A children’s reading group is a great way to bring children together and a great way to get them interested in reading. Whether or not the children know each other, starting a reading group will broaden every child’s horizons.
Determine the size of your group. Will it just be a few of the neighborhood children? Will you extend the invitation to a larger area? What are the ages of the children? Will they all be the same age or will there be a range of ages?
Whether the group will involve just the children in your neighborhood or a larger area, be sure to include the parents. All contact with children should be initiated through their parents. Make the first meeting a parents-only meeting. This will allow the parents to get to know one another and the group’s organizers. It is also a great time to get all the business matters out of the way.
Depending on the age and the number of the children involved, develop a schedule that works best for the group. Younger children could meet every week or every other week depending on the parent’s schedule. Older children may need time to finish the book, so it might be better to meet once every two weeks. Teens and pre-teens are busy people too, while they may be able to devour a book in an evening, they are also likely involved in other activities. Talk with the group to determine what will work best for those involved but encourage them to meet regularly even in the summer.
Choosing the right book is what will keep the children coming back for more. Talk to the local school and libraries. Many of them may have reading lists that will work as suggestions for your group. Use the lists as suggestions only. If a child or a parent has a book that they would like to incorporate, encourage them to do so, but make sure that it will also work for the group. The important notion is that you let the group pick books that interest them. Be encouraging and offer them a challenge but don’t exhaust or underestimate the readers or they will lose interest.
Have a means of communication open for discussion between the sessions. It can be as simple as a regular phone call, email, facebook group/page or a website where members can post questions and comments as well as get updates and announcements. Whatever you choose, make sure it works for the group.
Reward and challenge the readers. Set goals that they are all able to obtain and reward them for reaching that level. Include rewards for extra efforts like reading additional material, presenting an outside book to the group or leading the group in discussions about the book.
As the children discuss what happened in the book, they will find that they remember more of what they read because they have engaged more of their senses. Additionally, mix it up a bit. Do more than simply discuss the book; play a game, make a video or do an activity related to what the group has read. Children will learn new ways of retaining information and will have fun in the meantime.
Listen to the children. It will give you something to present to the parents. You will be able to give them a clearer picture of what is happening with the reading group. The children will also feel like they have some say in the matter. They won’t feel like it is another thing that they participate in where they lack control and/or a voice. If a child in the group offers a suggestion, present it to the group and see how they feel about the suggestion.
Get feedback from the parents and give them feedback as well. Let them know how you feel the group is progressing. Are there titles that they really enjoyed? Are there titles they would like to see added? How do they feel about the goals? Are the children having fun? Are they, the parents? It is important that you find out what the parents are thinking and how they are feeling because if the parents aren’t getting what they feel their child needs out of the group, your group might lose members.
The key is to balance the feedback with action. Let the group know that you are open to suggestion but that you are not going to wing it based on their suggestions. Have a plan in mind and stick to it, but if a suggestion will work within that plan, make the necessary changes.
Book Club; Book Clubs Resource; 2007
Readers a Voice: Book Discussion Groups; Anna Healy; March 2002