The following is a post by contributing writer Michelle of Raising Cajuns.
Recently, I began a book club for some of the children in our homeschooling co-op. At first, I felt a little nervous about how the kids would respond. Would they like the books I selected? Would they participate in the discussions? Would they actually enjoy it?
To my surprise, it quickly became one of their favorite activities. Each week, at least one of the children asks me when we’re meeting next, what book we’re reading next, or if we can all read their favorite book for book club.
I didn’t have to worry about them participating either. The children (ages 7-10) all have plenty to say, and in our small group of five children, they feel very comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on the plot, characters, and even themes.
As an added bonus, my daughter and I have bonded over the experience. She reads the books much faster than I do, since I’m usually juggling multiple books at a time (it’s a bad habit of mine). She asks me every day what chapter I’m on or if I read a particular part yet and would I hurry up and read it already so we can talk about it. She tells me, with no prompting, which sections make her laugh and which ones make her cry. I get a glimpse into what touches her.
Starting our book club was easy, because I already had a specific group of kids and meeting place in mind, but it can be an easy task even if you are starting from scratch. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you begin planning and organizing:
- Selecting Children – What age group do you want to gear your book club for? Do you want just kids or would you like a parent-child book club? Will you advertise at the library or homeschool groups for interested members? If you’re really struggling to find members, you can always have a family book club or your own parent-child book club with just you and your children.
- Selecting Books – Will you read fiction, nonfiction, genre, classics, new books, a mix? The ages of the children in the club will help guide you in this selection, but I also like using the Scholastic Book Wizard to aid my search. Some libraries also have book club kits available, but typically these are for older children and teens.
- Selecting a Location – You can meet at someone’s house, the library, the park, or a coffee shop. You should also consider how often you want to meet. Once a month? Every six weeks? Every other month?
- Setting Guidelines – A parent should moderate and guide the group, but the children should be allowed to lead most of the discussion. Still, you will need to instill rules for speaking in turn. You’ll also need to decide whether or not you will serve snacks. Also, you might want to discuss with the children if additional parents and siblings will be welcome during the discussions or if this would be a distraction for them.
- Preparing – As the moderator, you will need to select the books (maybe with the help of the group) and let the group know in advance when you will have meetings. I like to select three or four books and have a schedule for the whole semester that I can hand out at the first meeting. You will need to prepare a few discussion questions (you can often find some online) to guide the group, but you could also have each child bring in a discussion question. You might also want to occasionally plan an activity related to the story you have read.
Michelle is a wife, mother, writer, and Cajun who prefers everything extra spicy. She writes about their homeschool adventures at Raising Cajuns.