ve done consists of bake sales.  We’ve apparently priced our bake sales well because we usually make around $150-$200 in a week.  Last year one of the moms got involved and made us lots of cookies to sell.  The kids in our school found out she was baking for us and were really excited to buy some of her cookies 🙂  I’m also really fortunate to have a great group of kids who also love to bake.  I love to coupon shop, especially in the summer, so whenever boxes of brownie mix, cookies, or the like go on sale I buy a bunch of them so we can make them for bake sales.  A friend of mine sells Premier jewelry and told me that I could hold a book party at school as a fundraiser.  We received a portion of the profits we earned.  To help promote the fundraiser, we offered a jewelry giveaway for each order made or something like that (I think we added a person’s name every $25 or so they spent).  With those parties, the hostess holding the party always earns free jewelry, so we used that free jewelry for the giveaway.  It definitely helped!  We also paired up with Tropical Smoothie and earned a percentage of the sales during a designated time period, so we advertised that at school as well.  We’ve been meaning to have a car wash in the spring, but every time we want to, another club has beat us to it.


Advertising our book club at the orientation for upcoming freshmen

I do need help coming up with fun meeting ideas.  Last year we read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, so we decided to make crepes during our discussion meeting.  The French teacher let us borrow her crepe maker and each of us brought a different ingredient to make the crepes.  Since we were making so many, we let the teachers in the building know so they could get a crepe after school.  We’ve Skyped with a couple authors as well.  We read The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner and Skyped with her, which was fun as usual.  Our first year we read Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler and talked with her on the phone; my kids loved that.  Last year we read Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler, so we made cupcakes for our meeting and Skyped with her.  I think it’s a given that this year we’ll read The Book of Broken Hearts.  I made monster cookies for when we discussed The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd.  Other than those things, I’m really not sure what else we should do.  I’d love some suggestions!

Here’s a list of books we’ve read in book club. Titles in bold were enjoyed by most of the group.  I hope I didn’t forget any titles!:

  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre
  • Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
  • Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristin Chandler (this one had a lot of mixed reactions)
  • The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
  • Hush, Hush & Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
  • Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
  • Things Change by Patrick Jones
  • Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe
  • Exposed by Kimberly Marcus
  • Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
  • Fixing Delilah & Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
  • The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
  • Freefall by Mindi Scott
  • The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd (lots of mixed reaction, but overall I think they liked it)
  • Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Our current read is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  I hope they all like it!  We’ve also had times when we read different books connected by theme or topic.


High School Library NEEDS Books

I found this post today and want to help this high school library.  This post was originally posted at Frenzy of Noise.  I hope my readers can help in any way possible!

These are the books I'm donating 🙂

Frenzy of Noise post:

While I was in classes a few weeks ago, I had this huge (kinda funny to me) realization. All week everyone kept talking about community. Saying “this is the place you’ll build a lifeline.” All week I was that smug girl who’s said to myself: I have that. Because I do have that. I have it in bloggers, in readers, in writers, in authors, in Twitter. I know I have people.

I know I’m part of a community that bans together to stand up for literary injustice, backlash, plagarism and everything in between. We build hashtags on twitter and give small ideas a way to be big. We’re awesome.

That’s why when the director of my MFA program sent us an email about a book drive, I knew I had to bring the need to my community. This community. Why? Well…

“The literature section of Ballou Senior High School’s library in Washington, DC has 63 books, not enough to fill five small shelves. In the area marked “Pure Science,” there are 77 volumes. The generally accepted standard for school libraries is 11 books for each of Ballou’s 1,104 students.”


It’s completely unacceptable that a high school is lacking a basic need of life, a need that opens the doors to education, creativity and imagination—books. And this is the time for all of us to step up, to ban together, to help out. No matter what genre you read, because they need everything.

This selection I take out of the email from my program director because he says it better than I ever could.

“It’s a challenge for kids to take their literacy seriously when they don’t even have books to read. Ballou is located in the most dangerous ward in our nation’s capitol. Right now, the library serves as a physical safe space and a refuge for students in off school hours, but wouldn’t it be great if they had something to read while they were there–even choices across genre?….This is not the only school in the country with needs, but when the flare went up we saw it and chose to respond.”

What they need:

Everything.  From Shakespeare to Octavia Butler to Richard Wright. Fantasy, sci-fi, YA, adult fiction, history books, poetry, classic literature, science. Basically anything and everything that’s suitable for high school. They will take anything as long as it is in GOOD condition and has no writing in it. 

I’ve asked if they would accept ARCs (new and old), and the director of the book drive, Lisa, said YES. Please note however, that this they really need finished copies. ARCs are fantastic, but the lasting value isn’t always standing.

How to donate:

If you have books you want to give, please mail them directly to:

Perry School
c/o Margaret Pegram
128 M St. NW suite 318
Washington, DC 20001

Inside the box put a note that says “c/o Lisa P. Ballou Book Drive”.

They will be accepting books until August 22!!

Also, if you’d like to include some kind of quick note for the kids, words of encouragement, that would be awesome!! But it’s not mandatory.

