Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Am Grateful for Great Books

I am grateful for great authors and their books.  The Hobbit celebrate its 75th birthday this year.  A story filled with adventure and layered with ideas and meanings.  It has a little something for everyone.

Someone told me that the Hobbit was a great book.  I started it 3 different times my senior year and couldn’t get into it.  A friend came over to my apartment one night and brought Leonard Nimoy’s Album “Spaced Out”.  One of the songs Mr. Spock sang was the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.  I was charmed and hooked.  I started the book for the 4th time and it finally clicked.  I fell in love with the characters and the author.

The Book It With A Buddy program is held at Parmly Billings Public Library.  It is a partnership program between the library and the Midland Empire Reading Council (MERC). We received a grant that supported six book discussion groups last year and another six this year.  The money paid for one book per team for each book discussion and some snacks.  We bought 10 books per session.  The teams get to keep their book.

The teams are made up of a student and an adult.  Participants commit to reading the book together before the discussion.  The adult has to physically go to the library and register their team.  Our goal is to provide youth (4th-8th graders) and an adult  a way to discuss a book and hopefully strengthen the bond between them.  Two MERC Board members facilitate each session.

Thursday night Elizabeth co-facilitated the Hobbit Book discussion.  The temperature was extremely cold and snowy.  Ten families signed up (our limit)  and 8 showed up (17 people) great turn out.  (One family has 2 children near same age.)

December I helped with “Sounder”.  It was my first session.  My instructions were to bring snacks.  During the discussion one grandfather and grandson told me that on the way they had wondered what snack we would tie to the story.  I looked at the grandfather and responded, “Oops I missed that memo”.  I knew I was helping with “The Hobbit” and decided I would make up for it.  Sadly the grandfather and grandson team didn’t sign up for it.

I had made snacks.  Big Pretzels dipped in chocolate for “Wizard Wands” and Smaug’s Treasure – homemade coconut candies; gold covered coins and peppermint tea.  At the last minute we were moved into a different room than the one we had met in before.  It was the Montana Room (historic documents and books).  Serving food was no longer an option.  Elizabeth had a box of large sandwich bags; and at the end of our session I put treats for each family into one and sent them home to be enjoyed.

I had down-loaded some book and movie trailers as well as Leonard Nimoy’s Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.  I ran into some technical difficulties but was eventually able to play the song.  Parents laughed.  The kids didn’t know who Mr Spock was.

Karin G. a middle school librarian gave me a Hobbit calendar.  I took it apart and hung the pictures around the room.  I originally planned to do a gallery walk.  But there wasn’t time.  Many families went and looked at them after the session though.

When people first signed in, I gave each person a set of scrolls (dragon color sheet and a crossword puzzle that I had made based on the story.  I did not put a word bank on the puzzle.)  I was excited when I realized people were going back to the book to find the answers.  Most families had brought their copy of “The Hobbit” with them.  The ones who didn’t asked to borrow a copy.

I gave them a little time to work on the puzzle while people were arriving and getting settled.  We then started the book discussion.  It went well.  When conversation started to drag I introduced the “Who am I?” game. 

I had previously made slips of paper with names of characters, settings, artifacts from the story printed on them.  I had two headbands and two bulldog paper clips.  I called for a volunteer and put the headband on top of their head like a sweat band.  They closed their eyes while I clipped the paper slip to the front of the head band.  Then they walked around the group until everyone had seen the word.

They were allowed to ask 20 questions that could be answered with a yes/no response.  The group enthusiastically responded.  If the person who was "it" got stuck I would prompt by reminding them of what they had already learned or reminding them about things they hadn’t yet discovered.
  • Do you know if you have magical ability?
  • How old are you?
  • What part of the book are you in?
  • Are you a character?
  • You’ve learned that you are a character. You are in the first part of the book.
This helped the audience and the game player process their information better.  For me I feel the prompts are important tools to help learners think deeper, to make connections.  By the end of the game some of my younger family members were “coaching” with information they felt would help.  8 of the 9 kids there participated in the game.  Three fathers participated.  Everyone had a good time.  Many families went down and signed up for the next book “Run Away”.

Reflections about the evening - I had an “aha” moment when I realized what a great learning tool the crossword puzzle could be.  It primed the pump for discussion by helping them recall events and allowed a safe way to check their own knowledge.   I usually put a word bank on my puzzles.  At times that is good, but I realize sometimes they need to search.

I really liked how Elizabeth led the discussion.  The group shared insights and details.  I was happy to watch someone act as leader. Last month neither of us had ever been to one of the discussions.  I am grateful for my board members who have become friends.

And I’m grateful for stories that provide magic to explore new realms and meet wonderful characters.  My imagination has lots of imaginary friends.


  1. Wow! that was a lot of work, but sounds as if you had fun with it. Anything that gets kids reading and involved in appreciating good books is a GO in my book. Recently, I wrote to two authours of books that really resonated with me. Neither author has given me the courtesy of a reply, but then, it is not always a given that my letters were received. Still, aren't letters to authours the same thing as "comments" to bloggers??? Don't they like that??????

  2. Letters usually go through the publisher. Sometimes it takes a while for the author to receive them. You might find more information if you check to see if the author has a website. Comments are always appreciated.

    Thank you for leaving a comment for me.

  3. That sounded like a lot - A LOT - of work...but so much fun!

  4. What a great thing you did-showing the parents &kids all the possibilities of interacting with a book! And creative snacks, too. Sounds like a wonderful time. Tolkien's books are some favorites; I've read them over & over & with groups too. I'm glad you finally liked it! Nice to hear about your evening!

  5. I looked for a dragon cake pan. Because I had remembered Wilton's having a pan in the early 1990s. I looked on ebay and they are now collectable $45-$95. That was a little much for me.


Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.