Anna Quindlen once said, “I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”
Do you agree?
I do! One of my parenting priorities is making sure my kids love to read. Reading is a source of joy, entertainment, education, and contentment for a lifetime. A love for reading is one of the best gifts I can give my kids, after their Catholic faith and their siblings.
That’s why I’m organizing a children’s book club for my kids and their friends this summer. A family book club is like a secret weapon for raising readers, and here’s why.
Reading a book in front of your kids, reading to your kids, and talking about what you read are three of the best-proven ways to help kids love reading (and succeed academically, too!). A kids’ book club brings all three of those together in one simple, delightful activity. It’s a subtle yet incredibly effective educational strategy.
You could opt to do a book club just as a family, and that’s great too! But including their friends takes the excitement (and the learning!) to a whole new level.
If you’d like to organize a kids’ book club too, I promise it’s easier than you think! Here’s all you have to do.
1Pick a book
Choose a classic chapter book from a good list. You can’t go wrong with suggestions from Read Aloud Revival.
You might choose a favorite book from your own childhood, or a book with a movie adaptation you love. Just pick something you and your child are excited to read together.
Put out the word to your friends and your kids’ friends. You might be surprised at how many people want to participate!
It’s probably best to stick with kids over age 5 as they have longer attention spans. But really, any child who can pay attention to the book and join the discussion is welcome!
3Choose a date to meet
Put a date on the calendar for your book club meeting. Give yourselves a month or two to read the book. Summer vacation is an ideal time for this!
4Read aloud the book
Each family reads the book aloud together. This is where the magic happens. And if you’re short on time, listening to the audiobook totally counts!
5Plan questions as you read
As you read, ask your children to help you think of questions to share at the meeting. Then write down their ideas as you go. This step wouldn’t normally be part of a family read-aloud, but it’s part of the book club experience, and it’s a stellar way to build critical thinking!
The questions can be very simple or more complex, depending on the children’s ages. Right now, my children and I are reading Little House in the Big Woods for their book club, and my kids have come up with these questions: “Does your dad have a beard like Pa? Are you scared of panthers?” These aren’t exactly profound questions, but the point is that the kids are thinking about the book and what parts of it to discuss with their friends.
For older children, you might include more thought-provoking questions, such as,
- What was your favorite part? Why did you like it? How did it make you feel?
- What part was your least favorite? Why? How did it make you feel?
- Which character did you like best? Why?
- Was there a character you didn’t like? Why?
- Did any of the characters remind you of someone you know? Why?
- If you found yourself in the same situation as a character from the book, how would you have handled it?
- How were the characters’ lives similar to, or different from, your life?
- What do you think might happen to the characters after the book’s events?
6Plan the event
Write each discussion question on a slip of paper, fold them up, and put them in a bowl. Each child takes turns picking one out and sharing their answer with the group.
Dressing up as characters from the book is optional, but memorable and very fun!
You can plan related activities and games if you want (a quick search on Google or Pinterest will turn up plenty of extension activities for just about any book), but skip these if it’s too much. The focus is on the book and talking about it together.
7Enjoy your discussion!
The day of your book club, enjoy talking about the book with your kids and their friends!
Best of all, their learning doesn’t stop with the discussion. Reading the same book will give all the kids a shared narrative that can become part of their playtime. You will be amazed to see how their own ideas and interpretations of the book take off in their imaginative play!