by Kirsti Granholm
Being in a book club is such a lovely treat. Socializing, meeting new people, having stimulating conversations… Overall, it is great entertainment.
Wouldn’t it be great if your children could enjoy something similar? Consider starting a book club for kids! Of course, there will be some setting up to do — but it is totally worth it! You are promoting literacy while allowing your children and their friends to have fun. Plus, you are preventing summer ‘backslide’ by encouraging critical thinking and discussion.
Your first step is going to be getting organized. As the coordinator of this project, you are going to need to contact your children’s friends’ parents to see how many kids are interested. Once you figure out the numbers, you can start having fun! Remember, it doesn’t have to be a huge book club; in fact, you are probably better off starting with a smaller group of kids.
- Decide on a regular meet-up spot
Once you know how many children will be participating, you should look for a convenient spot for everyone to meet up at. This part may be difficult if you have a larger group, but it is possible. Check in with your local library to see if they have accommodations or suggestions. If you cannot find a place to meet, check in with parents to see if someone can host. We suggest meeting up biweekly or monthly to keep the kids’ enthusiasm going!
- Follow up
After you have a date, time and location set, it is time to reach out to the parents again. You will need to give them the location details, as well as the title of the first book they will be reading! Make sure you pick a light, interesting read. It will get kids excited to meet up with their friends and discuss their first book club read.
- Start a book list
This is the fun part! To begin, you should browse a variety of books to get some ideas of children’s books appropriate for your book club’s age group. To keep it interesting, decide on a variety of themes you could try out, such as social justice, history or mystery! You should also mix up the types of books you are choosing — whether it’s lengthy chapter books or graphic novels, your young readers will definitely appreciate it! Chat with the parents about book preferences and visit the CCBC’s website for even more recommendations.
- Plan and prep
The next step to ensuring your book club is a success, is planning how you will run the book club. Will you start with a discussion? A recap of the book? Begin with the question period? Will you provide activities like colouring sheets and games? Make sure to let the kids have plenty of time to discuss amongst themselves and definitely be prepared for off-topic discussion.
There is a lot to consider but once you decide on how you are going to structure your book club, you are almost ready to begin!
- Set the rules
We all know how hard it can be to get a large group of young children to sit down and behave. So make sure you set a few key rules to make managing the group a little easier. Some popular examples are: use your inside voice, raise your hand when you would like to talk, and be a good listener. Simple, but effective!
- Let’s get started
You are officially ready to commence your first book club meeting! This is an exciting time for both yourself and the kids. When the date approaches, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
- Arrive early for the first meet; you want to make sure your space is fully set up before the kids arrive.
- Start with a simple introduction, as there may be some new and familiar faces.
- Prepare ample time for discussion; it’s the first meet — the kids are going to want to talk, a lot!
- Crafts and games are essential, make sure you plan an engaging activity for each meet.
- Bring some easy snacks for the kids to munch on if they get hungry — but check with parents for dietary restrictions first!
- Make changes as you go along; you are learning too so adjust as your book club progresses.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! After all, you are caring for someone else’s kid for free, so don’t be shy. I am sure more parents than not would be willing to help!
- Send out a reminder to parents a few days before the first book meet.
That’s it! You’re all set to host you first kids’ book club meeting. The CCBC wishes you the best of luck and a huge thank you for promoting literacy amongst youth. You rock!
Oh, and one last thing, don’t forget to include a few Canadian children’s book titles in your line-up!!