District librarians start virtual book clubs for adults and teens


This is the second meeting from the first Book Club for Adults: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Board member Ms. Jennifer Rodriguez and superintendent Dr. Jeanatte Ball attended.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed how our lives work, especially our ability to interact (in the traditional sense). People are now forced to find interesting and creative ways to stay busy, from innovative home gyms to 1000-piece family puzzles. Needless to say, Mrs. Mariya Ortiz, the school librarian, and librarians from all over the district have started utilizing ZOOM to take a spin on a classic group activity – the book club.

Although we generally don’t see each other much, this time of distance learning has been a great opportunity to collaborate with the other high school librarians,” Ortiz said. “Our JISD Lead Librarian, Ms. Pam Arevalo-Thompson, actually shared a book early on that was going to be available via our district’s new digital ebook platform, Sora, through an initiative called The Big Library Read.”

They hosted their first JISD Book Club for staff with Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic:  A Comedian’s Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary on April 10.

“Teachers really connected to this book and loved being able to talk about the students with autism they serve with some insight of one person’s journey on the spectrum,” Ortiz said.

They decided to split the book into three meetings, reading four chapters each Wednesday. Dr. Jeanette Ball, the district superintendent, actually joined their first meeting.

“We talked about the book, being careful not to reveal spoilers—which was very hard because the book was fantastic.  Over the course of the three meetings we were joined by retired JISD staff members, JISD Librarians, and others,” Ortiz said. “Ms. Tschirhart, our book club whisperer, kept bringing in more people each time who wanted to talk about this book.  Everyone brought such a unique insight to the book, that I was a much better reader of this book because of these conversations.  It may be the first book club in the history of book clubs where not only did everyone read the entire book, but we actually talked about the book. Ball expressed how thankful she was for this opportunity and wanted to know if we were going to do it again. So we are excited to say that we have planned new book clubs for adults in the upcoming weeks.”

On May 2, they started Julia Alvarez’s Afterlife.

“It is the story of a recently-widowed, recently-retired English professor whose family emigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was a girl.  She and her three sisters all benefited from their life in America and secured ‘The American Dream’,” Ortiz said.

Not only are they hosting adult book clubs, but also a book club for teenagers in the district who also love reading.

“When I looked at the list, I recognized author Celeste Ng’s name because the Hulu commercials for Little Fires Everywhere were everywhere.  We thought we might get some teen traction by promoting our first book Everything I Never Told You as a book by the author of this popular Hulu series,” Ortiz said.

Even though the pandemic has limited everyone to their homes, because of technology, this has allowed interaction from people from all over the country.

“We don’t have to find a place that is convenient for everyone, fight traffic after a long workday, get distracted, or be unable to get out of our schools to go to a book club.  We literally can’t go anywhere.  Plus, we’ve been joined by people from Florida and in other cities for our book clubs. This wouldn’t be feasible with a traditional book club,” Ortiz said.

Not only are book clubs available for adults, but district librarians have created book clubs for teens.

“JISD Library Services has begun putting out a weekly activity guide that has read-aloud opportunities for kids and families. There is a Thursday-night Teen Book Club that will run through the summer organized for us by Ms. Tschirhart, the librarian from Wagner HS; I’m doing book-based family events with activity on Mondays (Maker and DIY focus); Wednesdays (books promoting peace, balance, harmony); Thursdays (graphic novel read-aloud for teens); and Fridays (books promoting science, tech, reading, engineering, art, and math with an activity). Also, Mrs. Boyd is continuing her series about Media Literacy (and offering online Yoga on Friday afternoon),” Ortiz said.

If you have any questions about literacy for students during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Mrs. Ortiz at [email protected].


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