Do you ever get that bursting feeling when you have just finished a book and you just want to send copies to all your friends and discuss it with someone? Well, a book club is a great way of doing just that. They’re hugely popular among adults, but also a great forum for children to share that feeling, and a fun way for them to be sociable, mix a play date with a spot of learning, while also giving them an opportunity to read more widely, learn to reflect and instill in them that lifelong love of reading. Here is how to do it…

Step 1: Find your readers

Talk to other families from your child’s school or local area. You will need to think about the age group you are including – do not make it too broad a span. It is also important that the children all have a similar reading level and genuinely enjoy books. Around 12 children is a good starting number, as inevitably not everyone will make every session. A good way of making it work is to have a monthly meeting and for it to be hosted in a different child’s home on a rotating basis. Talk to the other parents and explain that they will need to buy the book and encourage the children to read it before each meeting. 

Step 2: Select your theme and book

A theme is a great way to bring together all the different aspects of the meeting. For the first session we suggest that you pick the theme and book in consultation with your child, but after that let them get creative! Get the children to suggest themes and then do your research on what books might work. Themes can be anything from outer space to animals, and adventure to pirates. Make sure you draw on the children’s interests to help make the reading fun and enjoyable.

Step 3: Decide where to meet

The most obvious spot for the first meeting would probably be your home. But try to keep the atmosphere informal. A circle of chairs can work well, as can beanbags and something a bit more relaxed. You will know what works best for your child and their friends. Also, don’t forget the snacks! Discussing books is hungry work, after all.

Step 4: Establish your Book Club Rules

At the first meeting we would recommend getting the children to discuss and agree the “book club rules” as a group. For example, these could include: not talking over people, raising your hand if you would like to speak, being respectful, and having fun! It’s a great idea to have these written on a large piece of paper or flipchart and then visible at every meeting.

Step 4: Have your discussion questions ready

Parents should also read the nominated book, both so they can share the fun but also so they can help out with the discussions. It’s a good idea to talk through the book with your child beforehand and come up with a few open-ended questions to help kick start the discussion (see above suggestions). These starter questions should get them chatting, but it is important not to force the conversation and to let the children take the lead. Get them to give it the thumbs up or down, or write a few words on a Post-it note to stick on the wall so they don’t feel shy about voicing their opinions.

Step 5: Build in an activity

Book club shouldn’t feel like more work – this is not school. A great way to avoid this is to build in an activity. Keep this in the theme and related to the book, but give them an opportunity to get a bit creative. This could be acting out a scene from the book or creating a comic strip of their favourite part, or whatever else you think they would enjoy most. A good balance is 20 minutes discussion, 20 minutes activity and then 20 minutes for the snack and deciding the next book.

Step 6: Introduce the next book

Have the next host (agree this in advance) to introduce the theme and what they’re reading for the following month and hand out the books. This is also a good opportunity to ask the children for ideas for future themes and for more recommendations of books they want to read!