Shakespeare. Chaucer. The Old Man and the Sea.
Despite the brilliance of these writers and their works, I’d venture that plenty of kids at high school view them with loathing. I know I did. Well, Chaucer, at least. Sorry, Geoff 🙂
Fortunately, there are many ways to help kids facing these so-far-removed-from-the-text-message-world-of-today classics. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to meet one of those ways – Ali Dent and The LitClub.
Ali is a veteran homeschooler. She developed the LITClub idea as a means for her dyslexic daughter to complete high school English without tears. LitClub takes the fear out of teaching literature and adds themed meals, fun projects, and plenty of time for kids to hang out with friends.
Since I first met Ali, her LITClub idea has been released as a book, and I recently talked to her about it.
First off, what is LITClub?
LITClub is an easy step-by-step guide for designing a classical book club for parents and their children. It comes with ready-made tools so that the facilitator can invite their friends and get started right away. If you want to dive straight in, take a look at this LITClub video.
Tell us about how and why you started LITClub. What was that first experience like?
In 2001 our family moved 700 miles away from home to work as missionaries to a medical mission called Mercy Ships. My daughters, Mallari and Matti were 15 and 14. My sons, James and Jon were 6 and 3. As homeschoolers there are two things on the top of my priority list when we move: friends and academics. Matti was starting high school the fall after we moved in the summer which added a third concern.
Matti has dyslexia, which is a generic term that means reading can be difficult. In our homeschool we use the classical method of education, and reading requirements ramp up in 9th grade. I needed a solution that helped Matti with her reading as well finding friends.
One day the idea of reading classic books with moms and daughters crossed my mind. I asked a lady at my church if she knew of any moms and daughter who might like to read with us. In one week we had five sets of moms and daughters. The first LITClub was born.
I had never read the classics nor participated in a book club before, but over the next four years we read books we would not normally have read, and learned to enjoy them. Matti became socially connected in a short period of time through the club.
The best part of all was the relationships that formed between the moms and daughters. We are still deeply connected to those folks after twelve years. This was an unexpected, pleasurable result.
So, What makes LITClub unique from other book clubs or literature programs?
All book clubs read books and discuss them and many include food in some fashion. Most of the time in a book club there is a social component that makes the members want to come back over and over. The LITClub includes all of those things revised into a new model that transforms reading into an experience.
- Read a book
- Share a meal
- Discuss the book.
- Moms and kids attend together
- Read a classic
- Share a themed meal
- Share a book conversation
The kids present projects that are designed to get them to think beyond the black and white story. This creates and matures their critical thinking skills.
Vocabulary lists and a Focus Paper are provided to help the kids dig deeper into the story. It introduces them to literary terminology asks them to look at the book through a literary lens. This helps grow their reading and comprehending skills.
The sum of the parts makes LITClub stand apart from the average book club.
The LITClub book explains the benefits of each revision and how the whole package transforms reading into an experience.
This is sounding complicated…
NO! I believe parents will value its ease of use the most. It’s a point and click process.
The book is divided into three parts.
Part I shows you the framework that makes LITClub strong and successful.
Part II defines the tools and is full of details about the principles underlying each of the six tools that make up the LITClub experience. It is packed with explanations for each tool. Don’t let that overwhelm you and throw you off because Part III implements Part II for you.
Part III provides you with a ready-made experience including four books with everything you need to enjoy them with your club. All you have to do is find some friends and get started.
Each book comes with:
- Suggested versions of the classic title
- Project guide
- Easy to follow lesson guide
- Prewritten book conversation guide
- Themed menu
- 80-100 vocabulary lists
- Notes to help the facilitator feel at ease as they plan and implement their lesson and book conversation.
- A print packet providing the facilitator with tools they can share with her group.
The LITClub is the first book in a series. The next book, The LITClub, A Renaissance Reading Experience will include nine ready-made book experiences for the Renaissance Era.
Can you give us some examples?
What’s the right size for a LITClub group? How many families do you need to get started?
To start a club you only need one other interested parent and their child. Two is even better. When word gets out about the club there will be many requests to join. Therefore, each club ought to decide ahead of time the desired group size. Basically, the group size is determined by the personality of the facilitator and the size of the home where the club is held.
In closing, what’s the benefit of LITClub?
LITClub was originally created as an academic solution and a means to make friends. It didn’t take long to discover that hosting LITClub achieved more than its initial purpose.
I believed that LITClub would be a great way to motivate my kids to read the classics and I suspected it would build community.
What I did not anticipate was how many other areas it would impact, such as the training and exercise of critical thinking. The kids learn to think critically without even realizing it because the education is hidden within a fun and social exploration of timeless stories.
In case you’re wondering if this can work, here’s a couple of Ali’s meetings
The LitClub is being released on 30th August as a paperback through Amazon.