H omeschooled kids. Books. Socializing. Sounds like a perfect combination, right? Add to that some tips on how to start a homeschool book club and you’ll be set.
Now, I have to state, for the record, that I have never actually started my own homeschool book club. I’ve started and organized lots of other stuff, but I’ve managed, so far, to maintain attendee status on the book clubs. However, I’ve observed lots of clubs and know the moms who’ve started them, so I feel qualified to share their tips. Feel free to take them for what they’re worth.
Where to meet. The first thing you’ll probably want to determine is where you’ll be meeting. Some locations that have worked for groups I’ve been a part of are:
- Homes – You can either have a set location to meet each week or rotate between those who are willing and able to host. Choosing host homes that are centrally-located is a consideration that may make it easier for everyone to attend regularly.
- Libraries – Many libraries have meeting rooms that you can use free of charge. Other may have an area that they use for “story time” that they might be willing to allow your book club to use.
- Book stores – Oftentimes book stores, including the larger chain stores, are open to allowing book clubs to meet in their facilities. You’d probably want to contact a store manager to be sure.
- Local parks – When the weather is cooperative, local parks and playgrounds can provide a wonderful meeting place for book clubs. Megan really likes when the book club she’s in meets at the park because most of the moms will usually hang around and let the kids play for awhile afterward.
- Coffee houses – Coffee houses can be really appealing to middle and high school age kids. It can feel really grown up to sit around, sip a drink, and discuss your favorite book.
Type of club. You’ll also want to determine the type of book club you’ll be hosting. Some that we’ve enjoyed or considered have included:
- American Girls – Both my girls have enjoyed American Girls book clubs at one time or another. In the club Brianna was in when we first started homeschooling, the leaders even made sashes and the girls earned pins for each American Girl they learned about. Both of these clubs have included related crafts and cooking.
- Books turned into movies – A friend started a book club for boys a few years ago that I tried to get Josh interested in, to no avail. It sure did interest me, though! Each book the boys read was one that had been made into a movie, such as Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief or Holes. At their club meetings, they would discuss the book, then, watch the movie while having snacks.
- Award-winners – Another book club I know of has been reading through Newbery Award-winning books.
- Member-determined – One of the first book clubs that all three of my kids were in chose books by member vote. At each meeting, the kids would make suggestions for the next book to be read and the book that got the most votes was chosen.
Other ideas might include classics, Shakespeare, or a specific series or genre.
How to break down your group size. You’ll also want to determine who your group will include and how many kids you’ll be able to accommodate. Some ways to break down your group might include:
- Age – The types of books you’ll be reading may be determined by their age-appropriateness, so you might want to limit your group to middle schoolers or high schoolers, for example.
- Reading ability – In other instances, you might just want to sort your group by reading ability. When all three of my kids were in the same book club (well, meeting at the same place, anyway), we met at a local bookstore. Once there, we would split off into non-readers (a parent read to this group during the book club time), beginning readers (who discussed picture or early chapter books) and fluent readers (the group who voted on what to read next).
- Gender – Let’s face it, not too many boys want to read American Girl books. When I was at our local curriculum fair this weekend, there was a whole booth that was nothing but books that would appeal to boys (and a handful written to the parents who raise them). I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I’m not a big fan of gender neutrality. Split the boys and girls up and let them read what appeals to them. If that overlaps sometimes (because Megan is a huge Percy Jackson fan), fine, but don’t feel that it has to. Another bonus is: boys and girls tend to open up more during discussion times when they’re separated.
Frequency and pacing. Finally, determine how often you’ll meet and how much you will have read prior to each meeting. The American Girls club that Megan is in now meets every other week and reads a complete book between each meeting. Another club I know of was only reading half the book or so between meeting times.
Some other questions you will probably want to consider include:
- What will the host’s responsibilities be?
- What are the expectations of the parents of attendees? (Are they expected to stay? To help in some way? To bring snacks? To help purchase craft supplies?)
- Will there be snacks and/or crafts? Who will plan and organize this? Are there food allergies to consider?
- Is there a cost involved?
- What are the expectations for non-participating siblings? (Will they be allowed to attend? Will childcare be provided?)
- If you’re meeting outdoors, is there a plan for inclement weather?
We’ve really enjoyed the book clubs we’ve been involved in. They’ve been a great way to encourage my kids to read and to be introduced to new books, and have provided the opportunity to build new friendships.
If you’ve ever started or hosted a book club, what suggestions would you add? If you’ve never stared a book club, but are considering it, are there other questions or concerns that you’d like to see addressed?