A book club is a great way to get children to interact with each other, and not through a way of technology. By starting a book club for kids, not only will it increase their social skills, it’ll also encourage them to read in their free time whilst appreciating the story at the same time.
Here, we give our top tips for starting a book club, running through how to engage children, select books, and make the club a fun staple in their calendar that they’ll look forward to with themes, treats, and more.
Tips Before Starting
Make Sure They Like Reading
This may seem obvious but ensuring the children in the book club enjoy reading and books will make the book club run a lot smoother. There’s nothing worse than someone feeling left out if they haven’t read the material for that session. If there’s a child that doesn’t like reading, perhaps this may be the perfect place for them. It may encourage non-willing children to read if they see their friends really enjoying a story.
The importance of reading to, and with, children is huge as it can set them up for their adult life. Studies have shown that the benefits of reading to children are astounding, with children who are read to at an early age are more likely to succeed at school later in life.
It is, however, important to make sure that children are following along to the words when you are reading to them, to ensure that they recognize words when they are able to read for themselves.
Make the Books Accessible
Ensure that the books are accessible for everyone to read. Are they available at the local library? Does the school have access to them? If they’re not accessible to all the children, perhaps skip that book. Book clubs are meant to be fun and engaging, so don’t create added stress for the parents to try and find the books!
How to Run a Book Club
Now you’ve got the ideas on how to start a book club, you’ll now need to understand how to run a children’s book club.
Start with a Name
Book club names don’t have to be boring or simply ‘book club’. If you make the name exciting for the children attending, they’ll be more likely to want to go – book club doesn’t sound the most stimulating does it? Make a pun or play on words – this could be your first activity once the book club has formed. This way, the children will feel involved and will want to go if they created the name.
What’s the Purpose?
It’s all very well creating a book club for your children, but what’s the purpose? Is it to make friends? Is it to improve their reading skills at home? You need to figure out the purpose before the book club starts, otherwise it won’t be beneficial for the children attending.
Decide the Day it will Take Place Each Week
Deciding the day the book club will take place may seem obvious, but if you block out every session in bulk, there will be no confusion about when it will be. Also, this ensures a routine for the children to read a book ready to discuss on a Monday afternoon for example.
How Will You Decide What Books to Read?
Do you want to follow the curriculum at school? If so, perhaps ask the children’s teacher to suggest a book that will compliment their studies.
Are the children interested in a particular genre of books? To begin with, get the children to read the books they already have an interest in, as this will get them to read the books. You can slowly introduce books that the children wouldn’t have read before, which will not only broaden their interests, but also their vocabulary.
If you’re wanting for the children to read the books that they are interested in, why not get each child to write their suggestion down and put it in a hat. Each week, you could pick a new book from the suggestions, which ensures each child is happy that their book will be read at some point. If necessary, pick the books for each week at the first session, as this will give the parents plenty of time to buy/find the books.
Make Sure the Location is Accessible
To ensure every child that can make it to the book club is important. You can do this by either using one of the children’s homes on a week by week rotation or use the local library. This would work in your favor as both are free spaces, with the library being a host to all sorts of books and activities (it can also aid in inspiration for future books too!).
Create a Progress Reward Scheme
Rewards are a great way of keeping children on track for a particular goal. You could create a chart which shows which books have been read by each member, or to show how well they have read that week/book. This can be decided with all the parents to ensure it is fair with how quickly a member can read between sessions.
Structure Your Sessions
Structuring your sessions to have certain segments will not only make the book club run smoother, it will keep the children interested.
Include segments as questions – particular questions may take a bit of time to answer for children, so this would work great. Examples would be:
- What did you like about the book?
- What would you change about the book?
- Did the things you thought would happen, happen?
- How did the book make you feel?
You could have a section towards the end of the session explaining what next week’s book is going to be, and they could discuss first impressions of the book.
