Breaking Down the Walls

Posted on March 15, 2012

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News | Lauren Mc Cuen

Photo | Dr. Valenza

Despite never-ending debate about the fall of print media and the war between the printed word and the Internet, Springfield’s Book Club has found new ways to reconcile print and technology. The school’s Book Club has doubled in size from its start last year. A group of approximately 20 students meets once a month to discuss books while video chatting with other book clubs around the world.
Networking sites including Skype and Google Hangouts have allowed for a larger conversation that can now include other clubs, Springfield students currently on foreign exchange, and even students who were too sick to attend school the day of the meeting. Utilizing video chatting to speak with other clubs about the books they are reading has been an eye-opening experience for many students. Speaking with students from other parts of the country has brought new perspectives into the discussion, resulting in a more varied and in-depth analysis of books discussed. Jordan Shuster described it as “reading a book, and then having completely fresh minds from all over the country with whom I can talk about it.” In the future, the club is hoping to video chat with the authors of the books that they read.
Springfield’s Somewhat Virtual Book Club has also branched out to Twitter. Members are utilizing the social mini-blogging site to discuss books they are reading independently of book club, recommend books to each other, and discuss the world of literature. They have all been posting under the hashtag #swvbc. SWVBC stands for ‘Somewhat Virtual Book Club,’ a term which the book club has adopted to describe its status as a both online and real-world organization. Students love the ability to find new books through Twitter. Shuster says “I think it’s a unique experience that I’d never even considered as a possibility. It takes reading so much further…It gets me out of the slump where I only read the books my friends have read because they’re the only ones I can go to for recommendations.”
Utilizing Twitter also allows for interaction between authors and readers. In the past, authors have been an entity accessible only through letters to publishers or the rare author visit to a school or book signing. With Twitter, authors are only a click away. Many young adult authors frequently tweet. Readers are able to not only keep up with their favorite authors, but also to reach out to them about books, works in progress, and  inspiration. When asked about what her favorite part of the club is, Shuster stated, “It’s the fact that I can talk to authors and they actually talk back.”
Librarian and Book Club advisor Dr. Valenza commented that she “would like to see more students read, but I am seeing a new excitement about books and reading as our SWVBC connects with writers and other readers in new landscapes. …Reading can be a solitary activity, but it can also be social and networked. …The experience of reading is no longer confined to the printed page or the shelves. The experience of book club is no longer confined by four walls.”
Books discussed this year have included Blood and Chocolate, The Hunger Games, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The two latter books have been adapted into movies, adding another layer to the discussion as students compared the books to the movie adaptation. The next book discussion is for John Green’s popular new novel The Fault in Our Stars.  Other upcoming books this year include James Kennedy’s The Order of the Odd-Fish. Kennedy will also be visiting Springfield on April 11th. Some students have already talked with the author on Twitter and are extremely excited about him coming to speak about his book.

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