( Connecting Libraries, Underserved teens and Books)
Remember that the purpose of the Great Stories CLUB is to reach out to troubled teens by encouraging a love of reading and books. The discussion should be lively and engaging.
Prior to meeting with the teens, read the book you are discussing carefully -- often it requires two readings. Keep notes on characters and plot so that if there is a question or someone needs reminding you can fill in the gaps.
If you get to choose the time when the discussion is taking place, try to pick a time of day when the teens will be alert and active. First thing in the morning and just after a meal are generally the most ideal times.
Think of a fun way to have the teens introduce themselves and get to know you.
Introduce simple rules and expectations that the group will follow (e.g., read and finish the book, raise your hand to speak and wait to be recognized, respect each other's opinions.) If working with a detention facility, make sure that your rules are in line with the institutional rules.
Try to create a comfortable, open atmosphere. Remember, and remind the teens, that the discussion is not a test, and they won't be judged or graded in any way.
Food encourages informality and conversation. Check with the staff where you will be holding the group to see if food is allowed. If the food becomes a distraction, serve it at the end.
Set up the room so that all participants can see each other (in a circle if possible).
Use open-ended, personal questions (e.g., how did it make you feel, what do you think about ... , what would you do if ...); at the same time try to steer away from purely personal digressions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
If discussion has completely stalled, or if students haven't read the book, try reading a passage or chapter out loud and discussing just that section.
Help the teens to create their own discussion questions and let group members each ask and facilitate a question. This will encourage participation and take the focus off you.
Your role is one of facilitator: keep the discussion rolling and keep it on track. Don't let yourself become a "leader" or "teacher," remain a guide.
Incorporate a writing exercise, activity, craft, or fun quiz that is related to the book. Sometimes busy hands help get the mind working. Check to see what is allowed in the setting where you are working.
Continuing discussions: if you are able to continue the program with the same group of teens, be prepared with several read-a-likes for the book you discussed. Consult the resource guide for other "best of" lists for teens. This way teens may read more on their own afterwards, or you can choose the next discussion book together as a group.
Explore the access the teens will have to related reading books and try to expedite that access through your library.
DOs and DON'TS for running a discussion program
- Maintain discipline and focus.
- Prepare more questions and activities than you need in case discussion stalls.
- Keep it fun.
- Keep the discussion rolling.
- Encourage everyone to contribute.
- Empower the teens as much as possible by soliciting their ideas and opinions for carrying out
- Prod too much or lead answers in a certain direction.
- Contribute significantly to the discussion.
- Lecture on the book.
- Make it seem like school.
- Force anyone to talk.
- Allow one teen to dominate the discussion.