I've been a proud member of a wonderful bookclub for the last five years or so (did you see the Hunger Games night that I hosted...memorable and delightful), and my daughter, M at age 7 has always been intrigued by the idea of reading and eating together with friends. To keep her excited about reading, I suggested that we could gather a group of her friends and explore some chapter books together over the summer. I had to throw in a craft and some delightful treats to seal the deal, but I didn't really need my arm twisted.
Soooo, I had this crazy idea that borrowing a chocolate fountain, melting 4 pounds of milk chocolate yumminess in it, and inviting over a handful of 7-year olds would be fun.
I was right. And I was exhausted post event.
Starting a bookclub with your child allows you the opportunity to connect and to educate, and it sets a great tone for future learning. Your child sees that you embrace reading, that reading can be and is fun, and that reading shared with friends enhances relationships and knowledge of ourselves.
Here are my tips on how to host a bookclub for a special young person in your life:
1. Invite 3-4 friends.
Keep it small to start off. Where possible know the parents, too. This size of club makes it easy to have more in-depth discussion and allows the kids to be able to listen to one another's ideas without being overwhelmed by the numbers.
2. Get the parents involved.
Though I'm a teacher by training, I still wanted lots of input from the other parents of kiddos involved in the bookclub. I sent out an email with 5 suggested chapter books (with Amazon links) and asked each mom to pick two that seemed like good reads for their girls. We decided on two dates in initial email exchanges as well so that everyone could get these on the family calendars.
3. Read the book, too.
We selected The Chocolate Touch as our first book. It's a good book that mirrors the story of King Midas. The protagonist John Midas gets the chocolate touch and turns everything into chocolate...even his mom! My daughter finished the book in one afternoon because she was so excited about it, and I wanted to be able to talk about the details with her and her friends so I devoured it, too. While you're reading, jot down a few notes and a handful of discussion questions. If you feel stumped on what to ask, simply Google a synopsis of your chosen read. Someone has already created the questions. Trust me.
4. Make it easy to enter the conversation.
M made packs of numbers 1-4 for her friends. Our first question: How would you rate the book? (We do this without the props in my bookclub as a way to begin the book talk) The girls shuffled through the numbers, looking for 4s if they loved it and 1s if they never wanted to read it again. I asked them to turn their chosen number face down and on the count of three - we all revealed our ratings! First question, why did you give the book this rating? I loved that we had variance in opinions and great reasons to back up their thoughts!
We breezed through the events of each chapter, with each girl clammoring to tell what they loved best about the characters and details. At the end of the discussion, I asked each girl to re-rate. One bumped her rating of a three to a four after the conversation!
5. Fun is a must.
We want children to connect joy and reading together so let's make it fun. Think about how food can be themed for the event. The Chocolate Touch lent itself to great chocolate treats such as strawberries and angel food cake dipped in a chocolate fountain.
Throw in a craft, too! I wanted M to have full ownership of the meeting so we imagined together what kind of project would fit well with the plot of the book. We decided on a chocolate box but put a twist on it by folding a pyramid-shape! Super cool and easy. Check out this site for lots of box templates easy enough for kids (and busy moms) to follow.
After two hours of pizza, talk, and chocolate, with full stomachs and high-pitched giggles, we said good-bye to great friends and avid readers.
Next month we read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and M is so excited to plan our menu and gather the craft supplies. I'm already behind her in my reading...just as I had hoped.
Hosting a bookclub for your child requires a little bit of energy, but it opens up some great paths into literature and relationships for your little one.
Any great children's reads that you'd recommend? Would you have wanted to be a part of a bookclub as a child?