BAXTER -- Four years ago Bridget Surma, a third-grade teacher at Baxter Elementary School, started a book club for her third-graders as a way to pass on her love of reading and to encourage their parents to read with them.
Students who volunteer to be in the book club join their parents during recess at school once a month to discuss their monthly book club selection. Two students serve as literature leaders during the book club meeting, offering up questions in order to spur on the discussion. Someone volunteers each month to bring snacks.
What began as a third-grade book club has now spawned three separate book clubs at Baxter Elementary for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. Students in her previous third-grade book clubs didn't want to give up their book clubs even though they were no longer in her class.
So Surma, who participates in two adult book clubs, now attends three monthly student book clubs as well. The book clubs are so popular that many of the clubs meet in the summer, usually hosted as a book club/beach party gathering at a cabin or lake home. There are about 10 students in the third-grade book club, or half of Surma's class; eight students in the fourth-grade book club; and seven students in the fifth-grade book club.
The fifth-grade book club at Baxter Elementary School recently met, along with their parents, to discuss "The Cay," by Theodore Taylor.
Surma said she tries to select historical fiction for her book club members and leans heavily toward Newberry Medal-winning novels.
"The book club is fun because you get to read a lot of different books," said Camden Swanson, 10, a Baxter fifth-grade book club member. "And I like the treats."
Tamie Swanson, Camden's mom, said her son's reading habits have changed since he joined the book club in third grade.
"As a parent, I look at how he reads books and now, it's different," she said. "He analyzes and predicts as he reads."
Swanson and his fellow book club members recently read, "The Cay," by Theodore Taylor. The book touched many of the boys and girls in the club, including Luke Surma, Bridget Surma's fifth-grade son. The student-led book club had a spirited discussion about the book on Feb. 10 during their monthly book club meeting. They talked about the motivation behind the characters and answered trivia questions about the book.
"This was the only book I've cried in," Luke said.
"Me, too," added Camden.
"They've learned so much about literature and authors and how important it is to discuss," Surma explained. "It truly is a kid's book club because they do the majority of the discussing."
Several fifth-graders said they have made reading recommendations to their teachers of books they've enjoyed reading during their book club. Surma said she would love to see more parent-children book clubs springing up throughout the Brainerd lakes area.
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