BLOGS  >  JANUARY 23, 2023

Five Steps for Bringing Kwame Alexander Bookfest to Your Library and School


One of my favorite parts of being a librarian is helping our students find and connect to books. This happens in the library, within classrooms, in the lunchroom, at after-school events, and even walking down the hallway. 

Discovery and connection can also happen through book clubs, a special way for teacher librarians to introduce students to new ideas, books, authors, and topics through reading, experiences, and wonderful conversations. 

This year, I used Kwame Alexander Bookfest from Follett.

Just as it outlines on the Bookfest site, student choice increases engagement and motivation. Bookfest is a unique book club, and the books are all chosen by Kwame, which ensures that students have plenty of opportunities to see themselves and others in the books. These books are so meaningful and aligned to what our students experience in their own varied cultures and lives! PersonallyI have seen such excitement in students when we brought Bookfest to my school, Van Meter Elementary.

Let me tell you how I did this! 

I’ve outlined five ways librarians can use Kwame Alexander Bookfest in the library, classrooms, and throughout the school community. These steps will help you get started and maybe spark some new ways to engage students in reading. 

  1. As you bring Kwame Alexander Bookfest into your library and school, send an email to teachers to build excitement and interest and determine which teachers want to team up to bring these special titles to their students. It could be a whole class or even a small group. Offer to meet with the teacher and review book choices and the Discussion Guides.
  2. Consider using Bookfest as a book club in the library during the day or even after school. When I host book clubs in the library, I reach out to our students to see who would like to participate. This can be through a Google Form or even through a sign-up sheet by the library door. Build student excitement by talking about Bookfest before you begin.

3. Empower students by allowing them to help select the books that interest them. One of the best things about Bookfest is how Kwame put together such an amazing collection of books into the different grade levels for teachers and students to choose from. When we kicked off Bookfest in our fifth grade, I selected three of the titles and created a choice board that included the book covers and book trailers. 

I then shared this choice board with our students and they were so excited to learn more about each book. They voted on which one they wanted to read and then their teacher added the title into their book clubs. It was such a fun day when the groups were shared and the students picked up their books.

I love how the excitement started before they even started to read. 

4. As the book clubs get going, it is important to keep readers engaged and excited about what they are reading. Make sure you use the Bookfest Discussion Guides, which are wonderful tools to rely upon throughout the reading and discussions. One of my favorite parts of the Discussion Guides are the Just Read! podcasts hosted by Kwame Alexander himself. In the podcast, Kwame interviews several of the authors featured in Bookfest which is such a special way for our students and teachers to get to know more about them. When an interview is available for a particular author, you will find a QR code to the podcast in the discussion guide.  

I also brought a few additional ideas to the book clubs that kept students excited. 

When our students started reading Save Me A Seat, I made a choice board that included a video with the book’s authors, Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. We watched this to kick off the reading that day. This was with a small group of third graders.  

After the video, they asked if we could Zoom with the authors. I reached out to Gita and guess what? She met us on a Zoom the next week to talk to our readers about Save Me A Seat. It was the perfect hook for our students. 

5. Make sure students feel heard and given the chance to lead conversations. Book clubs give students a place to share as they read, think critically, and make connections. It’s important for us to empower them not only to have a voice in the book club but given the opportunity to lead these wonderful conversations as well. As teachers and librarians, we can help students navigate this process by giving guidance while making sure they are heard, too. 

Bookfest gave us books that fostered wonderful conversations and opened students’ eyes and minds to the experiences of others while strengthening student identity. You can do the same! It’s easy to get started. Visit for more information. 

Shannon McClintock Miller
Innovation Director of Instructional Technology and Library Media
Van Meter Community School
Van Meter, Iowa

Shannon McClintock Miller is the Innovation Director of Instructional Technology and Library Media at Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa. She is also the Future Ready Librarians Spokesperson working with librarians, educators and students around the world every day as an international speaker, consultant and author who has a passion for education, librarianship, advocacy, technology, social media and making a difference in the world and lives of others, especially children. Shannon brings a special expertise and vision to conversations around school libraries, education, technology, creativity and student voice. Learn more about Shannon on her award-winning blog, The Library Voice. Follow her on Twitter @shannonmmiller.

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