A comment I left on Blue Skunk Blog ( one of my favorites) prompted a question about my Library Lunch Club. This isn't the first time I've been asked so I'm heeding the call of the universe and writing up a blog post. I first wrote about it in 2007 when it started but it's been tweaked quite a bit since then. I don't agree with all the tweaks but I try to be a team player.
First requirement is a Principal who is more interested in students & reading than in having a library with a pristine carpet. Second requirement is a librarian with a high tolerance for noise!
Membership is open to 4th & 5th graders. It used to be limited to 4th graders but once the 4th graders moved on they insisted that the club come with them. Membership is tried into reading.
We're an AR school so it's pretty easy to figure out who reads and who doesn't. The top 25 4th and 5th graders, AR point wise are automatically members. The membership changes on the first Monday of every month - that way those who read have to keep reading! I figure it's a good life lesson - just because you're on top doesn't mean you don' t have to work to stay there.
I also include any 5th grader with straight As and an occasional child who is making great strides in either academics or behavior. We have high mobility and I keep an eye out for new students who are avid readers and invite them also. Much to our amazement it's a popular reward for students on a behavior contract. I've been known to hand out an invite to kids because "you're a neat kid". Hey, it's my club - I can ask who I want!
Teachers have found the club to be an excellent "carrot" - as in "If you keep forgetting your homework you are out of the club". It's proven to be an excellent motivator when it comes to getting 10 year old Hispanic males to read. This last school year the majority of the members were boys.
The students bring their lunch to the library (most of our kids are on free & reduced lunch). They sit 5 or 6 to the tables and they don't have to sit with their class. That's a big perk since they must sit by class in the cafeteria. They also get to sit at tables and chairs, as opposed to the pigs at the trough style of eating that is normal in many school cafeterias. It takes them about 10 minutes to eat and then the fun begins.
Thanks to a bond issue the library has lots and lots of technology toys. iTouches, ibooks, a Wii, an ActivBoard and two big iMacs. My lunch time rule of thumb is "if it gets through the filters it's OK by me". The kids im each other, play games, write on their blogs, check their e-mail and and have light saber duels with the iTouches. Last spring Justin Biber made every one of the girls hearts go pitter patter. They played his video over and over and over again, accompanied by groans from the boys and I who did not share the love. In between playing with iMovies a couple of the girls run the circulation desk. The bulk of the computers are laptops and the kids love to sprawl on the floor and share their discoveries.
When I work with the classes it's real apparent that this extra computer time benefits their learning. The Library Lunch Club kids have more computer savvy and are much more comfortable with keyboarding. They also tend to stay on task since they know they have "free exploration" time every day.
Are there any rules? Yes of course! The kids have to bus their tables and respect each other and the technology. I had one incident of cyber bullying last year which I nipped by sending the bully back to the cafeteria. I've not had one computer broken or vandalized. All of my mice have their balls and my keyboards their keys.
And what's my role in this daily 60 minutes of madness? I prowl around, peek over shoulders, cajole kids to drink their milk, suggest books & websites and enjoy the happy buzz.
It works - it's one of the reasons our reading scores are in the mid to high 90s!