Teacher book clubs: Read to learn, and for credit!

Have you read “The Book Whisperer?”

The full title is actually The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, by Donalyn Miller (Jossey-Bass, 2009)? Miller is a middle-school language arts teacher in Texas who couldn’t find a book that approached teaching reading like she knew it could be taught, so she wrote one. With her methods, her sixth-grade students read an average of 40-50 books a school year, regardless of their reading level upon entering the class. And Miller has collected many teaching awards, including individual school and region Teacher of the Year awards.

Or how about Stephen Covey’s classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon Schuster, 1990)? Or The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss (Ballentine, 2013), The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (Harper Collins, 2011), or Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56 by Rafe Esquith (Penguin, 2007)?

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We know. You’re a teacher, and you’re already spending every waking moment focusing on your students. It’s hard to fit in all the reading that you’d like to do, even if it promises to be both relevant in your classroom and your life. But there’s a way to fit it in and reap the benefits of both the books and professional discussions around them: a teachers’ book club. And with summer approaching, you’ve got at least a little extra time on your hands.

Education World has examined the success of educators’ book clubs, where teachers read and discuss books related to the classroom or professional development. Education Week has an online Teacher Book Club, with synopses and author-led discussions. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) created a Teacher Book Club of its own. And the website Goodreads has an online Educator Book Club, where teachers, parents, students, administrators and others can share about books on education.

But what if you could start a teacher’s book club of your own – where you live or work – and have it count for continuing education credit? If you could be part of a group of educators who explore one book at a time, in depth, taking away information you can use in the classroom and beyond?

That’s what Professor Eric Thompson’s Teacher’s Book Study Club class EDUO 9021 offers at Dominican University of California Online.

“This course encourages educators to create time to explore the content of a book with each other in order to gain the benefits that can happen when there is dialog between professionals around a focused topic,” Thompson says in his course description. He points out that readers often get much more out of a book when discussing it among peers rather than simply reading it individually.

  • The objectives of the course:
  • To read books that involve current important issues in education;
  • To thoughtfully discuss and analyze the books;
  • To research the author and his/her life experiences as they pertain to the book;
  • To create questions exploring the book and to pose and discuss those questions, either in an online group or in a face-to-face group;
  • To write a paper discussing the experience with this book.

Thompson offers an approved book list with more than 95 books listed, and he allows students to propose books not on the list as well. The books are divided into two main categories, either those focused on “School, District and Community Education Enhancement” or those focused on “Classroom Enhancement.” Final assignments based on the book will often require the participant to compare and contrast his or her teaching methods with those studied or suggested by the author; to discuss how the author’s material would fit into a classroom or community setting; and whether the participant sees any obstacles to implementing the author’s techniques or perspective.

To explore the class, download the syllabus or get more information about enrolling at Dominican University of California’s online professional development program, click here. The course counts for one credit and can be taken sequentially as you read different books.

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