Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
March 18, 2013 Theme-Based Reading Clubs By Julie Ballew
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!


Share your ideas about this article

My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney