When third-grader Ethan Udler and his father Carl started a book club last fall, Ethan only thought of having more time with his friends. Now, seven books and seven meetings later, he loves the group — and the reading.
“To make reading more fun and less of a daily chore, I asked Ethan if he was interested in starting a book club with a few of his friends that he plays sports with,” Carl Udler said. “Without fully understanding the concept of a book club, he was eager and willing because he could spend more time with his friends.”
Ethan and all third-graders at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Gaithersburg, where he goes to school, must read 20 minutes at home every weeknight. They keep a log and write a short synopsis of what they have read each week, then return it to school.
Udler said he and Ethan read together at the beginning of the school year to meet the school requirement, but he knew it was not fun for Ethan.
“I want my son to enjoy reading, without the ‘forcing factor,’” he said.
Udler asked other parents if their sons would join the club and Book Busters formed in early September with six members.
From the beginning, it lived up to Carl Udler’s expectations and Ethan quickly caught on.
“Book club is fun because you get to read books with your friends,” Ethan said at a Feb. 27 meeting at his home.
Book Busters meets every three or four weeks, usually on Sunday evenings. The host duties rotate through the group. Book selection also rotates, with a different member, and his parents, selecting the book and providing copies to each boy.
At the Feb. 27 meeting, the group discussed “Lunch Money” by Andrew Clements. Dean Cullen, who selected the book, led the discussion. Carl Udler and Marti Cullen, Dean’s mother, facilitated, but Dean was prepared with a list of discussion questions.
In keeping with the boys’ interest in sports, they pass a football around the Udlers’ kitchen table. Whoever is speaking holds the ball; the others wait their turn to get the ball and speak.
In keeping with a book club of 8- and 9-year-old boys, the discussion that night really took off when they focused on the fight between the two main characters, the resulting blood and a teacher fainting from the sight.
After allowing the boys to have their say and some giggles, the facilitators redirected the discussion, encouraging the boys to think about how the fight changed the relationship between the characters.
“I thought it was creative how it went from [them] being enemies to making them business partners,” Avi Godsey said, taking the football from Logan Ambrose, who got it from Gus Blomstrom after he gave a summary of the story.
Not all of the boys agreed on their favorite part or even how much they liked the book. But with each opinion, they explained why they thought the way they did, a skill that has improved during the months the Book Busters have met, Carl Udler said.
“It was so-so. It was a little long,” Dean said. ”I liked the part about making and selling things.”
The meeting ended with Dylan Eyester passing out the next book for the group to read: “The Name of This Book is Secret” by Pseudonymous Bosch, a detective adventure story.
Dylan said he was not sure why they picked the book, but he and his mother thought it was a good choice.
In a few weeks, the boys will met again and discuss the secret that gave the book its title.