Starting an Elementary Book Club
Discover the benefits of starting a book club in this two-part article.
By Eliana Osborn
Unless you are a strong reader, school gets harder and harder every year. Often, this leads to students slipping behind, becoming frustrated and disillusioned before they even hit puberty. Book clubs can be a great tool to target different groups of kids, from the above-grade-level reader who needs some enrichment to stay engaged, to the struggling reader who needs a chance to see that reading books can be fun.
Preparation for Beginning Your Book Club
The key to running a successful book club is organization. Chaos and empty minutes are fun-killers; defeating the purpose of this extra activity. By putting in the work ahead of time to plan and plan some more, you’ll be able to run a book club that will have learners begging to be invited.
- First, figure out your guidelines. Who is your target audience? As for number of members, ten kids is really the ideal. More than fifteen and you get too broad a range of interest and skill levels. Then figure out your goals for this club. Is it enrichment, or supplemental practice? If you are running the club outside of regular class time — which makes the most sense — you can actually do two clubs, each meeting once or twice a month.
- Second, send out invitations. Make the book club seem special and a privilege. Explain what you will actually do during club meetings. For example, my flyer said, “We’ll meet in the library, talk about the book we read, do projects, have fun, and get smarter.” Nothing too specific, but at least kids have some idea what they are choosing to join.
Start Off Strong
At your first club meeting, have your group choose a name. For whatever reason, a name makes things real. Do some brainstorming about what makes a good book — opinions will vary concerning mystery or nonfiction, but some elements will be similar among the responses. Talk about favorite books — your own and those of your group members. Excitement about reading is contagious. If possible, display copies of the books you planning to discuss so that they can be borrowed immediately.
Make sure the book you choose for the first time around is the right level for your learners. Too hard and they’ll quit in frustration, too easy and reading is a waste of time. If your group is made up of kids from your own class, this is easy. If it is a broader crowd, you may want to do some reconnaissance work to discover reading levels before you meet.
Take some time to teach about the author. Many children’s books and middle-grade novels have excellent online resources available about the authors. Knowing what inspired the story, the background of the creator, or even hearing the writer talk about her work is fascinating stuff.
Hand out copies of the book and do a little previewing—read the back cover, make predictions. Then send students on their way. You don’t want to talk too much about the book until after it has been read.
In part two of this article, you’ll find out how to make every book club meeting fabulous, as well as tips for keeping kids reading and attending.
Resources from Lesson Planet to Enhance Your Book Club:
Analyzing why a text is worth reading, pupils create a list of must-reads for others. Take reading from a solitary activity to a community activity that is keeping everyone engaged.
Use technology to connect to readers around the globe! Book clubs don’t have to be face-to-face affairs, and learnes can discover for themselves if hi-tech versions of a book club can be successful.
Review elements of story so that learners can talk about texts together using correct vocabulary. Recording the basics on the worksheet means discussion can move to higher-order thinking.