How to Start a Kids’ Book Club from Your Home

child reading a book at her kids book club

In the age of COVID-19, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep children engaged. A kids’ book club can help to quell the quarantine boredom and give your children a much-needed break from the video games and binge-watching. Best of all, starting a book club for your children is incredibly easy.

What Is a Kids’ Book Club?

A kids’ book club is a structured way to get children in the habit of not only reading but also thinking critically about the material. It’s educational, but it’s also a social experience.

  • Much like a traditional book club, a kids’ book club encourages children to read specific materials from start to finish and discuss them critically.
  • The material can be discussed and assessed with parents or with other children who are reading concurrently—siblings, cousins, or friends.
  • Large reading groups are not required. As long as the parents actively engage with their young readers on a regular basis, even a single child can have their own book club.
  • Not every child has to read the same book. If you start a book club with your 7-year-old and your 11-year-old, they’re going to be at very different reading levels. But you can still bring them together for one family discussion and have them talk about their respective readings.

If you just force your child to read, they may grow to hate it. Establishing a book club creates a sense of purpose and makes reading fun.

How to Choose Books for a Children’s Book Club

There are three basic rules for choosing your children’s book club selections:

  1. The books should be age-appropriate
  2. The books should be engaging to your young readers
  3. The book selections should have some diversity (11 straight months of Harry Potter might be exciting, but it won’t broaden their horizons much; try to mix it up just a bit)

Many parents make the mistake of saying, “I’m going to make my child read this book because I enjoyed it when I was young…” There’s nothing wrong with introducing books that you think are good picks, but make sure to always consider the child’s interests when curating your reading lists.

One of the easiest ways to get your kids’ book club off the ground is to sign up for a book subscription service. We love The Willoughby Book Club because it’s like having a personal book-club organiser for your child. Just select your child’s age group, answer a few questions about his or her interests, and The Willoughby Book Club will send them a beautifully gift-wrapped book every month. Each book is specially curated for your child, and plans start at just £34.99 per month. As an added bonus, Willoughby donates a book to charity for every subscription sold.

Golden Rules for Starting Your Kids’ Book Club

A children’s book club can help foster a love of reading and encourage kids to think critically about the stories they read, but it needs to have structure in order to work.

  1. Set aside a consistent time for reading each day, such as after dinner or before bed. If children naturally learn to associate a specific timeframe with reading, it will feel like less of a chore.
  2. Designate a quiet space with no distractions. Televisions should be off, and all electronic devices should be put away—preferably out of reach. This will help the child to learn how to be fully present with what they’re reading.
  3. Stick to 20-minute reading sessions for small children, and up to 30 minutes for older children and teens. Many experts recommend no more than 20 minutes for the youngest readers, as forcing kids to read for too long may cause them to get burned out and lose interest.
  4. Engage in daily discussions about the reading. Ask your children to describe what happened in the daily reading, and ask critical-thinking questions like why a character acted in a certain way or what lessons were learned.
  5. If you have multiple children in the same age group, consider having them read the same books at the same time. This will open the door for more enriching discussions from multiple perspectives.

What to Do if Your Child Doesn’t Like to Read

The best way to get children excited about reading is to institute a reward system. It’s one of the features that distinguishes a kids’ book club from simply forcing your kids to read. There’s a tangible mission and goal involved.

All children benefit from positive incentives, but this approach can be especially effective for kids who are less enthusiastic about reading. Public libraries have used reward systems as part of their children’s reading programs for decades because rewards are a proven way to motivate young readers.

  1. Decide on the reward. Maybe it’s a visit to the child’s favourite restaurant, a new video game, or a gift card. Consider what your child is passionate about.
  2. Define what it will take for the child to achieve the reward. For example, 10 hours of reading could equal one reward. This would take a little over a month if the child is reading 15 to 20 minutes per day. Bigger rewards should take longer to achieve than smaller rewards.
  3. Maintain a visual progress report to keep the child motivated. It could be something as simple as a chart on the refrigerator that you update after each reading.
  4. Encourage your child often, and remind them of the incredible progress they’re making. This will help them to keep their eyes on the prize.

The goal isn’t just to motivate your children to read in the short term. It’s to create long-term positive associations with reading. When the very thought of reading triggers the reward mechanisms in their brain, they’ll forever maintain a love of the written word.

In addition to offering incentives, here are some other ways to encourage your children’s love of reading:

  • Set an example. Read openly on a regular basis, and show your children that it’s something to be enjoyed.
  • Help them if they’re struggling with the narrative. Sometimes, a child will resist reading simply because they find it difficult. It might also be a good idea to choose easier books.
  • Select books that align with your child’s interests and passions, even if the stories seem frivolous.

How to Get the Most From Your Book Club

If you want to keep your young readers engaged and encouraged, don’t neglect the social aspect of your kids’ book club. We all get busy with life, but even if you only have discussion time once or twice a week, it will make all the difference.

Make it fun, and remember to keep it positive. You should never scold your child for a unique interpretation or a forgotten detail. Instead, validate their input and offer your own feedback to help them broaden their understanding.

Here are a few questions that can be beneficial when you’re discussing a story with your children:

  • What has happened so far?
  • Who are the important characters?
  • What does the setting look like do you?
  • What would you have done differently in the character’s situation?
  • What have you learned from the character’s choices?
  • Who is your favourite character? Why?
  • Which character do you think is most like you? Why?
  • What’s your favourite part of the book? Why?
  • What do you think the book is trying to teach us?
  • If you wrote the book, what would you have done differently?
  • Are you happy with how the book ended? Why or why not?

In addition to making time to engage with your child in their readings, the other important thing to remember is: consistency, consistency, consistency. Your child might not love the process at first, but as long as you keep it highly structured and make it a positive experience, they will come around. You might even have a future Jane Austen or Charles Dickens on your hands.

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