How to Start a Summer Book Club for Kids

Help your kids learn to love reading by starting a book club with them.

Motivating kids to read outside of school can be difficult. Your child might be too old to be incentivized to read but too young to want to pick up a book over an electronic device in their spare time. That’s where book clubs come in. They offer the perfect blend of socializing with friends while encouraging a love of reading.

“A book club can expose children to new ways of thinking creatively and using their imaginations to engage with material in hands-on and stress-free ways,” says Emily Thompson, youth services librarian with the Detroit Public Library.

If your little one is thinking about starting a book club or you want to creatively find a way to inspire them to love books, here are some steps to take:

Book Club Planning Guide

1. Decide who to invite

Whether its friends from school, camp or a few of the neighbors, grab a gang that’s roughly the same age and reading level as your child. Book clubs work best with eight or less participants.

2. Schedule your book club

It is important to decide how frequently and when to meet. Because kids are generally busy with day camps, bi-weekly might be a good summer option. Don’t stress out if you can’t accommodate everyone’s schedule. Try to find a day or the week and time that works for most participants (e.g. Tuesdays at 5 p.m.). To hold the attention of children, we suggest breaking the book club up into two parts consisting of a book discussion (30 minutes) and hands-on activity (30 minutes).

3. Find a location

Most libraries are happy to host a book club with advance notice. Other options include a park, alternating participant’s homes or even hosting the meeting virtually.

4. Choose a theme

While not necessary, having a theme makes for cohesive and fun discussion. Some theme ideas include friendship, STEM, and history.

5. Select a book

Round up a few book ideas and pick out of a hat to see what order the books get read.

6. Find an extension activity

Another way to continue the learning is to do a hands-on extension activity after discussing the book. Pinterest has a wealth of craft activities for children’s and middle grade books.

Optional ideas

7. Continue the book-related fun

Is there a movie adaptation of the book? Did you read a science book where concepts can be found at a local science museum? Consider a special outing that relates to the book.

8. Zoom with the author

Many authors love doing virtual visits with young fans. After choosing a book, check whether the author has a website or social media, and get in touch with them. Alysson Bourque, award-winning author of The Alycat Series says she is always happy to engage with young readers over the summer. “Kids always have the best questions,” says Bourque. “They make authors think, and sometimes, they expose us to new ways of thinking about our own stories.”

Thompson says that regardless of how they organize a summer book club, kids will certainly benefit from it come the start of the next school year.

“On average, a child loses 20% of their reading gains during the summer, or about two to three months of proficiency,” Thompson says. “All summer reading programs assist in a gain of about one month of proficiency.”

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