Cardboard L.I.T. Club: Linking Imagination & Text

by Mau­r­na Rome

There is no life I know to com­pare with pure imag­i­na­tion. Liv­ing there you’ll be free if you tru­ly wish to be…”

                            —Leslie Bricusse and Antho­ny Newley

Each year I intro­duce my stu­dents to a young man named Caine. This cre­ative entre­pre­neur had spent the entire sum­mer in 2012 build­ing an elab­o­rate card­board arcade in his dad’s auto shop garage in Los Ange­les. Defin­ing the essence of per­se­ver­ance, he wait­ed patient­ly for weeks to meet his first cus­tomer, Nir­van, who hap­pened to be a film­mak­er. The inspir­ing sto­ry of this 9 year old and the guy who made “a movie that became a move­ment to fos­ter cre­ativ­i­ty world­wide” is cap­tured on sev­er­al YouTube videos

6_30Cardboard-ClubBorderThe result of this unlike­ly part­ner­ship is the “Glob­al Card­board Chal­lenge,” an event that takes place in 46 coun­tries around the world. It is also the back­sto­ry behind a lit­tle project that took place in Room 132 this past school year. After learn­ing about Caine’s sto­ry, my class also explored sev­er­al card­board themed books: Not a Box and The Card­board Box Book. We then brain­stormed ways to incor­po­rate Caine’s cre­ativ­i­ty and pas­sion for card­board into a lit­er­a­cy-based activ­i­ty. We came up with the “Card­board L.I.T. Club.”

Thanks to a gen­er­ous grant (see note at the end of this arti­cle) from the Min­neso­ta Read­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, the mis­sion was for kids and adults to come togeth­er to:

  1. Be cre­ative
  2. Pro­mote the reading/writing connection
  3. Learn about teamwork
  4. Encour­age each oth­er to read and dis­cuss good books
  5. Use art, tech­nol­o­gy, math, and engi­neer­ing to increase lit­er­a­cy learning

Before launch­ing the club, kids were required to fill out a club appli­ca­tion stat­ing why they want­ed to join the club. They were also asked to com­plete a self-reflec­tion sur­vey about how they were doing in school in the areas of home­work com­ple­tion, show­ing respect, work­ing hard and being help­ful to oth­ers. Stu­dents who were on shaky ground were asked to sign an extra agree­ment with the under­stand­ing that in order to stay in the club dur­ing the next two months, they would need to main­tain good aca­d­e­m­ic and behav­ior sta­tus. This proved to be a huge moti­va­tor for a few stu­dents who made improve­ments with home­work and behav­ior in order to keep their good standing.

In mid-March, we met for our first of five Card­board L.I.T. Club meet­ings. Kids were free to pick a book from a huge selec­tion of titles then groups were formed based on the titles cho­sen. The major­i­ty leaned towards ever-pop­u­lar graph­ic nov­el titles while oth­ers select­ed Mer­cy Wat­son to the Res­cue, Dork Diaries and Myths in 30 Sec­onds. From there the plan was sim­ple. Kids were asked to read the book, dis­cuss it with their group focus­ing on what mat­tered most, and final­ly, decide how to rep­re­sent the sto­ry and char­ac­ters using card­board, paint and tape.

Oth­er essen­tial ingre­di­ents were snacks (we start­ed each ses­sion with a “chat and chow” with kids talk­ing to one anoth­er about what they were cur­rent­ly read­ing), par­ent and high school vol­un­teers (a ratio of 1 helper to 5 kids is rec­om­mend­ed), an abun­dance of card­board (dona­tions from local busi­ness­es), lots of col­lab­o­ra­tion (a.k.a. prob­lem solv­ing), a photographer/videographer (a visu­al record of progress) and time for clean­ing up (keep­ing peace with the cus­to­di­an is a priority).

Thanks to Caine and the “Card­board L.I.T. Club,” we are ready to take on the Glob­al Card­board Chal­lenge in Octo­ber and will be expand­ing our club next year to the “Lit­er­a­cy L.I.F.T. Club” — Link­ing Imag­i­na­tion FUN and Text! Check out a lit­tle video show­cas­ing our work.


I will be teach­ing two class­es on August 5th at Resource Train­ing and Solu­tions in St. Cloud, MN. The morn­ing class will cov­er launch­ing and coör­di­nat­ing a suc­cess­ful “Card­board Club.” The after­noon class will offer an overview on using and cre­at­ing videos in the class­room. Reg­is­tra­tion infor­ma­tion can be found here.

Be sure to con­sid­er par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 2015 Glob­al Card­board Chal­lenge on Octo­ber 10th. 

Each year mem­bers of the Min­neso­ta Read­ing Asso­ci­a­tion are invit­ed to apply for grants to sup­port class­room projects and/or book clubs for boys. The appli­ca­tion process is very straight­for­ward and do-able! The dead­line is Feb­ru­ary 1st, 2016. 


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