TMC6 Lewis

Ignite a Lifelong Love of Learning: Create an intergenerational book club in your library learning commons and invite your community to explore the diverse world of the human experience 

by Lisa Lewis 

This paper documents the experiences of running an intergenerational book club in the school library learning commons. Goals, strategies, process and lessons learned are shared in detail as well as helpful artifacts. Teacher-librarian Lisa Lewis concludes, “The book club has the ability to anchor a community and reinforce the ability of the LLC to be the hub of the school and community especially in schools that might be in locations that have limited social infrastructure and resources.”

Read the paper

Lisa Lewis is an avid global explorer with an overactive curiosity that fuels her constant thirst for knowledge and experiences. Since 2008, she has taught at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) in French Immersion and English track programs using an inquiry lens and cross curricular approach. Lisa has been involved with the OLA’s Forest of Reading program since 2011 as Co-Chair of the Silver Birch Fiction Steering Committee and champions an infectious love of books. Lisa is a Digital Lead Learner at school and incessantly ponders how to integrate technology into her practice. She has presented at the TDSB’s Google Camp and the OLA Super Conference. Lisa is always thinking of initiatives to engage her community and the intergenerational book club she launched as a teacher librarian in an elementary school has been a huge success.


  1. Lisa , thank you for sharing this incredible community outreach programming centred around celebrating literacy with students and parents/caregivers. You have clearly laid out the “how to” of getting a program like this up and running in the LLC. Classroom teachers and school library professionals could easily use this model to create their own club to serve each school community. I was particularly struck by your clearly defined goals around love of reading, creating a community of readers and promoting Canadain authors. It’s amazing how effectively the program was able to address so many complex goals all at once.

    Sharing your thought process around book selection and the concept of “spark books” was very helpful in thinking about the engagement aspect of the planning. All books can spark interest, of course, but without knowing the participants fully in advance the importance of selecting a text with many entry points and perspectives would be essential. You captured this process very effectively.

    I know you mentioned public libraries briefly in your conclusion and I wonder about a partnership with your local branch in the future? What a great way to connect with more of the community and maybe parallel book clubs at other local schools! A project that intersects the library sectors would be a wonderful future TMC follow up paper and/or OLA Superconference session.

    Thank you again - I am inspired by many of the ideas you shared and hope to look at ways to replicate a similar concept in the future.

    Jenn Brown

    1. Hi Jenn,

      Thank you for such a wonderful response to my paper. I am deeply appreciative of your time and thoughtful comments. Yes, this initiative was an incredibly rewarding experience for all constituents. Although the Club was scheduled for only an hour, it was clearly evident that the conversation could have lasted another hour, if not more. Everyone left looking forward to the next Book Club. Your idea about coordinating with public libraries near my school is a good one. How fascinating would it be if several elementary schools and public library branches read the same book? The conversation could go live using a shared document. This idea has legs. At the moment, I am teaching students (I am starting with my LIT Club, library in training) how to use the app Clips for book reviews. These students can then pay it forward and teach other teachers how to use the app which provides a leadership opportunity. This technology is easy to use (primary students could figure it out) and I envision that this idea would be engaging for learning buddies.

      Please reach out anytime if you have questions.

      Again, thank you ever so much for reading and posting your thoughts.

  2. Hi Lisa,

    I'm so glad you agreed to write this paper about your inter-generational book club for TMC!
    Good papers often leave me with more questions than answers, so forgive me for peppering the comment box with questions.

    1) The sign-up process for the Grade 4-6 students: Do you ever put limits on the number of participants? What's your smallest group? What's your largest group? If you don't put limits, how do you foster the sharing of ideas in a large group, especially so that some participants do not dominate the space?

    2) Different ways to communicate about the program: I like the varied ways you reach out to let the community know about the club. Involving the class weekly communications / newsletters also speaks volumes about the support the classroom teachers have for the program. Which of the methods that you use do you find most effective in reaching and reminding the families?

    3) The selections: you mentioned that it takes a lot of thought and work to pick the book titles for the group. I couldn't read Figure 4 clearly - what books have you used in the past (other than "My Life As A Diamond" and "Speechless", which I saw in the other examples)? Have you ever had students or parents request that a book be included? How long do you spend on a single book?

    4) Inclusion: you didn't mention too much about your community - do you have a large second-language learning portion of your school population? Does the age range you focus on (Grade 4-6) make it easier for the books to be read by second-language adult speakers? What if a student wanted to attend without an adult; what is the protocol for that?

    As a final comment, I'm so relieved that, after the brief foray into Grade 4, that you are back in the teacher-librarian role!

