Next Chapter: Polly Rico’s Book Club


Polly Rico facilitates her Book Club. Photo credit: Adelyne Collin

Adelyne Collin, Writer

This year, Polly Rico, Bellows Free Academy’s Proficiency Coach and former English teacher, started a book club out of her passion for books and spending time with students.

“Whatever we can do to…[whenever we can] come together in any way, I feel, is a positive environment. Book club has really saved me this year… I said it’s the highlight of my week. Being able to connect with students and we laugh, it’s the first time I’ve really laughed hard in a long time because we’ve been so stressed, and we’ve been so closed off that we just sit there and laugh and talk about books. I hope that the same feeling applies to those who attend [the] book club:  to de-stress, and laugh, and talk and hang out. We’re all bound together by the books we’re reading,” Rico said. 

Taking a new position at BFA led to Rico losing that connection with students. She missed having conversations with students about not only books but also their personal lives. That prompted her to recreate a similar environment with a book club. Every Thursday after school from 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. in the library all students (Blue and Green) are welcome to participate. 

All members of the club contribute to choosing what book to read. Everybody picks a book title that is then put in a hat, and the first pick is the next book. However, there are ground rules such as a maximum page limit of 300 pages, and every week there is a goal to have a number of pages read. According to Rico, “students finished Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone last week, and next week [she] is handing out Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai.”  

At meetings, students share their thoughts and feelings about the reading, make connections between the book they are reading to other books they have read and carry on casual conversations.   Also, unlike the classroom, there aren’t a lot of expectations when it comes to completing the assigned reading. There’s no pressure to complete the week’s reading.  Instead, Rico creates a relaxed atmosphere where students can form a community with one another and read books if time permits. 

“I see the value in hosting a book club this year, especially to form a community during Covid. [It is a] good time to bring people together,” Rico said.  She added, “My overall goal is to provide a space for people to connect and to provide people the opportunity to read books for fun. As an English teacher, people used to say ‘I used to like to read; now I only read for school.’ So this was a time where we could start reading for fun again.”

Currently, 13 students are a part of the club; however, not all students attend every week. An average of nine students regularly attend. The club started out with mostly 10th-grade members, and it has now evolved to a mix of 9th, 10th and 11th graders. Those who can’t attend in person can always join virtually to be a part of the conversation. Another option is students can get the books just to read something they might not have chosen on their own.

“I would encourage anyone to come at any time. As you know, if you’ve never been in a book club before, sometimes we just end up talking about school or about what Netflix…people [are] watching. We end up starting talking about the book, and often we end up having conversations about our world or our life,” Rico said.