Long-standing tradition book club still popular with Draper Middle students
A window display of book covers illustrate several books Draper Park Middle School students have read as part of the Viking Book Club. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
More than 15 years ago, before the current school even had its architectural plan, middle school students sat around the library tables sharing insights from books they had read.
That former Crescent View Middle School brown bag book club, formed by English teacher Jolene Jenkins and later coordinated by librarian Tim Rausch, developed into the Viking Book Club at Draper Park Middle School. The book club attracts about 100 students and meets six times per year at three different lunch periods.
“We hold a random drawing, but we try to make sure students who want to participate can get in at least once,” librarian Jim Wilson said, who has been overseeing the club the past nine years.
Wilson, along with librarian Maggi Welliver, who has worked in the school’s library the past 14 years, pick the club’s books and genres.
This past September, students read the 1963 historical fiction novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham.” In October, students read a contemporary thriller, “Closed for the Season” by Mary Downing Hahn.
During those months, they gave each student who participated in the book club a free copy of the book, which Wilson purchased with fines collected from overdue library books as well as money earned from the school’s scholastic book fair. Parents have to sign a form indicating the student has read the book before the student can attend the actual book sessions.
“We have so many students who want to participate, we need to make sure these students are really wanting to read the books and discuss them. We see the kids reading books for enjoyment, not for an assignment, and for the love of reading. Our discussions talk about things kids take from the book and relating those to experiences in their lives,” he said.
The school’s Parent-Teacher Association gives the book club funds to provide students lunch during their 35-minute book discussions. Often, Wilson tries to match the meals to the book topics, but in December, the tradition is for him to flip pancakes for students. The librarians also gave students the flexibility this December of picking a book fitting a fantasy or holiday theme.
“The kids have recommended books and have input into what we’ve read. We also have about 15 teachers who participate and give us their perspectives into the books we read,” he said.
In January, Wilson plans to have his students read a classic.
In the library windows is a display of the books students have read through the years, such as “Breaking Stalin’s Nose,” “Out of My Mind,” “Schooled,” “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,” “Where the Red Fern Grows,” “The Christmas Box,” “Tangerine,” “Inside Out and Back Again,” and “My Side of the Mountain.”
Wilson said that many of the middle school librarians share successful book discussions and ideas, such as two years ago when he got a Utah Humanities Grant and brought in local author Eileen Hallet Stone who lead the book club discussion of Jennifer Roy’s “Yellow Star,” a historical fiction book based on a young girl’s experiences in Poland’s Lodz ghetto. Students and parents met before school that Friday morning sharing how they’d feel to be a Jew during World War II, possibly ripped from their families and familiar settings.
Last year, Albion Middle School’s book club hosted the same event after school in April to a gathering of students and parents, all wearing yellow stars with the words, “Jude and non-Jew: One in Struggle.”
“We’re all excited when students want to come to the library to read and learn. They are eager to see the announcement of the next book we’ll be reading,” he said.