Whether you’re looking for something to pull you through the summer doldrums, or need a fresh idea for your homeschool group in the fall, a children’s book club might be just the ticket! It’s easier than you think to pull together an educational and fun club atmosphere and create wonderful memories at the same time. Our little homeschool group held “Literary Club” meetings for many years and I was happy someone encouraged us to do it. Here are some things to consider as you plan.
Begin by deciding which age group to target. We had one club for upper elementary-aged students and another for middle school readers. Although it will work with any age group, it is hard to keep the lower elementary aged kids focused during a group discussion. We also found that the high schoolers were too busy with coursework and jobs to participate in a club during the school year. Also consider whether you want the group to be coed or to include only boys or only girls. Will you encourage moms or dads to come? These details have a big impact on the books you choose!
Once you define your target audience, begin to invite other families to join you. In addition to including your children’s friends, you might expand the group to include neighbor children or others from your church. Eight to 10 students, along with a few parents, were a good number for our middle-school group. Set up an email list or social media group for communication. It’s also a good idea to collect mobile phone numbers in case there is a last-minute meeting change due to bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
Well in advance, begin discussing which books you want to cover. Depending on how many families are involved, this can be a long process! You may want to choose an emphasis such as classics, non-fiction, or any theme you deem appropriate. Ask participants to give you a list of some things they would like to read, and start to narrow it down from there. Try to avoid books that any students have read before. As you make your final choices, encourage parents to read each book in advance. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises such as bad language or questionable themes once the students get started. If you are having a hard time finding book ideas, check with your local librarian, or grab a reference such as Honey for a Child’s Heart or The Book of Great Books.
A word of caution: There may be varying opinions among parents on what is appropriate for middle-school readers. Don’t be surprised if someone voices an objection to something you think is not a problem, or vice versa. If it is important to you that the students read the book, give the family the option to sit one session out. If you are the parent who is objecting to the choice, sit out graciously and don’t take it personally.
The next thing you need to do is decide on a calendar for the meetings. Initially we met more than once for each book, but eventually decided this was too much. We settled into two books per semester, with one club meeting for each. You may want to meet more often with younger children since their books are shorter. Start out with a flexible attitude and find a rhythm that works for your group.
One important detail to nail down early is where you will meet. If you are the discussion leader/group organizer ask someone else to host. You will have more than enough prep work to do without getting your house ready! Ideally, a large living room or cozy church classroom provides the best atmosphere. Some of the games may get rambunctious, so keep that in mind as you secure the location. You will also want to have snacks, so ask another mom or dad to help out in that area. We had some delightfully creative snacks based on the time period or subject of the book we were studying!
In my next post I’ll cover some ideas to get the kids engaged in the book before you meet, some book suggestions, as well as some specific homework you can do to make the most of your time together. So what are you waiting for? Get planning!
Traci Matt is the author of the number one best seller Don’t Waste Your Time Homeschooling: 72 Things I Wish I’d Known.