    Diana M

    1. Hi Diana,
      Thanks so much for your unbelievable comments and questions. It was my pleasure to write this paper, and, it is an unreal feeling to be back in the TL role!
      1. I never put limits on the number of participants because my feelings were 'the more the merrier'. The smallest group was about 20 and the largest about 30. During my introduction, I asked that participants be mindful of others keen to speak and I explained that as moderator I would ensure that everyone had a chance to speak.
      2.I found including information in the principal's weekly newsletter to be effective. Perhaps could then email me directly.
      3. Previous books included: Fatty Legs, Elephant Secret, The Undergrounders, Macy MacMillan and The Rainbow Goddess, The Breadwinner, Prove It Josh, Sweep: A Girl and Her Monster, Orange for the Sunsets,Shannon and the Dream for a School, Harvey Comes Home
      4. There are a few English Language Learners in the primary grades and I found that when an ELL student participated he was certainly capable of expressing his ideas. The grade 4 - 6 target makes the books accessible for the parents too. There are many books (100 pages) that would be ideal for a community of ELL students and parents. When students wanted to attend without an adult I always made sure this child was taken home by an adult who had participated or that their adult was coming to school at 4:30. Parents were very appreciate that their child could participate without their presence. The parents loved the Book Club. An hours was not enough time. I have more ideas for papers......Also, a huge thank you for being so supportive of this initiative.

  3. It's really motivating for me to read about this multi-generational book club. Years ago, in a different Library position, I created a family book club much like this. I've been meaning to get back to it.
    I, too, had focussed on intermediate grades, though allowed other students/families as well. I found that between Gr 3 and 4 adults stop reading with children so I wanted to counteract that.
    I love your use of starter sentences. I used to find that some of the kids were shy to get started in discussions.
    We didn't focus on Canadian content, though I might do so now.
    Some of the richest, deepest conversations we ever had were over the big themes in The Tale of Despereaux.

  4. Hi Christopher, Thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate it. I hope you go back to this idea. It is truly a game changer for all participants - child and adult. Canadian content has a breadth and depth and there is a book for every situation. Let me know what you do.

  5. Lisa,
    Thanks so much for this. My older son and I had the opportunity to take part in a parent-child book club run by our public library and loved it, and I don't know why it never occurred to me to think about doing this with my students and their families. You've started wheels turning in my head. And, like Diana, I have questions....

    - what made you choose junior division vs intermediate? Could you see the model working for older kids?
    - what happens if a child/parent can't afford the book? Is there a budget for copies (our public library provided copies)
    - did you end up with a variety of parental figures (grandparents, moms, dad's, family friends), or did you mostly have parents?
    - how long did it take you to build a "critical mass" of people who were willing to commit to the group? Did you have a lot of one-time attendees?

    I know, so many questions. Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm intrigued and inspired.

    1. Hi Lisa, Thanks so much for your details response. I really appreciate it. I choose junior division because my school went up to grade 6 so the decision was easy to make. If there an intermediate division I would have organized two group because I would have curated a different list of books. If the family could not afford the book, I leant them one from my school and would send links to the Toronto Public Library. I didn't have a budget but would not hesitate to ask my parent committee for support. There was a mixture of fathers, mothers,one grandparent and one caregiver. The were as many fathers as mothers and several repeats for many parents. There was a handfull of students that came to each book club. If an adult could not join the discussion arrangements were made for that child to go home with our parents. The first year waw a huge success - between 25 - 30 people would be in the room. The majority of parents had full time jobs but advance notice was provided along with remindsl Please send other questions you might have.

  6. I absolutely adore this line: “Perhaps another
    “E” (Empathy) should be included as well to emphasize human connection,
    sustainability and the concept of universal design. “. I think you’ve identified again and again that deeper learning happens in communities and social situations. I wonder if you’ve ever thought of a) involving parents or b) taking your book club online for promotion or cross-school connections. Would you please talk about what your next goals will be for the book club?

    1. Hi Alanna, Thanks very much for your insightful comments. I am deeply appreciative. The human connection at the book cook is powerful and participants feel comfortable sharing ideas, opinions and concerns in a safe environment. I am thinking of ways to enlarge the book club. I am keen to partner with TL's outside of Toronto and with public libraries across the country. I am trying to write more articles for publications across the country and the USA. Thanks again for your heartfelt comments.

  7. Hi Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing your idea and the process. I love everything about it and am wondering about how it might work with my high school students. I am going to accept the invitation in your conclusion that I might tweak this format to meet the needs of my own community. Would love to hear about how you think this might be adapted for older students. Will be in touch to chat more.

  8. Hi Jennifer,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. This initiative would be ideal for high school students since it provides an opportunity to meet and discuss literature which can be transformative. I am happy to chat about ideas and encourage anyone to tweak the program to best suit the needs of the audience. I believe high school students would relish the chance to share ideas, questions and thoughts about a book especially given the literature available. There are so so many books that would be ideal for this age.

    Thank you again for your feedback. I look forward to speaking with you and meeting you one day.


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