A friend of mine was recently asking about a kids’ book club. I ran a book club, adult actually, for seven years,but as a writer, a speaker at schools, and a mother I thought I’d put together a how to on holding a book club for kids. Many of these same suggestions apply to adult book clubs.
Decide whether this book club is for kids only or do you want a parent involved in the discussion too? That could depend on the ages of the children, but keep in mind this isn’t a babysitting service. Don’t do the drop and run.
Which leads to, where do you want to hold these meetings? You could have them out at a Barnes & Noble or local coffee shop. I’d stay away from the library because the kids will have to keep quiet and if the discussion gets animated why stifle that? Plus, they can have a snack if you’re in a coffee shop or diner. Or you could host the meetings in your home. There are pros and cons with hosting in your house, like you might want to clean up before they come, and you might have a mom or two who definitely think it’s a chance to run to Kohl’s for a minute. I would have snacks if you’re hosting and make sure the host rotates so no one mom is always using her house.
Having said that, make sure you put some parameters in place right up front. In my book club, we agreed to some small guidelines, just to keep everyone honest. Like, you must participate in the discussion. You’d think this was obvious. Because we met in Barnes & Noble it was tempting for some to read magazines instead of talking to us. Which I didn’t understand since they bothered to read the book, but I digress. If someone doesn’t agree with your guidelines, then this book club isn’t for them. That’s okay. They can start their own.
My beta readers for my books are middle school kids and we have a discussion about the book just like a book club. It helps me know what’s working and what doesn’t. I keep that discussion to roughly thirty minutes. I suggest you do the same. Build in some socializing time because the reality is book clubs talk very little about the book and a whole lot about everything else. Make sure to use open ended questions.
To keep your discussion from going totally off the rails, have discussion questions ready for each meeting. You can assign that task to whoever is hosting or whoever picks the book or the leader of the book club. Everyone should get a chance to pick a book. In my book club it was required that everyone pick at least one book for the year. The person who picked the book was responsible for the discussion questions. It worked out well. We also liked to pick books in advance so if someone finished a book and wanted to read ahead they could. Picking in advance also allowed for sharing of the books.
Another suggestion for the kids is have them make connections while reading and bring those to share with the group. Have them mark a favorite scene or a passage they might need further explanation of. They could highlight a favorite quote or a spot where they laughed out loud or have them tell you when they first decided they liked the main character. All of these suggestions will add to your discussion. Just remember everyone is entitled to their opinion so no judgement please.
Regardless of what path you choose, it’s your book club and you can decide to run it however you want. Nothing is set in stone. The idea is to share our love of reading. Go forth, my faithful reader and start that book club. Then come back and let us know how it’s going.