STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/22/2013

The Book Club Before Oprah

by Mallory Moench '14

Book ClubThe top shelf in the book-crammed office of Janis Flint-Ferguson, professor of English and education, is full of popular young-adult novels, all signed by the authors. Flint-Ferguson began her career teaching middle school while working towards a Ph.D. in English studies before her passion turned towards training future teachers. For almost 36 years she has been introducing future teachers to literature, helping shape how literacy is taught and learned.

One way Flint-Ferguson does this is by facilitating a young-adult book study gathering for teachers which, when she started it 20 years ago, was one of the first of its kind. “We began a book study group even before Oprah had a book club!” she says. Teachers new, seasoned, and even retired still gather monthly to “talk about what’s going on in the schools, and read some really great literature coming out that they might want to incorporate into their classes.”

John H. Ritter and Chris Crowe have been especially favored authors since they have both come to Gordon College to share about their writing. So has Gary Schmidt, Gordon’s own (class of 1979), another favorite of the book group; two of Schmidt’s 12 books, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars, have been named Newbery Honor Books. Other authors popular with Flint-Ferguson’s book club have included Lois Lowry, J. K. Rowling, Laurie Halse Anderson, Christopher Paul Curtis, and Suzanne Collins, as well as first-time authors Michaela MacCall, Candy Moonshower and Elizabeth Atkinson.

“As teachers, we are always searching for the next idea,” Flint-Ferguson says. “Innovation is looking at the needs in front of us and not relying just on the way we’ve always done things. It’s looking at what might be a better fit for what’s going on now.”