Getting some children to read can be one headache of a homework chore — for the parents, as well as the kids! But “assign” them to hang out with their friends and they’re all A’s, right?
Well, if you’ve got a reluctant reader on your hands, why not combine the two — with a reading club you and your kids plan together? They get to hang out with their friends (either at a distance in-person or virtually), and you get to see them reading.
It’s win-win. Here’s how!
Set your goals
Do you want your kids to read a certain number of books, perhaps off their school reading list for the year? Do you simply want to encourage them to spend time with a good book? Think about your goals when planning.
Whatever your aim, have a reward for it at the end. Make a chart where everyone can keep track of the books they read, for instance. Help them set realistic goals. Decide if everyone is going to read the same book, or if they can choose whatever book interests them. Everyone’s goals may be different if you have a variety of reading levels and ages in your reading club.
This can be fun, especially for reading clubs with younger members. Consider mysteries, animals or cooking. Make goal charts and reading logs with themed graphics. This is nice when planning activities for the group, since you’ll already have a theme to work with.
You can base your club around a series of books, too, such as a modern pick like Ivy and Bean or a classic book collection like The Boxcar Children.
Name and time
Next, the really sweet part: Naming the crew! Let the kids brainstorm ideas and help pick their moniker. While you’re at it, decide how often you’re going to meet. Every week? Monthly? There are advantages to both.
Meeting weekly keeps the interest flowing but requires more planning — and can be tricky during the school year proper. If your group lives within close proximity, or if you opt for the summer break, though, this may work. In any event, you might want to set a time frame, such as a six-week period. Monthly, though a bit farther spaced, could be a better fit for the crazy academic calendar — or split the difference with a bi-annual approach.
Be sure to consider factors like proximity, too, and who’s available to run carpool duties.
Pick those books
It’s super helpful to have a prepared reading list that the kids can choose from (hint: These can be books within your theme). If you have several ages participating in the club, perhaps divide the list into reading levels.
Your local librarian can be a great asset when preparing reading lists. If you’re working with younger kids, have a few books that can be read aloud at the meetings.
You might want to choose the library — especially for your inaugural meeting. Many have meeting rooms for public use. Alternately, families can take turns hosting the meeting. Make sure that wherever you decide to meet is bright, cheery and comfortable.
Place beanbag chairs and large comfy couch cushions on the floor for kids to sit and lounge on. If you add snacks, keep them simple (and away from the books!). Of course, make sure that food is allowed if you are planning on using a meeting room.
During the coronavirus pandemic, it is key that parents remember social distancing protocols. As the weather gets warmer, you can hold your book club outdoors and six feet apart from other members. Or, try a virtual book club through video chat platforms such as Zoom or Houseparty.
Extras to mix it up
While reading is goal No. 1, other activities and events can help get kids thinking about what they’ve read – and make the experience even more enriching.
For instance, have kids make a craft related to a book or series they’re reading, such as making cornhusks dolls for Little House on the Prairie. Or create a snack or food related to a tome: Let them decorate some treats to accompany If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, or mix up a little Kool-Aid for Twilight fans (red, naturally.)
Guests speakers can be fun, too — and are easier to find than you’d think. If your theme is mysteries, call the local police station and ask a detective in to chat. Have a local historian (ask your librarian where to find one) speak on unsolved mysteries in your area. The local police department will often come and do fingerprinting and ID kits for kids, too, if you just ask. Cool!
This article was originally reported in February 2012 and is updated regularly.