Who said book clubs just had to be for adults? Kids can get in on the fun, too! A summer reading book club for middle grade kids is the perfect way to get your children excited about reading while letting them stay in touch with all their friends.
The key to planning the perfect kid-friendly reading club is to remember your audience. If you try to set up something like your adult book group, kids will lose interest fast. Here are a few easy ways to make it fun and keep everyone coming back!
Host a Summer Reading Book Club for Kids
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The Pre-Planning Phase
Keep it to a small group based on tastes & reading levels
Just because your kid is Mr. Popularity doesn’t mean you have to invite his entire social circle. Keep the club to a few kids who have similar book tastes. For example, my son loves books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants. He’s not really into fantasy or science fiction yet (although I’m trying so hard to get him to read Harry Potter since he’s obsessed with the movies).
It makes more sense to invite four or five kids who also love those types of books than to invite ten kids and try to find a theme they all enjoy.
Decide on timing
Sit down with all the parents and work out a time schedule for the whole summer. That way, you know ahead of time who is going on vacation when, who has a birthday party on a certain date, and so on. Sure, you’ll end up with a few last-minute cancellations at some point, but it’s easier to nail down the times in the beginning than to try to get everyone on the same calendar page later on.
While you’re doing this, make sure you’re giving the kids enough time to read the book! That will depend on their age, reading level and other time commitments. Middle graders should be able to read a book a month without an issue. Unless, of course, you assign them War and Peace! Please don’t do that to them!
Choosing the right book
Pick a fun book that screams “summer reading” rather than trying to force an educational or classic novel on the kids (unless, of course, your group loves the classics). Yes, we all want out children to read timeless literary works, but chances are strong they’ll read them in school at some point.
Let them have a say in picking the book. They can either vote on a book each time or take turns picking it. If they’re taking turns, make sure you schedule enough meetings so each kid gets a turn.
Here are a few lists to help inspire them and get them started:
- 37 Fabulous Summer Reading Books for Middle Graders
- Around the World in 80 Children’s Books
- 10 Book Series Every Middle Grader Should Read at Least Once
You can either plan all the books for the whole summer up front or let kids pick them out as you go along. Honestly, I think getting them all together and choosing ahead of time is a lot easier. If they do change their collective minds and unanimously decide to ditch a book or swap it with another, fine, but planning ahead of time gives parents a chance to buy the books in one order (or a trip to the store) and reserve books at the library if need be.
Book Club Day Planning
Now that you’ve got the basic logistics down, it’s time to plan for the actual club days themselves. Whether you are hosting a club day every week, every month or just once during the whole summer, planning ahead means the difference between calm and chaos.
While you don’t want to completely control the conversation, it’s a good idea to read the book yourself and come up with a few discussion questions to get kids started. They can also come up with their own questions as they read the book and jot them down in a special “book club only” notebook. Keep your list of questions light and fun. If the kids want to discuss deep themes, like the motivation behind Dav Pikey’s decision to put his hero in underpants, they’ll get there on their own.
Plan book-themed activities
Remember, kids have shorter attention spans that adults. They most likely aren’t going to want to sit around discussing the story for two hours straight! To be completely honest, even I don’t have that sort of attention span, and I love to talk books.
Plan on about half an hour of book talk, then move on to fun activities based on the story. This can include quiet time things like book-inspired crafts or even more active things like playing games.
For example, if your group just finished Treasure Island you could host a treasure hunt in your backyard. Check out these 3 ideas for amazing & educational literary adventures in your own backyard or these fun Alice in Wonderland party ideas! I also found this adorable bookmark craft on Instagram. It’s easy and fun!
Feed your voracious readers
Don’t forget the snacks! A book club isn’t a party, so you don’t have to go crazy with fancy cupcakes and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Time your meeting so the kids have already eaten a decent meal and aren’t quite ready for the next. Think snack time party versus dinner party.
If you’re feeling extra clever, you can find some cute book-themed snack ideas that aren’t terribly hard to pull off, like these Beauty and the Beast inspired treats. Some books don’t really scream “snack theme,” though. Kristy has an amazing Instagram page filled with incredibly easy & healthy snack ideas for all ages to inspire you.
On the go in a hurry today and the fridge is running low. A snacky lunch is just what we needed today. Our cute star cheese slices (thanks to a quick cookie cutter) on crackers feel almost patriotic! We mixed walnuts (mom they look like brains cool!) and cantaloupe today. Mostly because there wasn't any where else to put the walnuts! Great flavor combos are sometimes surprises 😂. What's a flavor combo you've had that you would have never expected to like, but totally works! #snackattack
Wrap it up and get ready for the next club day
The kids have talked each other’s ears off about the book, zipped through every activity you planned and polished off all the food. Now what? If you still have a lot of club time left, just let them go. Give them time to unwind and socialize! You can also get them involved in cleanup so you’re not stuck doing it all yourself. Before everyone leaves, take a moment to confirm the next date with parents. Even though you already did this, it’s a good idea to make sure plans haven’t changed.
That’s pretty much all there is to it! I think the most important tip is to remember that this is a low-key event. Don’t go into full-on party planning mode or you’ll end up spending a fortune and stressing yourself out. Even if you end up with four kids sitting around talking about a book for five minutes and then running around the yard for the next 55, you’ve done the important part: encouraged them to read!
Have you ever hosted a book club for kids? What other tips would you include?
This post was originally published on my other site, Pretty Opinionated.