How to Start a Book Club for Kids
This week, I’m going to be leading the entire 4th grade through a game of Quidditch at recess. Parents donated their brooms, the gym teacher donated the hoops and substitute-Quaffle, and the principal has crossed her fingers that no one gets a concussion. Play ball!
The Quidditch game is part of the book club I’ve been running during lunch time for the last 4 years at the school, though we decided to include the entire 4th grade for this game because why shouldn’t everyone spend an afternoon running around with a broom?
We are, obviously, reading Harry Potter this year.
After I wrote that post, someone wrote me to ask how to set up a book club in their child’s school, so I thought I’d put everything down here just in case anyone else wants the information.
You can probably figure out the first steps: check with the principal if he/she is willing to give you a space in the school during lunch, check to see how many kids are interested, and finally send out an email (or send home a flyer) to all the parents in the class to ask them to sign up. We capped the club at 12 when they were younger, but now, in 4th grader, we’re at 16 kids. We meet once a week, during lunch. When it’s indoor recess, we sometimes keep the meeting going through recess, too. I set up a listserv for parents so I could send out information.
Okay, so now that the book club is established, how do you actually run it?
We are always reading two books at the same time. One person is chosen each month to be the host. They choose which book we’re going to read at home, and I ask them to choose a book that can be borrowed from the library and that keeps in mind the lowest reading level for their grade so it is inclusive to everyone. The kids have about a month to read the book.
On the day of the discussion, the host sits in the front of the room and kicks off the talk by asking everyone what they thought of the book. Everyone must participate in this part of the discussion, giving the book a thumbs up or a thumbs down (or a thumbs sideways) and why. This ensures that everyone speaks at least once during the meeting.
Then the host tells the group why he/she chose the book. And finally they ask four or five questions to the group. I make a few backup questions for the host to use just in case. I coach the kids through hosting so it’s a fairly low-stress situation, even for shy kids.
At the end of a hosted meeting, the next host is chosen and the next book is picked, and the kids have another month to read the next book at home.
So what do we do with the other three or four meetings each month, since we meet weekly?
I choose a theme for the year — one skill that we’re going to focus on — and then pick books to read aloud that teach that skill. The theme for the first year of book club was pretty simple: who is the main character and what do you think of them? So each book, we kept returning to figure out who was the main character and we looked at the text to decide how we felt about the character. Younger kids = easier task.
Last year’s theme was “how do you know?” We spent the whole year pulling out textual evidence to support arguments. We also talked about the concept of “girl” books and “boy” books, and I refused to tell them the sex of the author for the books we read. Over half guessed wrong when I did the reveal at the end of the book, and I got them to admit that while there were books that would appeal (or not appeal) to them as individuals, there was no such thing as a “girl” book or a “boy” book.
This year we’re doing a close reading of Harry Potter in order to look at the use of sensory devices within literature. They’ve had chocolate frogs jump on their tongues, taken a Bertie Botts Every Flavour Bean challenge, made wands, learned how to duel, experienced a sorting, competed for house points, and now they will be playing Quidditch. We always pause to look at sensory descriptions, especially trying to discern things like tone of voice through word choice or using smell to figure out whether the characters are in a welcoming or dangerous place.
I read the book aloud to them, pausing to ask questions or to break down the etymology of a word on the board. That’s what we do for all the meetings that we don’t have a host discussion.
Oh, except for the ones where we run around playing Quidditch.
Let me know if you have questions, and I’ll throw the answer in the comment section below so everyone has it.
Just a reminder, get writing. Tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday.