Raider Reads charges through traditional book clubs to provide a fun and warm environment for students and teachers alike.
“You don’t want it to be like an English class,” said Athena Davis, a founding faculty sponsor. “You don’t want to sit there and talk about metaphors and symbolism. However, that stuff does come up sometimes.”
Davis and Susan Tindal, a librarian at Cleveland High School, discussed the possibility of a book club for years. According to Tindal, they decided to bite the bullet last year and start the club.
“We thought we had a really good group of kids who were willing to get involved,” Davis said. “They were really strong readers who were interested in doing activities outside of the classroom.”
The new book club met once a month at a faculty member’s house to discuss a book. Snacks and good conversation were found September through May. Both are hoping for the same, if not better, results this year.
“I think part of the draw last year was when we said, ‘faculty members’ homes.’ I’m pretty sure some just came out of curiosity at the time. I think it made them feel important,” Davis said.
Added Tindal, “And to see that we’re human.”
Last year’s book list included the commercial success, “The Hunger Games,” as well as Jodi Picoult’s “Half Broke Horses.”
“Last year, we tried to choose things we liked, but also books we thought they may not have read,” said Julie Phillips, faculty member. “Something that was not too popular that everyone would be picking up off the shelves, but —”
“— But yet pretty mainstream that they would have heard of or heard talk of already,” Davis finished.
The books to be read from May through September are as follows: “The Glass Castle,” “The Maze Runner,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” “Between Shades of Gray,” “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” “Divergent,” “Alice I Have Been,” “All These Things I’ve Done” and “A Plague Year.”
Davis and Tindal said the books are chosen with care.
“We try to choose books that will broaden their horizons,” Tindal said. “Last year, we read two books dealing with the Middle East. The books were perspectives of someone who actually lived there, and the students were interested in learning about their lives.”
Added Phillips, “Several books like ‘The Help,’ sort of covered different parts of American history. The book club is another way to take everything we are teaching them in the classrooms and sort of repackage it and give them extensions on what they are already learning.”
Davis, Tindal, and Phillips said they believe the students are learning more than initially meets the eye.
“The amount of time you sit down face-to-face with a person is unfortunately getting scarce these days. I think they have benefited from being face-to-face with adults outside of their parents,” Davis said.
Added Phillips, “I remember saying to Athena after our third book club, ‘These kids really know how to talk to adults. They can carry on a very mature discussion.’ That is so important to me. These kids are learning how to have a conversation with an adult. They know what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.”
Members of the book club are not expected to attend every meeting. Davis said they understand students and faculty members are involved in other activities, as well. About 15 to 20 students and faculty members attended each meeting last year.
“I think students just really enjoy being around their teachers outside of a school setting. This is something they love to do with a teacher who clearly loves to do the same thing,” Tindal said.
“The kids who are in it love to read. It seems like with all of the technology they are getting few and far between. It is wonderful to meet with people face-to-face who enjoy reading.”
A Raider Reads informational meeting brought new and old members of the club together in August. Jokes were traded easily between students and faculty members. Several students boasted they would need only two days to finish a book.
The dates set place close to a month between each discussion. The extra time will allow most to slog through every book.
“There was a book last year that I did not like,” Phillips said.
Davis recalled Phillips skipped the meeting.
Added Tindal, “We prefer people don’t just boycott the months they do not like.”
According to Phillips, discussions with differing opinions can be the most interesting.
“We had a girl come last year who came to the ‘Half Broke Horses’ discussion and she did not enjoy the book,” Phillips said. “About 90 percent of the group loved the book so it was interesting to hear the criticism of the story.”
The first book on the list is “The Glass Castle,” By Jeannette Walls. According to the faculty sponsors, the book, “Opens your eyes to poverty.”
The first Raider Reads meeting will be on Sept. 25. Those who have not read the book, but are interested in seeing a meeting, may attend as well.
More information can be found by speaking with Susan Tindal in the CHS library. All students who want to participate will need to have their parents fill out a permission slip. All students wishing to join the discussion should consider reading the books.