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Theme-Based Reading Clubs

By Julie Ballew on March 18, 2013
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

As you may remember, I’m spending a lot of time working with book clubs in various classrooms at my school. Mindy Brock’s class is studying a unit on theme in their reading workshop, so we are experimenting with theme-based reading clubs.These are different than the book clubs we’ve tried before because the clubs are formed around several titles that all have a common theme running through them. We wanted students to have multiple opportunities to think about themes and how authors teach us lessons.

Ms. Brock and I chose books that fit into some general themes and made the following clubs:



Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

He Came With the Couch by David Slonim


Being Brave

Courage by Bernard Waber

Sheila Rae, the Brave by Kevin Henkes

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt


Doing the Right Thing

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill

Emily’s Art by Peter Catalanotto

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Ruthie and the (Not-So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin


Needs vs. Wants

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Earrings! by Judith Viorst

The Great Fuzz Frenzy

by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel



Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse

Everything Is Different at Nonna’s House by Caron Lee Cohen

Our Granny by Margaret Wild

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

Crow Call by Lois Lowry


Being Yourself

Dumpy LaRue by Elizabeth Winthrop

Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber

Oliver Button Is a Sissy by Tomie DePaola

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

Fish Is Fish by Leo Lionni

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

Chowder by Peter Brown

(Click here to download these lists in PDF format.)

There are, of course, many themes that we have not yet covered, and there are certainly more books that would fit into the themes we chose. We are just working with the contents of our libraries while we are trying this out. Also, we stuck to just picture books for now, as we wanted all of the students to be able to read all of the titles so that they could make comparisons between the themes.

On the first day, we explained to the students that they would be choosing their own reading club.  We told them the names of the books that were in each bucket, and they chose their favorite with their reading partner. This was a much smoother process than we thought it might be, and before we knew it, every single student had his or her nose in a book. What a relief to know that engagement was not going to be an issue!

Students talking in reading club     Students talking in reading club

Each day, we asked students to think about the theme of the books they were reading. We kept the workshop format the same with a mini-lesson and long stretches of reading time, but instead of independent reading, they went off to their reading clubs. The students were able to talk and write about their thinking as soon as they were ready, and Ms. Brock and I moved from group to group, coaching those who needed extra support.

I was thrilled when we finally got to the point where every student had read every book in the bucket. We were able to push their conversations much deeper since they could talk well across texts, not just about their own. The students did really well with this, and they were coming up with connections between texts that I hadn’t even considered before.

Students talking in reading club     Students talking in reading club

We recently let the students choose a new club to continue the same work. They have new club members and new books to read, but they are still thinking deeply about the lessons they can learn from books. I can’t wait to see how this work grows!

Comments (5)

I love your website!! I am getting alot of ideas from it!! Would I be able to use this theme based reading clubs with a grade 5
Thanks for all these great ideas!!!

Thanks, Rita! This is definitely adaptable for higher grades. Glad you'll be able to use it! :)

I love this! Definitely want to try before the end of the school year! Thanks for sharing the resource.

Glad to hear that, Stephanie! Let me know how it goes! :)

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