Literature Circles

Have you ever noticed how groups of children huddle around the Guinness Book of Records during break times, pointing out oddities, arguing and sharing information about something they've heard that's related to the items on the page? If you've ever wondered how you could harness that same energy in a classroom reading situation, then maybe Literature Circles is worth a try for you!

Literature Circles is a reading program based on the assumptions that children enjoy choosing their own reading, thinking critically about what they read; that they learn by sharing that reading and discussing their views about the text with others.

In literature circles, small groups of students gather together to discuss a book (either fiction or non-fiction) in depth. The discussion is centred around students' responses to what they have read. You may hear talk about events and characters in the book, the author's craft, facts or personal experiences related to the story, or a lively debate about issues in the book. Literature circles provide a way for students to engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books. By facilitating small-group work with higher-order, student-centred, open-ended activities, structured discussion and extended written and artistic response, Literature Circles also reap the benefits shown in the research of group work in education.

How Literature Circles work

  1. Small groups are formed, usually teacher-chosen homogenous ability.
  2. Students choose the book they wish to read as a group.
  3. Different groups read different books.
  4. Groups meet at set times to discuss their reading.
  5. Students choose roles to complete about their books.
  6. These roles are rotated from week to week.
  7. Students display their work to the group and discuss their prepared role response. 7. Discussion about issues in the book continues, with open-ended questions asked.
  8. The teacher serves as a facilitator, not a group member or instructor.
  9. Students journal their responses to the group discussion.
  10. The group evaluates their group process and reports back to class, setting goals to improve their work.
  11. Best work is displayed to the whole class.
  12. Evaluation is by self and peer evaluation, teacher observation and formal evaluation.

Literature Circles can be particularly effective for encouraging reading with Middle School students, whose interest in reading may otherwise wane. Changing the reading culture of a whole school, developing recreational reading as a norm for all students rather than an exception to social practice, is a worthwhile but seemingly impossible goal. The more "reading tools" in the teacher or teacher-librarian's repertoire, the more attainable the goal becomes.

Pointers to Success

Literature Circles success can depend on several factors:

  • The enthusiasm and forward planning displayed by the teachers and teacher-librarian involved.
  • Students' perception of how much choice they had in which book to be read. The greater the level of choice and the more democratic the decision about group reading, the higher the level of ownership of the task.
  • The suitability of the text to students' reading ability. Where teachers pre-read books and choose books which they believe are most suitable for their students, the better the match of book to reader. Teacher help with group work will also be enhanced.
  • Composition and dynamics of the group. Groups of similar reading age work best; teachers have divided preferences for same/mixed sex groups.
  • Group reporting back to the class, self and peer assessment improve group responsibility. An eagerly anticipated focus time at the end of the lesson gives each group the opportunity to showcase their best work.

Middle School students are highly selective and critical of what they read, as well as of their learning experiences. They enjoy discussing their reading but some may be resistant to doing any "work" on recreational reading. Yet, integrated into an existing subject curriculum, such as English, motivation is provided and the supporting structure of Literature Circles can ensure success for all.

Literature Circles are Learning Circles for everyone involved. They provide a good opportunity for team teaching, with classroom teachers and the Teacher-Librarian working together planning, teaching and evaluating student progress. Teachers become learners as they analyse, assess and improve their pedagogy. Check out the Worldwide Web to learn more about Literature Circles and the variety of ways they can be used, adapt the formula to suit your students and give them a go!


Literature circles: Reading in action by Darelyn Dawson and Lee FitzGerald.

Charles Sturt University, 1999.

Literature circles: Voice and choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups by Harvey Daniels. 2nd ed. Stenhouse Publishers, Portland, Maine, 2002

"Reading and responding in literature circles" by Catherine Day. PETA Journal (no other details known).

Marj Kirkland

High interest, student chosen, mix of genre​

Year 8
Arena. Specky Magee
Aronson. Rude health
Babbitt. Tuck everlasting
Bateson. Painted love letters
Blackman. Pig-heart boy Booth. POW
Bowles. Surfing Mr Petrovic
Bunting. Blackwater
Bunney. Sink or swim
D’Ath. Crocodile attack
Eldridge. Depth charge danger (Warpath)
Eldridge. Tank attack (Warpath)
Eldworth. Last convoy (Warpath)
Ellis. Parvana
Fensham. Helicopter Man
Flynn. Alex Jackson Grommet
Fox. Shark man
French. Hitler’s daughter
Funke. Inkheart
Gleitzman. Boy overboard
Gleitzman. Once
Gleitzman. Two weeks with the Queen
Glover. The girl who knew
Harlen. Cockroach War
Harris. Devil’s Island
Harris. Fortress
Horowitz. Point Blanc
Horowitz. Stormbreaker
Hutton. Deep end
Korman. Chasing the Falconers
Marsden. Checkers
Mason. Camel rider
Masters. Day of the Dead
Masters. Shark Attack
Metzenthen. Colour of sunshine
Murray. The secret life of Maeve Lee Kwong
Namioka. Ties that bind, ties that break
Pankridge. Chasing the break
Pankridge. Race at the rock
Paulsen. Hatchet
Paver. Wolf Brother
Pyers. Jack Brown and the labyrinth of the bats
Riordan. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Rodda. The forests of silence. (DQ1)
Rodda. Rowan of Rin
Russell. Brind and the dogs of war
Ryan. Rat-catcher
Ryan. Survival
Spinelli. The mighty Crashman
Valentine. Jumpman​







Year 9
Anonymous. Go ask Alice
Avi. Crispin, the cross of lead
Boyne. The boy in the striped pyjamas x 2
Brugman. Being Bindy
Clark. Back on track
Cole. Thieves like us
Colfer. Artemis Fowl
Creech. Ruby Holler
Creech. Walk two moons
Crowley. Hunter
Dessen. Last chance
Doherty. Dear nobody
Duder. Alex
Earls. After January
French. Missing you, love Sara
Fusillo. The Dons
Gervay. Butterflies
Godwin. Falling from Grace
Greenwood. Feral
Grindley. Spilled water
Hathorn. Feral kid
Hautzig. Second Star to the Right
Hearn. Across the Nightingale Floor
Herrick. The simple gift
Higgins. Doctor Id
Hines. The Plunketts
Hooper. Megan
Horowitz. Eagle strike
Horowitz. Skeleton Key
Jordan. The raging quiet
Keaney. Family secrets
Konigsburg. Silent to the bone
Korman. Son of the mob
Kuijer. The book of everything
Laird. Paradise end
Lay. The wave rider
Lowry. Gathering blue
Lowry, Lois. The Giver
MacPhail. Roxy’s baby
McNab & Rigby. Boy soldier
Mark. Riding Tycho
Masters. The drop
Murray. The secret life of Maeve Lee Kwong
Nicholson. Wind singer
Paulsen. White fox
Paver. Wolf Brother
Pow. Captive
Prince. Raider’s tide
Rees. Witch child
Reilly. Ice Station
Rhue. The wave
Schembri. In it up to here
Spinelli. Stargirl
Stiller. Packing it
Wilkinson. Dragonkeeper Yen
Mah. Chinese Cinderella
Zusak. Fighting Ruben Wolfe
Zusak. Underdog
Zusak. When Dogs cry