Book Clubs, Brave Writer, Homeschooling

Creating a Book Club for Kids

One topic I receive a lot of questions about is starting a book club for kids.  And while a lot of information about my book clubs can be found on this blog and my YouTube channel, I thought I’d answer some of your most common questions.

How to create a book club for your kids!

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1. How do you start a book club?

I began by creating a vision in my mind of what I hoped to achieve. I had to sort out the goals for my book clubs in my own mind before I could proceed. Your overall goals will impact who you invite and how you organize things. I bounced my ideas off 1-2 friends who I knew would be included until I had a more definite vision in mind.

For my older daughter, I wanted to focus specifically on creating 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 the Think-Piece questions in the back of our Brave Writer Boomerang Guides.  (NOTE: The latest versions of the Brave Writer Arrow Book Guides include Big Juicy Questions.)

Love that Dog book clubFor my younger daughter, I envisioned more of a fun setting for discussion and crafts based on the book. I also wanted to develop a group of friends with tighter friendships through their time at book club.  We use the Arrow Book Club guides at home, so it made sense to follow along with the titles.

Once you have a bit of a vision in mind for your club, then it is 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.

Love That Dog Book ClubIf 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. If you meet more often, I’d suggest having two 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. 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. Part of my book club vision was enhancing our Brave Writer language arts. Our family follows the book list for the Arrow (3rd-6th) and the Boomerang (7th-10th) so we follow the annual list. The official list includes 10 books, but we read 7-8 of them as a group.

The Outsiders Book ClubIn the Boomerang Bookclub, we also like to include a Shakespeare play.  Last year we read short stories in December to change things up.  We also didn’t follow the official Boomerang titles either. Instead, we just picked a few from the master list that we wanted our girls to read.

While I love the Brave Writer lists, there are millions of ways to pick books. You could let the members vote. Each family could pick one title, perhaps for the month they are hosting. You could follow your public school or homeschool curriculum. You could 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.

Note:  Our titles from 2015-2016 for the Arrow Book Club can be found here and the titles for the Boomerang Book Club can be found here.  The titles for the coming year (2016-2017) for all three of my book clubs can be found on this post.

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.  You 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.

Anne of Green Gables Book ClubMy 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. Because this book club was so important to my core curriculum and the Boomerang Think-Piece questions, I offered to lead every single meeting.

The #partyschool atmosphere that eventually 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 #partyschool success, we decided to keep up the #partyschool atmosphere 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 #partyschool atmosphere. Two of the moms simply put out snacks and gave us an area to chat. Other moms loved the idea of getting into the decorations and food around the theme of the book. Giving moms the option takes the pressure off any particular mom who doesn’t feel comfortable with the #partyschool idea.

Note:  If you are interested in the #partyschool book club, you can follow my Book Clubs for Kids board on Pinterest!  I link to all sorts of ideas as I find them as well as my own posts about our book clubs.

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.

My Arrow Book Club runs a little differently. The girls were in 5th and 6th grade, so I wanted to do some crafts with them in addition to our discussion. The host mom plans a discussion, snack, and craft around the plot of the book. Each mom takes one month. If there is an additional month, I have stepped in. Once again, a #partyschool atmosphere just sort of happened after a few of us did it. The girls had such a memorable time that all of the moms continued the same idea to varying extents.  (NOTE: The latest versions of the Brave Writer Arrow Book Guides include Big Juicy Questions in the guide)

We were part of a book club a few years ago that was student led. Each participant selected the title for their month. The child led the discussion and a craft with a little help from mom. Snack was provided at each meeting. This was a very fun and low key book club for my older daughter and it would be a great option for a book club.

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

6. How long is a book club meeting?

I have found that 1.5 hours is a great amount of time. The Arrow book club can fit in a 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 older group 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 some 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 mothers of the girls who are part of the group.  I created an event for each of our book titles, named according to the book.  The time and date is secured and moms can begin to comment on the event that they would like to host.  Once a host is determined, I can supply the address for the event.

Overall, the only glitch in this system was the moms who weren’t on facebook.  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.

Of course, I have already mentioned the Brave Writer Boomerang Guides.  The think-piece questions guide most of our discussions.  The latest versions of the Brave Writer Arrow Guides have Big Juicy Questions at the end as well!

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!

Book Clubs have definitely been a highlight of our school experience.  How about you?  Do you run a book club?  How does it work in your house?

(Not Before 7 is a Brave Writer ambassador.  My love for the curriculum makes me happy to endorse it on my blog.  Purchases made through my links help keep the content on this blog flowing!  Thanks for your support.)

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1 Comment

  • Reply Susan Evans August 11, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    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.

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