Don’t Worry If No One Read the Book
Instead of being disappointed that no one read the book, make the children talk about why they didn’t read the book. Was it too long? Were you not interested in it? These questions can lead to thoughtful discussions surrounding the book, and can be helpful in choosing future books.
If one child did read the book, let the others ask them questions about the book to see if they misjudged the book. The children who didn’t read the book may be inspired to read it afterwards if they hear their friends raving about it.
Decide How You’ll Communicate with Everyone
Communication when members have to reschedule or aren’t able to attend is vital as depending on the size of your book club, missing members may mean that there isn’t enough to hold a meeting. Create a group chat on social media or Whatsapp so there’s a go-to place for parents to let others know if they are unable to make it that week. This can even be used to ask what book the children should be reading that week, or if they’re going to be late. Communication is key!
Create Fun Activities
You created this group to nurture a love for literature, but your club doesn’t have to focus on just books 100% of the time. Have fun by varying the ways you explore the stories, themes, and characters within your books.
Have a Movie Night
You might think that having a movie night defeats the object of a book club, but why not watch a film that has been adapted from a book that the group has read. It can be a reward for when the group has read 5 books. You can discuss the differences between the book and film, and if anyone preferred one over the other. This is another opportunity to be creative with snacks – is the book set in another country? Serve food from that country.
Visit the Location of the Book
This may be tricky if the book is set in another country, but if the story is set in London or somewhere nearby – plan a day trip! It may help the children visualize the surroundings when reading the book. For example the zoo, a park or even a trip to cities like New York! You can ask the children whether visiting the location has changed their opinions on the book, or changed how they visualize it.
Create Some Art
The whole time at your club doesn’t need to be spent reading, why not create an activity centralized around your book. Get them to draw a picture of one of the characters in the book, or use printouts of characters, animals or themes within the book for the children to color in. You can also print some themed coloring sheets for each child to color and discuss afterwards.
If you’ve picked an animal book here’s a cute activity to make your own butterflies using paper plates.
Sing a Song
Is there a song that can be related to the book which you can all sing and do actions to? If not about the whole story, there may be a song about a character within the book.
Use All Their Senses
Children are very sensory, and adding more than just their sense of sight and sound while reading a book will make your club a more immersive experience for them.
This below example uses different textures and animal toys to create a miniature farm for the children to explore. This allows the children to use all 5 senses as they can listen to the story, see the illustrations, touch the toys as they play, smell the grass and other materials used, and also taste the cereals incorporated into this fantastic farmyard.
Here’s another amazing example which sets up the story of the three little pigs for the children to interact with once they have read and discussed the story.
Kids’ Book Club Theme Ideas
Are you wanting to start a book club but don’t know where to start? These kids’ book club ideas will help get you on your way!
Below are a few great theme ideas for you to take some inspiration from. Whether you’re looking to fully immerse your group by decorating their reading space, or fancy making some decorations, going that extra mile creates a magical experience and keeps the kids more engaged.
Below is a jungle theme created by primary_positivity using a green color scheme, leaf print pillow covers, and leaf shaped floor mats.
DIY bunting below is so simple but sets the scene perfectly. Try simple outlines of rabbits for books starring Peter Rabbit, for example. Or used colored paper or fabric to match your colorful books. Making your own decorations is a low cost way of setting the scene for your group to enjoy their time bonding over their book.
Snacks are a great way to really highlight a theme or book. Each child could bring a different snack that relates to the book they are reading for that week or session. Cupcakes are always a good idea – different flavors and icing colors are simple but can effectively portray a theme or character well.
These Very Hungry Caterpillar themed cookies put a delightful twist on the character within the book eating through all those yummy foods. The children within your group can now do the same with these brightly decorated sugar cookies. For those worried about their teeth, the cookie fruit could be replaced with the real thing too!
Something as simple as taking a regular snack such as cream cheese on toast and shaping it, makes a perfect food to fit the theme of your book club. This example below uses chopped veggies to decorate a fish-shaped snack, but you can use this opportunity to be as creative as you like with the shapes and colors of your food.