by Code Girl

freeCodeCamp Atlanta is starting a book club — are you ready to participate?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Note: Anyone in Georgia can apply to participate, not just Atlanta residents. As this is the first book club, we are staying local, but we hope to open it up to all of freeCodeCamp at some future date. :)

Why start a book club?

A book club is traditionally a reading group, usually consisting of a number of people who read and talk about books based on an agreed-upon reading list. It’s common for book club participants to discuss key content, even questioning and judging the writing, as well as speculating on content left out of the book. Formal book clubs meet on a regular basis at a set location.

In education, particularly in a reading classroom, book clubs are powerful teaching tools because they keep students engaged and inquisitive about what they are reading. The small group size ensures that all students participate, and their voices are heard and respected, even when they disagree with the rest of the group.

Book clubs are also important because some books just need to be discussed. In this case, because all freeCodeCamp students are learning to be better programmers, we have decided to choose Clean Code by Robert C. Martin to read for this first book club.

Topics in Clean Code can be new and confusing such as data structures and unit testing. In a book club, the facilitator guides the conversation regarding key concepts in the assigned reading for everyone to discuss then allows for the participants to choose additional topics to cover. It is crucial to keep the book club participant-centered.

How it’ll work

The Atlanta chapter of freeCodeCamp is planning the first of its kind book club, where anyone in Georgia is welcome to apply to participate. With freeCodeCamp members all over the state, this book club will allow participants to meet new programmers in a safe environment.

It is safe because we have a shared goal of learning to be better programmers. And, of course, ground rules will be set that are consistent with the freeCodeCamp rules of engagement.

We do not want to discourage freeCodeCamp members to join our book club who live outside of Atlanta, so our meetings will be virtual and anyone in Georgia can apply to join. For this first book club event, we are starting local, but if enough people are interested, we can work on expanding it to other chapters, national and international.

In our freeCodeCamp book club, the allotted time will include two parts. The first half is for discussion. The second half is for putting what was learned into practice by refactoring participant code from freeCodeCamp projects that have been completed. That is why book club participants should be those that have completed or are close to completing both:

  • the Responsive Web Design Certificate, and
  • the Front End Libraries Certificate.

If you are not close to completing these certificates, but have built at least two of the final projects, you would also be eligible for the book club. As we learn new concepts from Clean Code, we will refactor those final projects to reflect our understanding. Working with the group, we can ask questions, share code, discuss options, and get feedback.

Logistics of the club

There is an application process for our first book club. Questions include why you want to join the book club, where you are in the FreeCodeCamp curriculum, what projects you have completed, and whether you can commit to the book club. (The application is at the end of this post.)

It is important that we have diverse participants so we can create a learning community based upon mutual respect. But it’s also crucial to have a group of dedicated followers. Unfortunately, we will have to keep the first book club to a small number of participants — between 5 and 8. We are tentatively planning that our book club will meet virtually on Tuesday evenings once a month (time to be determined).

As a former reading teacher and college professor, I will be facilitating the book club. Facilitators should know how to ask relevant content questions, how to redirect conversations that go off topic, how to further the discussion, how to ask higher order thinking questions, and how to have participants rephrase questions and answers that might be confusing.

Once the discussion comes to an end, then we would move on to the refactoring. Each participant will leave the session having accomplished something with their code with the help of the group.

It’s critical that participants stay engaged in the process. Clean Code has 14 chapters, but that is too many for this type of book club. The first 6 chapters of the book cover important topics that beginners can understand and have practical ways to refactor their code. Our book club will focus on those first 6 chapters. That means that the book club will only meet for 7 weeks (a first week for the introduction), which is much more practical than 14. A follow up group to finish the book would be up to the discretion of the group participants.

Join us!

If you are interested in joining our first ever book club and you live in Georgia, please fill out the following application. Applications will be accepted throughout the month of October. If you have any questions about the book club, the application process, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to email me at fwallacephd[at]gmail[dot]com. Look for details about the start of our book club at the beginning of November.