Committee for Children Blog

SEL Book Club

Today's blog was written by Milwaukee Public Schools psychologist Dr. Kim Gulbrandson.

SEL Book ClubI recently learned about a neat idea for working with Tier 2 or 3 students from my

colleague, Teri. She used this idea with her fourth and fifth graders.

A group of eight adults (including teachers, a psychologist, and a social worker) wanted to mentor needy students. The students were identified by their classroom teachers based on a few different criteria: poor social skills, difficult home lives, need for extra personal attention, or achievement deficits.

The school psychologist and social worker chose a book about a youngster who demonstrated resilience in the face of such challenges as poverty, foster care, or disability. All adults worked one-on-one with their students (during lunch, after school, or during recess) to read the book with them. Sometimes they read the book together, and other times, students read independently depending on their reading skills.

After two months of meeting weekly, the group of 16 would get together for a book club night. Book club started with treats, followed by a group experiential challenge activity and a book discussion. Sometimes the meeting ended with a visual art representation activity.

Throughout the year different pairs (mentor and student) were “in charge” of the book club meeting, bringing snacks, providing the book discussion questions, and so forth. Some of the books Teri used were:

Because of Winn Dixie: Opal adopts a stray dog, and through her, forms many friendships.

But Not Buddy: Bud is a boy who loses his mother and goes on a search for his father.

Crash: Crash has bullied his neighbors and classmates for years. When his grandfather suffers a stroke, Crash sees that friends and family have a new meaning for him.

Maniac Magee: Maniac experienced a trolley accident that left him an orphan. After living with his unhappy aunt and uncle for eight years, he runs away. During this time, Maniac changes lives in a racially divided small town.

The Great Gilly Hopkins: Gilly has been to many foster homes, and she's disliked them all. She has a reputation for being unmanageable. She's sent to live with the Trotters and devises a failed attempt to get her real mother to rescue her. Gilly is left thinking life with the Trotters wasn't so bad.

If you like this idea and want to try it with your own students, the Committee for Children book lists are a great place to start for reading ideas.