These days, book clubs are fashionable - avid readers meet in coffee shops, book stores, libraries, and living rooms! For those of us who have always had our noses in a book, this is welcome news, but there are other excellent reasons for joining book groups that go well beyond following the latest trend.
Here are some reasons both you and your child should consider joining a book group:
The call to read - A well-organized book club meets regularly to discuss a selected book. Discussion leaders may be fixed or rotating, but one person is clearly in charge at each meeting. Wherever the group gathers, there will be some sort of agenda in which the content of the book - the writing style, the characters, plot, and much more - are dissected and analyzed. Varying viewpoints are offered, and the group can either come to a consensus or agree to disagree on certain conclusions. Book discussions are a chance to step outside the usual activities of the day and ‘live’ in another world created by the author. If you’re interested in being a lifelong learner, this sort of discussion is healthy for you!
For the kids - Now, consider what a kids’ book club might accomplish: The same interest in various genres of children’s literature, analysis of character and plot, and the freedom to like or dislike the book apply. Kids greatly increase their reading comprehension skills and their enjoyment of the reading process when they engage in discussion related to the nuts and bolts of a book.
Social aspects of a book club - Book groups offer a sense of belonging and fulfill a desire for regular social interactions with people of similar interests. You may be stretched to read books you would never choose on your own. You may hear ideas that would never have entered your mind when reading alone. Book discussions bring out strong opinions, encourage personal openness, and provide a lot of laughter and camaraderie. Add a simple meal or snacks and beverages, and you have a great social event!
For the kids - No surprise, kids enjoy all of the mentioned elements of a book discussion. With guidance and the proper questions, they can enter into book discussions and begin to form opinions on what they like and dislike. They benefit from hearing the ideas of other kids and get some valuable practice in expressing their ideas and opinions in a group. They enjoy exposure to a wide variety of writing. Plus, they enjoy snacks and drinks in the company of their peers.
Reading with a purpose - Another reason to belong to a book club is the motivation a club provides to keep reading. Adults know the benefits of exercising our grey cells as we age, and nothing does that better than reading. In a group, there is encouragement to go deeper and address questions posed. We’ll pay more attention to detail and perhaps be spurred on to further background reading to extend our understanding. We’ll engage.
For the kids - Guess what? Kids enjoy reading more when they read with a purpose. They may be looking for the elements of a story - beginning, middle, and ending - or focusing on the choices the characters make in a certain book. They love to talk about the ins and outs of the chosen story, maybe changing the ending or writing themselves into the plot.
Clear communication - Communication skills are enhanced in a reading group. We engage in active listening to hear various opinions, we pose questions and delve into the books to find answers. We may even do some writing related to the book selected. Those who lead the group will find that choosing or creating the discussion questions is valuable in itself. Members both give and receive information.
For the kids - Many children find speaking before a group intimidating. But when a group gathers for the express purpose of talking about the latest book read together, the barriers come down. Kids like to express their opinions and ‘get over’ their worries about public speaking. A kids' book club is a great ‘next step’ in listening, thinking, and speaking in front of others.
If you aren’t in a book group, find one! Go to your local library or go online to search for groups near you. Or form your own group. Invite friends and colleagues to gather on a regular basis to read great books. Are you a Mystery fan? Science Fiction or Fantasy? Romance? Look for groups that focus specifically on your favorite genre.
Form a parents' and kids' group to read great children’s literature together. This may work in an after- school setting or become an annual event. A read-aloud followed by a short discussion and maybe a follow-up craft or writing project would be a great format for a kids’ book club. P.S. Don’t forget the snacks!
For help on forming book clubs and the many shapes they may take, go to:
Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. She specializes in education, parenting, and family life articles. Find her at janpierce.net.
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