Creating a Book Club for Kids

Organizing a book club for kids is one of the best things that ever happened to our homeschool.

From my first attempt at celebrating the Hunger Games to our most recent book club styled two ways for the Green Ember, our kids book clubs have become a huge hit with my kids.

Of course, this means that I receive a lot of questions about how to organize a book club for kids. So today I have the answers for your biggest questions when it comes to organizing a book club!

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Organzing a Book Club for Kids

Let’s talk about the basics of organizing a book club for kids.

From scheduling to planning to how to organizing the flow of your meeting, I’ve got the answers you are looking for. 

Want to listen instead of read?

1. How do you start a book club?

Begin with a vision of what you want to achieve by creating a book club for your kids. It’s important to establish your goals because they will impact who you invite and how you organize things.

As I was thinking about the book clubs for my daughters, I bounced ideas off a few friends until I had a more definite vision in mind.

For my older daughter, I wanted a place where a group of girls could develop friendships through our book club. It was also important to me that she had a place where she could discuss literature more deeply. She wasn’t so excited about discussing it at home with only me.

For my younger daughter, I envisioned a fun setting for discussion and crafts based on the book. I also wanted her to enjoy a group of friends that could get to know one another more deeply through book club. Yes, discussion was part of the agenda but my focus was on friendship and fun.

Once you determine your vision and goals, it’s time to invite others to join in.

2. Who do I invite and what do I tell them?

As you begin to brainstorm a list of potential members, be sure you have narrowed down an age range in your mind. For me, because I was focused on developing a social circle for my daughters, I kept the age range VERY narrow based on their closest friends’ ages. I determined that one group would be 7th/8th graders and the other group would be 5th/6th graders. Each year the grades would move up together.

This year I will also lead a book club for boys ranging from grades 3-6 at our local homeschool group.  I am volunteering to take over a book club that has been established for a few years so the time and invitees were already determined.  Two other moms volunteered to take on this challenge with me and we selected the titles and will plan some fun discussion and activities to fill the time slot!

If you are looking for more of an academic focus and are open to a co-ed setting, then you could open your idea up to a local homeschool group or homeschool facebook page.

If you want to keep your entire family in the same book club, then seek out families with similar age ranges.

If you need more attendees, make a larger range. Perhaps consider a “middle school” or “high school” book club instead of just a particular grade or two.

Once you have a few folks in mind, share your vision with them and see if it will work for their family as well. Start with 2-3 invitees and build from there as people respond. I have found that I prefer 8-10 girls, though closer to 8 works well with the younger set due to the crafts and activities.

Note:  I planned the format of the book club as well as the book list before sending invites.  I tossed it around with two families who would have a daughter in each group. Once I narrowed down a workable plan, I sent out invites to other families with the entire plan (including book list) so they could agree to the list and format right from the start.

3. How often should we meet?

Once a month has worked perfectly for us. You can meet more often and have two (or more) meetings around the same title. If you meet less often it is hard to build cohesion within the group.

Based on my experience, December was a good month to take off from book club because everyone is pretty busy. Last year we read short stories in my older group, but this year we plan to have a Christmas party instead of a book club.

Our groups meet in Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec (party), Jan, Feb, March, Apr, and May. We did have a pool party in June at the end of the year and we are kicking off with one in August this year. Two families have pools in their yard so we were able to work that out pretty easily. You could kick off with a picnic or social time at the local ice cream place just as easily.

4. How do you pick your book titles?

That one is pretty easy for me. I simply search for great book lists online using our favorite homeschool curriculum suggestions.

You can find booklists for various ages on this blog or search google for ideas.

There are millions of ways to pick books. Let the members vote. Each family could pick one title, perhaps for the month they are hosting. Follow your public school or homeschool curriculum. Read a series like the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew together and discuss a few specific titles throughout the year.  The options are really endless.

5. What does a meeting look like?

Meeting formats can be as simple or as creative as you like. Meetings can be parent-led or student led. Your book club can rotate homes or meet in a cafe. You can include crafts, games or other activities or just have a simple discussion.

The sky is the limit when it comes to the format.

Keeping this in mind, you can plan the format in your own mind and present it when you invite people OR you can work it out together once you have a group formed.

My original plan for the Boomerang Book Club was to chat at Starbucks over frappuccinos. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that we should rotate houses so that the girls could hang out after our discussion. I still volunteered to lead all of the discussions.

The celebration atmosphere that became our standard meeting was never the plan from that start. It just fell into place at our first meeting for the book, “Catching Fire”. That book club was such a success, we decided to continue celebrating books at several of the book club meetings, including “The Outsiders”.

As much fun as we had at several meetings, I have never required the host mom to plan a book club celebration. Two of the moms simply put out snacks and gave us an area to chat. Other moms loved the idea of themed decorations and food. Giving moms the option took the pressure off any particular mom who didn’t feel comfortable with a themed book club.

