Project Lit provides space for Bearden to discuss books about underrepresented groups


Shelby Graves

Members of Project Lit discuss possible books for future meetings.

Bearden’s Project Lit book club offers students a chance to connect with characters and thematic elements not often seen in traditional educational settings. 

Mrs. Shelby Graves, who has been the sponsor since Project Lit was introduced at Bearden just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, creates an environment that encourages intellectual dialogue about books picked by club members.

“I try to make it a space for both students and teachers to have a book club together,” Mrs. Graves said. “I really enjoy talking about books outside of the classroom. There are certain ways of reading that I have to present as a teacher, but it’s different when I can read a story for entertainment.”

Project Lit is a national club that increases the access students have to culturally relevant literature. The club meets on the last Wednesday of every month, giving members enough time to finish a book before meeting again.

“It’s a book club that gives students an opportunity to read something fun that’s not an assignment,” Mrs. Graves said. “There’s thousands of chapters nationwide, so it was really cool to step into that community and offer it here at Bearden.”

Another important aspect of the club is the content of the books chosen. At their monthly meetings, club members recommend books for the next month as well as discuss the previous month’s book. The club focuses on highlighting the stories of minorities and underrepresented groups.

“We like to read authors that are people of color, or a person that perhaps is not represented in the literary community,” said librarian Mrs. Kristen Heffern, who is also a Project Lit sponsor. “Whatever your flavor, there’s a book out there. And we love that.”

Not only are students able to influence what book is read next, but if they don’t finish or don’t feel up to reading the book for that month, they can simply wait until the next meeting to read the next book.

“We try to read books that feature young people,” Mrs. Graves said. “One question I ask is: ‘Is this a good representation of a young person?’

“During the meetings we usually do some sort of check in, and then I have them go around and ask them to give me their rating. Then we just talk about different things we loved about the book, and characters we related to.”

Hearing the student perspective on these books helps keep Project Lit relevant and makes an impact on the members of the club. By reading books that often feature young people and underrepresented communities, the club members are immersed in a community that values them. This club sparks passion in students and encourages members to look outside of their typical scope.

This club is also a great way for readers of all levels to establish relationships within a supportive community at their school. Whether this is with Mrs. Graves, Mrs. Heffern, or other students, every student is encouraged to join and form these relationships.

“I love to discuss with people about what I am reading, but find it difficult due to the fact most of my friends do not enjoy reading,” junior Libby DeRieux said. “So I joined the club so I could meet fellow students who also love to read.” 

Added Mrs. Graves: “If you know that you love to read and you have other friends that love to read, it’s just a good space to come and sit in for an afternoon. Please just come and join us.”