The obvious first step to starting a kids’ book club is to find some members. We started with six kids which has been a very manageable number. The main purpose for starting our book club was to keep my daughter connected with friends she knew from different places, so we had friends from our old neighbourhood, dance class, and our new neighbourhood. In other words, none of the members really knew one another very well, if at all. I think this was helpful at the onset because it was seen as less of a playdate and more of a meeting.
The first book club consisted of six kids in grades 4-6, and all big readers. I let the parents know that I didn’t care if the kid read the book themselves or had it read to them (my daughter really loves having books read to her more than reading them herself). I gave about 8 weeks notice to get and read the first book, but now our meetings are every 6 weeks which works out to about 8 books a school year.
Getting Started – Keep Them Engaged!
Knowing that 8-10 year olds who didn’t really know each other might not want to speak up, I had to come up with a plan of how to start and keep the discussion going for the 90 minute meeting. The formula I started with seemed to work really well, and hasn’t been changed too much. Basically, this is what a typical meeting looks like:
- Kids come in and immediately sit down to devour whatever snacks provided (I try to have book-inspired snacks when possible – fishy crackers seem to always be a hit!)
- Each kid fills out their Book Log with if they like/didn’t like the book and any other comments they want to remember (Kid’s Book Club List). FYI – these are the books we’ve done to date…there will be a blog entry for each book separately, including the activities we did, once I get around to posting them all!
- Each kid takes a slip of paper with one of the book’s characters on it that I’ve made in advance. We then go around the table and each person says the character they selected, if they liked/didn’t like the character, and why.
- We go around again with discussion questions that I’ve either found on the internet or come up with myself for the book. Again, I have each kid read a question and start the discussion, just so everyone has a chance to give their opinion at least once! It’s amazing how engaged everyone is but the discussion can get a bit one-sided, so it’s important to give everyone a voice.
- The next (and probably most fun) part of our meetings are some book-related activities. It’s amazing the amount of puzzles, colouring pages, and other activities you can find on the internet these days. For each book I’ve been able to find something hands-on that we could do – whether it’s how to spell their names with the Greek Alphabet (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) or make a star map to identify the Big Dipper (Seekers). Again, I will attach the activities I found for each book in their individual blogs – no sense re-creating the wheel!
- Our final part of the meeting is to select the next book. I’ve tried to get the kids to select two or three books at a time, but they really want to only select the book for the next meeting. I think they really enjoy bringing books they’ve discovered and try to convince the rest of the group to vote for it. There’s usually some good-natured rallying for a particularly attractive book (they are a very visual group), but everyone feels okay with the final choices. We try to come up with a top three from the books everyone brings, then I let them vote for their first, second, and third choice. They usually guess the outcome before I’ve calculated it.