Printed from Afterschool Curriculum Choice - Literacy

Curriculum Details for
Spaghetti Book Club

Practitioner Expert
Content Expert
Spaghetti Book Club
Publication Date: 1999
Grade Level: K–8
Content Focus: Literacy/Language Arts
Costs: $150 for 10 reviews (trial only), $220 for 20, $500 for 50 and $900 for 100 reviews.
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
Spaghetti Book Club
606 Post Road East, Suite 715
Westport, CT 06880
(203) 226-1010

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Program Description

Design Summary

Spaghetti Book Club is appropriate for both the school day and afterschool.  The primary goal of this curriculum is to help students develop critical literacy skills through reading, discussion, summarizing, and expressing opinions. Students work toward publishing reviews of books on the Internet along with their personal artwork.  Curriculum components include lesson plans, online training and support, publishing criteria for reviews, and access to online content on the Spaghetti Book Club website.

Students work in groups and individually writing reviews. This encourages social growth and teamwork.  The curriculum also encourages cognitive growth as it generates student opinions and connections to the books.  The end goal of publishing on the Internet is motivating, and fosters a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work.

Costs and Staff Training

Spaghetti Book Club offers memberships based on the number of reviews submitted. Costs are: $150 for 10 reviews (trial only), $220 for 20 reviews, $500 for 50 reviews and $900 for 100 reviews. There is a one-time registration fee of $50.

Spaghetti Book Club provides telephone-based training to all new members. Fees for training are included in a one-time registration fee. Telephone and email-based support is also available to all members.

Staff Qualifications

Instructors are not required to have formal teaching experience, but they should be familiar with the writing process and basic reading and writing development.  They also need to be comfortable with technology, especially word processing, Internet, and using scanners. Practitioner and content expert reviews support this, and content expert reviews also suggest that instructors be very organized, since students will work at their own pace and there are a number of steps to ensure that reviews can actually be published.

Standards Alignment

  • National: Meets six of the 15 English Language Arts Standards found in The New Performance Standards (National Center on Education and the University of Pittsburgh).
  • State: New York City and New York State.

Research Base

None specified.

Evaluation Details

This curriculum has no formal evaluation, but the developers do have pre-post questions that are used at each site to determine what kids know about books, components of literacy and publishing, and their general level of experience in this area. Information from these are available on the Spaghetti Book Club website:

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

  • Gives students the opportunity to publish their writing in a more public forum.
  • Can give students a sense of meaning to their work.  Internet publication seems to be motivating for students.
  • Teachers can create a class website without starting from scratch.
  • Students become members of a safe and structured online community.
  • Complete connection with literacy, both reading and writing.
  • Structure teaches students to work independently.
  • Breaks the end goal down into smaller tasks for the students.
  • Curriculum depends on having easy computer and Internet access.
  • Entering work on computer can be time consuming for a group that has few computers or students who are not skilled typists. 
  • Teacher needs to be organized and plan ahead, or could become overwhelmed with keeping track of student materials and preparing for publication.

Practitioner Expert Review

Practitioner Expert Background

Two practitioners were interviewed for this review of Spaghetti Book Club.  One practitioner has been a teacher for 12 years, and has used Spaghetti Book club with a second grade classroom for the past year.  She uses it about once a week, until close to publishing time, when she used it on a daily basis.  She has 16 students, majority African American, including some English language learners.  The other practitioner has worked with students in an afterschool setting for many years, and has used Spaghetti Book Club for four years about once a week.  She has used it with elementary school aged students, most of whom are recent immigrants with a limited English background.


  • Attended a brief training, approximately 1-2 hours, going through the materials with a representative from Spaghetti Book Club.  Felt confident that she was able to implement the program.
  • Both felt that the company’s customer service was excellent. Creator of the curriculum is still very hands-on and involved with supporting Spaghetti Book Club users.
  • Following program guidelines explicitly helps decrease preparation time.
  • A small group of students, less than 12, is ideal for using this program.
  • One practitioner implemented the program with only one computer, but recommends having access to a computer lab to reduce workload for instructor.

Student Engagement

  • The end goal of publishing reviews on the Internet maintained student interest and motivation. Students seemed to have a sense of accomplishment and pride when finished.
  • Highly effective at engaging students.
  • Students enjoyed being able to express their opinion and write a recommendation as part of their book review.
  • Students developed the skills to explore books on their own, by using the back of books and inside covers to access others’ reviews and recommendations.
  • While the Spaghetti Book Club community can expose students’ work globally, their identities remain anonymous and their privacy protected.
  • The students enjoyed drawing pictures of themselves. They were original and imaginative in illustrating the book they reviewed.
  • Parents enjoy seeing their children’s work published on the Internet.  Families are invited to attend school for a celebration of the final product.


Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Structure is appropriate for the goals of the program, with plenty of opportunity for instructors to add their own creative twist to the script.
  • User-friendly and adaptable to the needs of the students.
  • Students can work in groups or pairs, according to instructor’s needs and goals.
General skills taught
  • Program guides students through the writing process from start to finish.
  • Skills with technology, computers, and Internet.
  • Peer reviewing offered an opportunity for students to work together and develop social and teamwork skills.
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Had students of very different learning levels, but the structure of the program was such that students could pick books at their appropriate reading level to read and review.
  • Students of different levels can work together on reviews.
  • Students of all backgrounds have been engaged in the curriculum. They pick their own book to read.

Strengths and Challenges

  • Total connection with literacy, both reading and writing.
  • Internet publication is motivating for students.
  • Structure teaches students to work independently.
  • Breaks the end goal down into smaller tasks for the students.
  • Teacher needs to be organized and plan ahead, or could become overwhelmed with keeping track of student materials and preparing for publication.

Content Expert Review

Content Expert Reviewer

Sara DeMedeiros
Sara Pollock DeMedeiros works as the Assistant Program Director at Tenacity, a youth development program that supports Boston youth in the summer and after school by fostering their literacy, tennis, and life skills. She supports staff in structuring high quality after-school programs for middle school students, and leads the development of Tenacity's literacy curriculum and instruction. Before coming to Tenacity four years ago, Sara taught 7th grade English as a Second Language in Washington, DC, and received her Masters in Education from Harvard University's Risk and Prevention Program.


  • Teaches students how to write and illustrate their own book reviews which they can then publish on the Spaghetti Book Club (SBC) website.
  • Students and teachers can choose the books they review.
  • The program also seems compelling for teachers, providing an opportunity to publish student work online with little technical knowledge.


Academic Skills
  • Reading books, then writing about and discussing them in an informed manner.
  • Making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.
  • Critically reading others’ reviews of books.
  • Editing and revising.
Study Skills
  • Using checklists to track progress toward completing a task.
  • Specific format for writing a review.
  • Organizational skills in thinking about how to create a coherent piece of writing.
Non-Academic Skills
  • Love of and engagement with reading.
  • Use of technology.
  • Builds self-esteem.

Alignment to Standards

  • Curriculum is generally aligned with English Language Arts standards of analyzing, comparing, critiquing, and reacting to literature.
  • While the particular lessons that cover these concepts are optional, the final product which students are expected to submit to the website requires that students have used these skills.


  • Checklist for students and teachers to use to assess the completion of a review.
  • Opportunities for students to continuously collect and respond to feedback from their teachers and peers.
  • These assessment strategies seem to primarily assess content.


  • Curriculum is somewhat structured.
  • There are recommended lessons that are very easily adapted to a program’s needs, but the product itself that the students create must follow a very specific structure.
  • Content is flexible: students may pick what books they would like to read and review.
  • Lessons are an even mix of teacher- and student-led. Teachers are encouraged to teach a prescribed combination of lessons, but students are encouraged to choose their own books.
  • Curriculum is also student-directed in that reviews themselves hinge on students expressing their own opinions.

Addressing Diverse Student Needs

  • Curriculum is adaptable to student needs.
  • Teachers can alter the order and use of the lesson plans to match the needs of their students and program, or omit them altogether.
  • Students can also work in groups to write reviews.  This can allow teachers to match students with different strengths or give extra support to students who need it.
Developmental level
  • Targeted to students in grades K-12. Lessons can be tailored to specific ages.
  • Reviewing books and sharing opinions appeals to all ages.
  • All reviews have the same expectations, regardless of age.  Writing these reviews may be advanced for the youngest students.
  • There are guiding checklists for different grade levels (K, 1-3, 4-6, and 7-12).
Learning Styles Addressed
  • The curriculum appeals to many learning styles.
  • Teachers can use visual cues, including the books themselves as well as overheads and examples of reviews, such as other students’ already published reviews online.
  • Interpersonal learning: Students work together to create book reviews. The curriculum hopes that books will create bonds between different students who might not otherwise work together.
  • Artistic learning: Students all create a self-portrait that accompanies their review, and are encouraged to create pictures that correspond with their reviews.
  • Diversity is not explicitly addressed, although teachers can do so by offering a wide range of books for students to review.
  • The curriculum requests that student self-portraits, accompanying reviews, show the students’ different skin colors.  It can be assumed this is to allow students who are reading others’ reviews to see a variety of backgrounds in the online community.
  • Language diversity is not mentioned.

Strengths and Challenges

Strongest Features
  • Gives students the opportunity to publish their writing in a more public forum.
  • Can give students a sense of meaning to their work.
  • Teachers can create a class website without starting from scratch.
  • Students become members of a safe and structured online community.
Challenges and Drawbacks
  • Curriculum depends on having easy computer and internet access.
  • Entering work on computers can be time consuming for a group that has few computers or students who are not skilled typers.
  • The publishing process could become overwhelming and time-consuming for an unorganized teacher.

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