Many of the chosen book titles were made into movies, so we watched the movie version after our discussion at several of the meetings. Eventually, we realized that the girls wanted time to socialize and we didn’t do the movies.

With the younger kids, we completed crafts in addition to our discussion. The moms each took a month to host and planned a discussion, snack, and craft around the plot of the book. If there were additional months, I offered to plan them. Once again, a book club celebration wasn’t required but we all enjoyed planning them after the first few. 

My kids have also participated in a book club that was student led. Each participant selected the title for their month and the child led the discussion and a craft with a little help from mom. Snacks were provided at each meeting. This was a very fun and simple book club and it would be a great option to consider.

Regardless of the format you select, make sure food is involved! Having a discussion around food helps keep everyone participating and engaged.

Defeating Morbin Blackhawk at our Green Ember Book Club

6. How long is a book club meeting?

In my experience, 1.5 -2 hours works well. A group can typically have discussion, snack, and crafts or games in that amount of time. Sometimes there is even a little time left to play outside or chat.

Our book club for older kids tends to get together for 3 hours, though only 45 minutes – 1 hour is our actual meeting. After that, the girls have enjoyed the movie version of the book or time to hang out together.

7.  How do you keep a book club organized for everyone involved?

I began by using a google document to keep track of books and dates, but last minute changes didn’t work well. Then the need arose to communicate ideas and thoughts with various group members.  Unfortunately, group email wasn’t adequate.

Instead, I created secret groups on facebook for each of the book clubs. I invited the parents of the participants. I created an event for each of our book titles, named according to the book. Once meeting dates are listed, moms can comment on the event that they would like to host. Then the address can be added to the event.

Overall, the only glitch in this system was that some of the moms weren’t on facebook when we started. I did my best to communicate with the non-facebook moms through email. At this point, everyone has joined Facebook or is using their spouse’s account. This has made it a lot easier.

8. What resources have you found most helpful?

Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence Goldstone is a quick, easy narrative that is helpful when considering how to lead a book club discussion.

How to Teach Shakespeare to Children by Ken Ludwig is on my nightstand right now. This isn’t just helpful for book club though. It is helpful for approaching Shakespeare all year long with my kids, which boosts my confidence when it comes to book club.

Shakespeare Made Easy is the series we used for book club. One side has the original text and the other translated it into modern English. This made it much easier for the participants to get through the reading on their own. We used the original text for acting out at book club.

I Love Libraries has written a post with great tips on leading a discussion in creative ways and there are general questions listed for you to use.

Lit Lovers has another list of general questions for fiction titles.

Food in literature will be a great resource if you are looking for the #partyschool experience.  Fantastic recipes inspired by book titles are listed there!

Rooted in Language offers great vidoes on their Facebook Page and we love the Annotating Literary Elements Guide to help us dig deeper into a book.

Go Celebrate a Book!

Booklists:

Book Club Celebrations

All of my party school book club are here so you can pick and choose the titles you want to use! All of the deas and inspiration are here in one place.
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8 thoughts on “Creating a Book Club for Kids”

  1. A book club is a great idea for kids who would otherwise take forever in finishing their books. They would have motivation for reading to a certain chapter, to be able to meet with friends and contribute to the conversation.

  2. Thank you for sharing about how you run your student book clubs. A couple of mom friends and I began getting our boys together for a Progeny Press Book Club. We usually meet everywhere Thursday to discuss the sections/chapters assigned and then allow the boys to run around and just be creative boys. We have two main age groups that participate Upper Elementary/lower middle school ( our Big Kids) and lower elementary ( Our Littles or Younger Kids). We love our Book Club Thursdays and I’m excited to read more from your blog to gain even more ideas for fun activities to incorporate into our Thursday Book Club =)

    1. notbefore7@gmail.com

      So glad to have you as a reader! Book clubs are the magical part of our year and it is so much fun to share ideas!

  3. Pingback: Alice in Wonderland – Book Boxes

  4. Lise McGuinness

    Hi, Mary,
    I wonder if you might answer a question for me as I work to set up my first Arrow book club. I like your idea of setting up a secret facebook page, but I’m not a big facebook user and don’t really know how it works. Would moms need to think to look at the facebook page to get information about the book club, or when I posted things, would there be a way for them to receive some kind of notice by email or something? Thanks for whatever advice you can offer this luddite. 🙂

    1. notbefore7@gmail.com

      Moms should receive a notification when you post, though if it is important, I often tag them. If you keep it a secret group, then they have to be your friend to be invited to the group. You could make some of the attendees and “admin” of the group and they could approve people too. I hope that helps. Let me know if you need more!

  5. Lise McGuinness

    Oh, dear, thought of another question. Would they have to be “friends” of mine on facebook to join the group?

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