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Start a Children's Book Club

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by Suze C (subscribe)
"I'm a writer living in the Perth Hills with my relentlessly fun seeking children.
Published February 5th 2017
The First Rule of Book Club
Everbody talks about it.
When the Premier's reading challenge stopped a few years ago, it left a bit of a gap in our lives. I decided to set up a children's book club, as a way of filling the void and fostering a love of reading. I like to get my kids motivated to read books of all sorts, just for the sheer enjoyment of it, but it's always more of an incentive to read if you're doing it as part of a group rather than alone. I decided to start a club to do just that. I'm here to encourage you to do the same for your kids.

Reading never gets old
Reading never gets old (pic: Micheal Beltrametti Photography)

Find your tribe
Starting a children's book club is easy, all you need are a few like minded families who share a love of reading. It's a wonderful scaffold for younger kids making the leap from picture to chapter books and older kids looking to expand their horizons, whilst at the same time tempting them away from Minecraft for an hour or two. A book club is a great platform for exchanging ideas about what you've read, getting together for social events and building skills for kids to take into all areas of their lives.

Getting lost in a book
Getting lost in a book

Book lists
Choosing a list of books for a book club gives you so much more scope to include books that you might not find in school. Classic books that have fallen out of favour, graphic novels, books from all corners of the globe, childhood favourites, poetry and sci-fi, all have a special place here. One book can spark a child's interest into further reading. My reluctant reader, after devouring Roald Dahl's, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, went on to read everything else he could get his hands on by that author. The other, decided that Anne of Green Gables was more her thing and steadily worked her way through the whole box set.

Books, books, everywhere
Books, books, everywhere

Getting a good fit
If you're choosing your books by reading age, don't just go by what the cover recommends. You can look at the general language, vocabulary and chapter length to get an idea of how tricky the book will be. Not all books are created equal in what they think a 9 year old can read. Allow a 6-8 week period for members of your book club to finish each book, so everyone gets the time needed to complete it. Some will finish earlier, but it's not a speed race, it's more about getting involved in building a reading habit.

We have had younger or reluctant readers that can't tackle the full book to read alone, but will happily listen to the audio version. Even having it read aloud to them, still allows kids to get involved and just develop a love for books. Even more important is the opportunity for older kids to read aloud to a younger sibling, a really important skill that is often overlooked.

Never too young to share a book
Never too young to share a book

Books with friends
When you have a few families involved you can each take turns in hosting the book club social night. It doesn't have to be fancy. I tend to look for books to add to the list that have a film version, so on social nights the kids can watch the DVD together and chat over pizza afterwards. This usually results in a big debate on the differences between the two.

Read the book, watch the movie
Read the book, watch the movie

Sometimes we run a quiz or a competition for the best review or artwork and take suggestions for future books to go on the list. If there's no movie available, you can link it in with a craft activity or team challenge related to the themes of the book, or even arrange a night out to a local theatre adaptation. It's a great opportunity as well for parents to get together for a chat whist the film is running and discuss what they're reading.

Moomins come to life at Spare Parts puppet theatre
Moomins come to life at Spare Parts puppet theatre

Book buddies
Whilst there's a lot of opportunity in sporting clubs for kids to get together, a book club can be a great place to exercise your brain and provide a safe haven for kids who prefer quieter, more solitary pursuits. Introverts and dreamers are welcome here, in an environment where just finishing the book is its own achievement. It can be a relatively inexpensive way to form new friendships out of the glare of the playground. Books are relatively easy to get hold of as well. You can see how many copies of a book are available on the State Library website and books can be ordered into your local branch.

The beauty of books
The beauty of books

Invest in your Library
Often it's possible to pick up secondhand classics at op shops, book fairs and garage sales. Eventually you can spot the kids who will consume the book in three days and then you can loan it out to someone else. You might have even ended up accumulating your own little library that you can sell on, if your children will allow you to of course.

Book clubs don't just belong in school, they belong in families. It's an extension of real life that translates into adulthood, having a skill of being able to entertain yourself in that doctor's surgery, that long train journey, or that rainy afternoon without turning your phone on. One day when you're in your broken down car, with your kids, waiting for the RAC, in a place with zero Wifi, you will thank me.
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