Why Is A Book Club A Good Idea?
The primary aim of a book club should be to encourage children’s enjoyment of reading as well as exposing them to a range of text types and genres. The idea is to broaden their reading by getting them to share texts, engage in talk about books and appreciate the views of their peers. It’s important for them to realise that they might not have the same taste in books as their friends and they don’t have to like everything!
Developing Valuable Skills
Storytime isn’t simply a nice relaxing activity. It ties in directly with the National Curriculum requirements for reading and helps children acquire a valuable set of skills, such as listening, being creative, extending their vocabulary, learning about the history and cultural heritage of their own and other countries, and developing and expressing preferences enabling them to make informed choices. A book club can provide benefits in other subjects such as history and geography. Even in scientific subjects, the ability to get to the heart of a text is of undoubted benefit. Regardless of all the added benefits of book clubs, they should primarily be about reading enjoyment and having fun.
Who Is A Book Club For?
The key to success is to target your audience and know what you want to achieve. Who is the club for? A specific age group, enthusiastic or reluctant readers, parent/child groups, parent/teacher groups, boys or girls only? Is it part of an intervention strategy to improve academic performance?
Get Pupils Involved
No matter who you are inviting to join the club, involving pupils in the planning and running of the sessions will make them feel like they own the group. It’s a chance for them to suggest titles and for it to feel different from being in the classroom and reading a prescribed text. Find out if your target group has any common interests and then identify reading materials, games and puzzles to stimulate these interests.
How To Run The Book Club
When Will The Club Run?
Will it be part of the school day or an after-school club?
How Often Will The Club Run?
You will need to give everyone enough time to read the book, so once a fortnight or once a month may be frequent enough. Keep the meetings regular and schedule dates in your diary. The group may lose interest if there are too many cancellations.
Where Are You Going To Hold The Club?
Holding meetings in a relaxed environment away from a classroom setting is important. If you have a library this might be the obvious place. Or for a summer meeting what about a pop-up tent? The lure of food and refreshments is also an important element of any book club! A Books and Biscuits Club runs very successfully in one of our schools.
What Will You Read?
Give them choice, let them make the decision for themselves. If you try to force a book on a pupil, boy or girl, they’re going to sit and stare at the pages and pretend to read. Here are a few approaches that I’ve found successful in helping them choose different books to read:
- Speed-dating: Each pupil brings a book to recommend. They have 2-3 minutes to sell their book to their ‘date’ before moving on to the next person and so on.
- Random reads: Everyone chooses a book which are then piled into the middle of a table. Each book club member grabs one and then has to read it (or at least give it a go).
- Guess the blurb: Separate the blurbs, covers and opening paragraphs of books (by copying them, not pulling them out!) and see if the pupils can match them back together again (harder than it sounds as long as you blank out key words that would give it away).
- Musical books: Based on the favourite childhood game of musical chairs. Place a different book on each chair. When the music stops you have to read the blurb and when it starts again you move on. At the end you all vote for your favourite book to read.
- E-book or audio: In these difficult times of self-isolation you might like to read not only printed but also electronic versions of books.
- Book trailers: Book trailers produced by publishers are a great way to introduce new titles.
- Concentrate on specific types of books: A Harry Potter Fan Club, Manga Mania Mondays or SciFi Club, for example.
Creative Ideas For Your Club
- Virtual book club: With the increase in meeting apps and tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, holding virtual book clubs is another option. This also helps keep them relevant and appealing for pupils.
- Themed sessions: Dress up or bake cakes based on characters from your books, maybe even have a prize for the best one?
- Charades: Split pupils into teams and give them a book character or title to act out.
- Plays: Write a script based on the first chapter of each book and act this out.
- Craft activities: Do a craft activity based on one of the themes in your chosen book. For example, make papier mache dinosaur eggs or finger puppet characters.
Virtual book club.
Try Something Different
- Book trailers: Make a book trailer using iMovie, WeVideo (Android) or Animoto (free and easy to use). See the winner and runner-up trailers from the Juniper Book Awards for some inspiration.
- Watch a film: Compare the book version. ‘How to Train your Dragon’ by Cressida Cowell would be a good choice.
- Sporting challenge: If your group has chosen a book with a sporty theme use it to inspire a challenge. ‘Kick’ by Mitch Johnson is perfect for this and might encourage a few reluctant readers to take part in your book club too.
- Read the books aloud: This can cut costs and also has lots of benefits such as modelling best practice for storytelling. Use character voices for added appeal.
Whatever you do you’ll find that running a book club can be an eventful, surprising and deeply fulfilling experience.