Bookmark: Library’s first-through-fourth-grade book clubs are chance to read in relaxed atmosphere

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Bookmark: Library’s first-through-fourth-grade book clubs are chance to read in relaxed atmosphere

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Young readers (and their parents) take note!

The Town of Pelham Public Library now has four children’s book clubs, one each for grades 1-4. Since all four ramped up in September, the clubs have read a wide range of age-appropriate books, from the Alien and Possum series to “Miss Nelson Is Missing” to “Lemony Snicket” to “Room on the Broom.”

A Relaxed and Interactive Approach

While book clubs are often seen through the lens of the “grown-up” model, in which attendees read each book thoroughly and then sit down for some discussion at meeting time, these clubs have a more low-key and interactive approach.

Liselle Sakhrani, who runs the first and third grade clubs, realized early on that she should change her expectations—it’s not always true that everyone has read that month’s book. “I try to plan along the lines of the theme instead of the content of the book,” she said. As one example, during the first grade book club meeting that focused on the classic “Room on the Broom,” children created their own broom in class and centered the discussion on the idea of “How do we make room for those who are not like us?”

For the third grade book club meeting on the Lemony Snicket series, Sakhrani built a crossword word study that would be suitable for those who’ve read all of the books in the series or those who may have read a couple of chapters of one book.

Margo Hastings, who runs the second and fourth grade clubs, takes a similar approach. During the session focused on “Alien and Possum,” the group tried sardines and crackers, a favorite snack of the characters in the book.

She also focuses on other materials, like videos, that can help illuminate a book’s theme. “I try to choose books that have a societal message of some sort, whether it’s about taking care of people or the earth,” she said.

The clubs are for any kid who likes to read and meet new friends, and there is no obligation to come every time. Walk-ins are welcome, but registration is requested by calling the library at (914) 738-1234. Book club books are usually available at the circulation desk for immediate checkout. Each club meets once per month. Youth Services Librarian Oz Coto-Chang oversees the program.

How the Book Clubs Began

The idea of library-centered elementary school book clubs began to take wing last spring, when Hastings, a long-time Pelham resident who had recently retired as school librarian at the Mandell School in Manhattan, began discussing the idea with Library Director Tricia Perito. In May, a third grade book club launched with Hastings, who once was a library assistant at Hutchinson School, leading the group.

One day last spring, Sakhrani was visiting the library with her two children (currently in first and third grades) and saw a notice about the third grade club. She then began to discuss the idea of adding more clubs for other grades with Library Managing Director Augusta Turner, who she had worked with on the Prospect Hill School spelling bee. Sakhrani, a former middle school teacher, said, “I took a chance at it, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Below are meeting times and books for November (be sure to check the website and newsletter for upcoming books):

First Grade Book Club, Nov. 12, 4:30-5 p.m: “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud.

Second Grade Book Club, Nov. 19, 4-5 p.m: “Who Cloned the President? (Capital Mystery Series Book 1)” by Ron Roy.

Third Grade Book Club, Nov. 12, 5-5:30 p.m: “Stone Soup” by Ann McGovern.

Fourth Grade Book Club, Nov. 15, 4-5 p.m: “Tales of the Odyssey” by Mary Pope Osborne.

If you’ve got children in this age range, these book clubs are a wonderful opportunity to have them casually explore books with other kids. Take advantage of it!