Kids Book Club: Getting Kids to Love Reading
Encourage a lifelong love of reading in your kids by starting a kids book club!
I love to read.
I’ve come a long way since my days of binging on Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club books when I was a teen in the 90s, but my love of reading hasn’t changed. I can’t get enough of snuggling up with anything by Sophie Kinsella and think J.K. Rowling’s books written under her pen name Robert Galbraith are the best thing on paper since Harry Potter.
Even though I love to read, I’ve had a harder time than I would like to admit convincing my kids to read. Not that it’s surprising. With iPads and streaming television shows, my kids have endless entertainment at their fingertips. Why pick up a book when they can watch something silly and mindless on Disney+?
Kids & Books: Fostering a Love of Reading
It was easier to get my kids to read when they were young. Mostly because I would read to them at bedtime, and I would control what we read and how long we read for. It was a nice way to bond with my girls in their younger years.
As they’ve gotten older, I’ve had to work on growing their love of reading a bit more. I’ve done this by setting “Reading Rules” in the house that have to be followed weekly.
Reading Rules for Kids
- You must read (at least) 20 minutes every day (we set a timer).
- You can read any book you want, as long as it is age-appropriate.
- You must recap at least one book per month to Mom or Dad.
Establishing these rules at home wasn’t easy. When my girls get home from school, they often want to grab a snack and turn on the TV to unwind from a long day at school. Usually, they just retreat to their rooms for a little bit with a book to “get their reading out of the way.” Sometimes they read 20 minutes a not a minute more. Sometimes their 20 minutes becomes 30 or 45 or even a full hour of reading. It’s all about balance!
Kids & Books: Start a Book Club
Starting a book club years ago with friends was a great way to get reading to become something natural and even social in our home. After all, I have joined several book clubs through the years, and the girls would watch me read and then head off to book club, book in hand. For me, it was nice to sit and talk with other people about books I loved (or didn’t love) and ask each other thoughtful questions. It also keeps me actively reading, even on nights when it would be easier to just turn on the TV and zone out. For the girls, they saw me choosing to read instead of watching TV or doing other activities, which reinforced that reading was fun and enjoyable.
Hosting or joining a book club with kids is an easy way to keep kids accountable to their reading goals. But, more than that, book club encourages open and thoughtful discussions with others. It can help kids gain a perspective on a book they didn’t previously have and encourage insightful observation. There are so many great benefits to book clubs for kids!
Here are some great ways to start a book club with kids at different ages and stages of reading!
Books and Activities for a Young Kids Book Club (ages 3-7)
Plan for Toddler Book Club by picking a relatively short, fun book to read aloud to young kids. If you’re struggling to find a great book, email your local librarian- he or she should be able to provide you with a fantastic list of enjoyable titles. Then, plan a fun, creative activity for kids to enjoy. This activity could include games or crafts, anything that ties into the theme of the book. Don’t forget to pack snacks. I always found that kids were better at focusing on the story they were being read when they had goldfish crackers in hand and a sippy cup nearby!
Here’s a great example of a monthly Toddler Book Club activity:
It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton
This story makes a great conversation for little ones through elementary school aged kiddos. Written by a strong female, this story highlights the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. Beautiful pictures illustrate what can happen when all types of people work together.
After you read:
Set out crayons and markers and let the children pick out which part of their village they want to be responsible for. Have one child draw a fire station, one a police station, one a post office, one a park and so on. When they’ve completed their artwork, have them line up all of their pictures together in one grouping and create their village. Lead a conversation about how much more quickly the project came together when the kids all worked together to create their town.
Book Club for Older Kids (ages 8-12)
Book Club for slightly older kids may not require an activity or craft the way it might for younger kids, but it is important to still help them lay the framework for a successful book club meeting. My girls love meeting friends for their book clubs at local coffee shops, and the other moms and I sit nearby to monitor the conversation, but we do let them speak more freely to one another.
If your child need guidance before the book club meeting, have them write out questions they have about the book. If they are having trouble coming up with questions, have them google the book after they’ve read it. This should help come up with some great questions for discussion. Encourage deep thinking as it pertains to the chosen book and author. Have your child ponder deeper questions, such as:
- If the main character in this story lived next door to you, would you want to be their friend?
- If this author wrote a sequel to this book (assuming there isn’t one), what would it be about?
- What did you dislike most about the plot of this story?
Here’s a great example to get your child started on a monthly book club with friends:
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
Young Coyote has a seen a lot of loss in her days. She and her dad now travel the country in Yager, an old yellow school bus that has become their home. They meet a lot of characters on their wayward journey- and learn a lot of important lessons about love and friendship and what it means to go home.
After you read:
Here are a few questions your kids can write down to discuss with their friends:
- Would you like to live on a bus like Coyote? Why or why not?
- Rodeo doesn’t want to discuss the past because he thinks it’s too painful. Do you think he’s right? How do you deal with painful experiences?
- In the book, Coyote doesn’t have a home to go back to. What does home mean to you? Do you have to have a physical place to call home? Or can home be something moveable like a bus?
Book Club for Teens (ages 13+)
Teenagers likely don’t need the same book club guidance that younger kids do, but it is important to encourage teens to keep reading, even when they are bogged down with homework in other subjects! Encourage them to meet up with friends monthly (over coffee or ice cream!) to talk about a book.
Here are a few books every teen should read:
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
- Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- The Book Thief by Mark Zusak
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Or anything off this NPR teen book list!