It's not just for Oprah: Book clubs for kids
Nurture a love of reading with a club for budding bookworms.
Kid-approved picks for grades 1 to 6
Regina Neu, a parent and avid reader in California, recommends The Runaway Racehorse, A Week in the Woods, and Dragon Rider, which her mother-child book club enjoyed.
By GreatSchools Staff
Whatever type of reader your child is, starting a book club can help foster a love of reading and provide a fun way to get families in your neighborhood together.
A book club is a great activity any time of year, but it works particularly well in the summer when schedules are more relaxed. Reinforcing reading skills during the summer also prevents learning loss. According to research from the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, students who participate in summer reading programs after kindergarten, first and second grade are less likely to be held back in future years, and middle school students who read four or five books during the summer experienced gains in fall reading achievement comparable to attending summer school. Forming a book club will help keep boredom at bay, build on academic skills and nurture a love of reading.
Book clubs teach valuable skills
What's the right age for a book club? "Any age is the right age to start. Just choose the participation level that's appropriate for the age level," says Kris Cannon, a former elementary school teacher and currently the librarian at Mills High School in California, where she has started several lunch-time book clubs for high school students. "At any age, being in a book club teaches kids valuable skills-reading for understanding, relating reading to personal experience, how to participate in a discussion by taking turns and respecting the opinion of others." In addition, she notes, kids get to build friendships with other book lovers and read books they might not have chosen to read on their own because everyone in the group has to agree on what book to read.
Learning to read for enjoyment. Jennifer Thompson, a reading specialist for the Manassas City Public Schools in Virginia, adds, "Book clubs are so appealing because children can truly get lost in a book without standardized tests looming, no comprehension questions to answer, just the pure satisfaction, of reading for enjoyment. Book groups offer a venue to bring the lone act of reading, into a social circle."
Building parent-child bonds. Thompson sees the parent-child book club as an avenue for conversation and communication. "In my own mother-daughter group" she says, "I have found that when the mothers take the time to read, listen and respond to their daughters as readers, they send a powerful message that the girls' thoughts and experiences are important. The group becomes a safe haven for us to share experiences without judgment or ridicule. Participation also helps to build trust and a communication link between mothers and daughters, at a time when we often drift apart."
Reading as a social activity. Jan LaBonty, a professor in the School of Education at the University of Montana, adds, "Book clubs for children serve the same purposes that book clubs for adults do — they become a vehicle for excellent conversations about books. Reading is a social activity and we love talking about what we read. Book clubs are 'grown-up' and encourage students to form opinions about what they read, and express and support these opinions with peers. They light that fire to read more, to find out more." LaBonty offers the following helpful tips to make your book club successful:
- Have the kids bring some food connected to the book. This is just plain fun but also helps make the abstract process of reading more concrete.
- Have some kind of homework - fun, hands on, research, art work — anything that will get them talking right away.
- Address the qualities of literary merit, and have kids really judge the book — way beyond "I liked it" or "I didn't like it."
- Ask questions that require the kids to open their books and turn to specific pages.
- Be prepared with a list of other works by the same author or other books in the same genre.
LaBonty also notes that she has seen successful book clubs for kids led by college students — a good idea to keep in mind if you are reluctant to be a leader or organizer, or just want to give a college student a great opportunity to work with younger kids.