Spread the word!

Reblog this post on your blog. Tweet this post. (we’re on Twitter at #HSBookDrive) Tell everyone. Send books.

This is a chance for our community to step up, to reach out and to provide teens with books. This is why we are here so I challenge you to be part of this. If you can, if you have even one book or a stack of books from that project you finished a year ago, give them. Donating books is not really about the book, but about what happens when someone reads a book. And not even having a chance to read a book is completely devastating to me. I can’t even imagine my life without books.

I hope you will help!! Even if you can’t send a book–tweet, tell others, and take action.

Classroom Library Fundraisers (DonorsChoose)

The semester before I started student teaching, I had to take a class about teaching literature at the secondary level.  Dr. Steffel, the amazing professor that hooked me on YA, was teaching this class and had us complete a project as our final.  We had to put together a book filled with important quotes and information about teaching, reading, etc. that would remind us why we decided to teach.  She said something along these lines- “You won’t love teaching and your students every day, so use this book as a reminder.  Keep it somewhere close in your classroom.”  I made a small scrapbook filled with genious quotes from teaching greats.  One of the most important pieces speaks of the importance of a classroom library.  That little scrapbook followed me through student teaching and still sits proudly behind my desk now.  And as that little book has been following me through my career, I have been building my classroom library.

The first day I was allowed to come into my classroom and start preparing it, I organized my collection of books.  I think I had around 30 or so books to start the year.  The kids didn’t quite understand what I was trying to do with this classroom library, but once we started SSR the lightbulbs started turning on.  I was reading aloud to them, book talking every book I finished reading and added to the shelf, and continued on with SSR.  It took a few kids at first, but they eventually picked up on my excitement about reading and wanted to be excited too!

My little library when I started teaching 🙂

Since that first year, I’ve been creating readers in all of the classes I teach.  I’ve even gone on to create a Young Adult Lit class.  My library has become the supplement for our school library because we lost our librarian this year and quite a bit of our budget for books.  Now there are students I’ve never met coming to me asking to borrow from my library.

I created my first DonorsChoose project last year and within a month it was funded, which provided me with 42 new books for my class library!  I’ve put two new projects together because it’s becoming harder to keep up with my students’ requests for books.  I have over 30 excellent titles I need for guys in one project and over 30 excellent titles I need for girls in the other.  Here are the links:


Donations big or small are extremely helpful and appreciated.  If you can’t donate, maybe you could spread the word about the projects I’m trying to fund.  A few titles I’ve listed because I need doubles to keep up with how popular they are.  The rest are books I that I don’t have.  Quite a few titles (Gary Paulsen titles, Percy Jackson series, Simone Elkeles titles, Delirium, etc.) have been requested by my students.  DonorsChoose is an awesome site that helps thousands of teachers.  If you’re a teacher or librarian I encourage you to create a fundraiser as well!


My library @ the start of my 4th year. And this is missing some books from students/teachers who borrowed over the summer! (The shelf on the left is 6 shelves high)

Awesomely Wonderful!!

My online fundraiser has been fully funded as of yesterday!!!  Woo hoo 🙂

Car Wash

So I know this is really last minute for everyone, but we are running out of time to have this car wash.  Next Saturday is prom, on the 15th band is having a free car wash, and the weekend after that seniors will be studying for finals.  This Friday the weather is supposed to be in the mid 70s without rain.  If we can’t get a good size group of you on board for this Friday, then we’ll have to cancel this fundraiser 🙁 

Who can participate this Friday?  Who can make posters to hold up on the side of the road?  Who can make fliers again advertising the car wash?  (Get the details from Mrs. Smith before making these.)  We need to get towels, buckets, hoses, cleaning products, etc.  Does anyone want to go downtown to hang up fliers at the local businesses?  Leave comments please!

Are you kidding me?!

This is ridiculous!  I don’t even have words for how irritated I am right now… 

On a happier note, a woman my dad works with made a $10 donation to my fundraiser.  Hopefully the momentum keeps going!

P.S.  As I was typing this message my friend from way back when made a $25 donation to the fundraiser! 

P.P.S Check out Twitter tonight and tomorrow night from 9:00-11:00 to interact with authors like Ellen Hopkins, Lisa McMann, Becca Fitzgerald and Alyson Noel (Weds.) & Cami Garcia, Cassandra Clare, and Scott Westerfeld (Thurs.)  Search #yalitchat once you log into Twitter.


Before we went on spring break I mentioned in class that I was going to work on putting together an online fundraiser to receive more books.  Yesterday morning I wrote the proposal, went “shopping” for books we’d like to have in class, and submitted everything.  It was approved today! 🙂 🙂 🙂  I’ve posted the link to my Facebook page and my Twitter account.  My mom has done the same too in an attempt to get more donations.  If you’re interested in what this is all about, or if you’d like to spread the word to help our class, here’s the link:

By the way- I read The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks and The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler.  I’ll post what I think of both books later. 🙂

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