How to Start an Out of School Book Club
Book clubs and reading societies have been popular among adults for quite some time now. These productive social gatherings provide an opportunity to read books you would otherwise not normally choose. They also provide a platform to analyse and critique a piece of literature and share opinions with a group of like-minded individuals. Whilst participating in this activity, members also inadvertently enhance their literary and communication skills.
With this in mind, it is incredibly positive that children are starting to jump on the book club bandwagon too and use it as an extra-curricular activity! Teachers and parents across the country are setting up their own book clubs in an attempt to encourage children to read and broaden their reading skills. But, what does it take to run your own successful children’s book club?
Book Club Members
Before you start to think about creating your own book club, you must first decide on the location and how many participants you wish to invite. It is vitally important that your setting is relaxed yet encouraging; you do not want to intimidate or bore the children but at the same time the location should not be too lenient or distracting. Even though this is an extra-curricular activity, if you can secure a relaxed space within your local school then this could be the perfect environment for your book club.
Once you have chosen a setting you need to decide on how many children you want to invite and what sort of children you wish to participate. Ideally, there should be enough children to promote conversation but without over-crowding the room so that certain individuals feel drowned out. We would recommend 6 participants is usually a good number to promote these values. The type of participants (friends, classmates or teacher recommendation) is not usually an important issue, but ideally they should all be of a similar age and reading ability to give everyone a fair chance.
Before your first session it will be useful to hand out a short welcoming letter to all of your participants, explaining the function and rules of the book club. In this letter you can ask the children to get some ideas together around the kind of books they wish to read. This will provide an easy starting point in your first meeting and will help get parents on board too as they help their children decide. Some other things you should establish/organise before your first session include:
- An adult facilitator should be present at all times but it is also useful to allow some older children to take control of the club from time to time;
- Make a decision on the frequency of your book club and the length of time for each session. It is important to take into consideration the children’s ages when deciding this as you do not want to overwork them;
- Food and beverages are a nice touch to a book club and will ensure everyone is comfortable.
Make Sure it's a Log of Fun!
Adult book clubs are attended by individuals who love to read; this is not always the case with children and it does not have to be either! At such a young age kids can still be enthused by reading, as long as the club is engaging and a lot of fun. A lot of children who are able to read well and enjoy stories still find it difficult to read aloud or alone. To combat this, you can attempt to make the reading experience come to life by involving role playing, play acting and character voices. By acting out the story and involving visual stimulants you can make the activity more fun and exciting; thus encouraging the children to be more actively involved. For less enthusiastic readers you can try choosing a fun, easy-to-read book that contains larger than life characters to spark the children’s interests.
Benefits of a Childrens Book Club
There are many advantages to running a children’s book club, many of which have already been discussed in this article. Some other benefits include:
- Children’s attitude to reading improves drastically;
- Communication skills are improved;
- Children learn to express and listen to different points of view;
- Children can develop their analytical skills;
- Promotes social activity and development at the same time.
One of the most important decisions you need to make is which books to read. Take a look at our Guided Reading section for some current favourites you can use within your club. With younger children it makes sense for the adult facilitator to choose the book, but older children may want to suggest their own titles too. Whichever books you decide to choose, make sure all of your participants are happy with your choice and make sure all are involved within your discussions.