Guest Post: Book Clubs in Schools by Elaine Drennon

Today we're happy to welcome author Elaine Drennon, author of A Southern Place.  Elaine is here to talk about book clubs in schools.  Welcome to I'd So Rather Be Reading, Elaine!

Book Clubs In Schools 

One of the coolest (but short lived) trends in education for me was a school-wide reading-for-pleasure activity pushed in the late 90s. Friday was reading day, and the last five minutes of every class was used for silent reading of personal choice. Even teachers were required to have a “pleasure” book on hand—no grad school texts or reference materials—and to participate in reading along with the students. I loved it—not only was it a refreshing break in my day, but I was amazed at the conversations I was suddenly having with my middle school students about the books we enjoyed.

Long after the trend phased out, I continued to leave reading materials on my desk, often swapping and sharing with students.

As a high school fine arts teacher, I somehow drifted into the role of being advisor of our school newspaper in my last few years before retirement. I began to write book reviews for the school paper; our media specialist claimed that my suggestions came in second only to Harry Potter and the Twilight series. Some of those students, now with families of their own, still Facebook me for reading suggestions. I kept a shelf of my own recently procured books behind my desk; students borrowed them by simply signing the page-size dry-erase tablet beside it (and they were much better about returning them than my adult friends and I were to one another!) I’ve never hosted a school book club by name, but I guess I was a part of one just the same. However, that’s now about to change.

Calhoun High School, revered throughout the state for its outstanding achievements in academics, athletics and the arts, opened their beautiful new structure this fall. In a joint effort to celebrate the new building and my new book, I will be hosting a school and community book club that will meet monthly in their state-of-the-art new media center!

With out first meeting scheduled in early October, we will begin with my book, A Summer Place, but quickly move on to other titles and keep it going for the length of a school year. We will NOT read the required reading for their English classes but best-sellers and fairly recent new books they might not read without being “steered” that way. I plan to write mini-reviews of a dozen-or-so books each month in a handout, and after preview and discussion we will vote on upcoming books to read.

I started out thinking the club would be for students only, but later decided it might be a great place for student/teacher/parent/community involvement (as long as they stay “cool” with what we want to read. There are already venues for the discussion of Shakespeare, self-help, and religious literature---we’re reading for the pure please of good fiction!) As we finish books, those who wish may donate them to the school media center, who will keep a special section for our previous book-club selections. When kids like something, word travels fast!

On a similar note, I’m also about to start doing a once a month book review section in the Calhoun Times, our local newspaper. It is my hope that we’ll be able to tie in news and discussions from our [currently un-named] book club in a way that can publicize and generate interest for both.

After teaching for 27 years, it’s been a wonderful change to devote my time to writing, but I do miss my relationships with students almost daily. Since I never plan to stop reading and writing, I hope this will be a way to give back to my community as well as enjoy the fresh and exciting perspectives given from teen voices. Do any of you have book club experiences from your high school, community, or both that you’d like to share? All ideas are welcome—I want to “jump in with both feet” and make this a wonderful experience for all. If it worked for you—I’d love to start out with pre-tested successes.

As long as you have ideas, I’m here to listen: Thanks from all of us! Elaine Drennon Little on Facebook

A Southern Place is a moving book that is expertly written! Mary Jane Hatcher--everyone calls her Mojo--is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life, is where this story begins and ends.
Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem, and Phil Foster--the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county--is no exception.
As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.

Paperback:  294 Pages

Publisher:  WiDo Publishing (August 6, 2013)

ISBN-10:  1937178390

Twitter hashtag: #ASPLittle

A Southern Place is available as a print and e- book at 

About the Author:
Adopted at birth, Elaine lived her first twenty years on her parents’ agricultural farm in rural southern Georgia.  She was a public school music teacher for twenty-seven years, and continued to dabble with sideline interests in spite of her paid profession.  Playing in her first band at age fourteen, she seemed to almost always be involved in at least one band or another.  Elaine’s writing began in high school, publishing in local newspapers, then educational journals, then later in online fiction journals.  In 2008 she enrolled in the MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, where upon graduation finished her second novel manuscript. Recently retiring after eleven years as a high school chorus and drama director, Elaine now lives in north Georgia with her husband, an ever-growing library of used books, and many adopted animals.

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  1. What a cool trend. Sad I missed it. Great post. :)

  2. I am going to share this idea of a school book club with my mom and a few other teachers that I know!


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