Tips for Starting a Childrens Reading Group

Reading is one of the most important skills learned by a child, as it opens up doors to all other types of independent learning. With so much audio-visual media available, though, it can be a challenge to interest young people in reading on their own. A children’s reading group can provide a fun, social setting for encouraging young people to read more, and starting a reading group can be a creative and rewarding endeavor for parents or educators. There are many directions you can take, as you plan your group.

~Age Range

Most libraries provide summer reading programs, along with story time, for elementary school-aged children, and younger, using age appropriate stories for the different division. Take your cue from this model, and target your children’s reading group at the age of your child, or students. Keep the selected reading materials in line with the age range in question. 

Unlike story telling programs, a reading group can appeal to older children, as well.Teens and tweens can be encouraged in their love of reading, through a reading group that highlights literary selections that are appropriate for this older age range. 

~Goals

If you determine to begin a children’s reading group, set some goals, so that you have an idea of the direction you want the group to take. Your objective may be as simple as having students read more, or you can set a goal of encouraging participants to read at least one book per week.  Your goal might be to expose the participants to different types of literature, or it might be simply to provide a combination of social and academic interaction. 

~Theme

Children love themes, and this can make a huge difference in the participation and interest in your children’s reading group. You can decide the theme in advance, or you can allow interested children to contribute ideas for a group theme. Perhaps you will focus on pirate stories, with a set of boys, or on pioneer life with a group of girls. If your reading group is composed of both boys and girls, you might choose a theme that both would enjoy, whether mysteries, or science fiction.

If you prefer to have a less targeted set of reading selections, but want to focus more on participation, then a fun name for your group can spark interest, without confining children to a given genre. The Tuesday Club, Rockin’ Readers, or the 49’ers can be interesting reading group names.  Use the name to signify a goal, or a meeting day, or a popular phrase. The Tuesday Club might meet to read and discuss literary selections on Tuesdays. The 49’ers might set a goal of each member reading 49 books in the course of the year. 

A tech tie-in to the reading theme would be especially suited to the tween and teen age group, with ereaders being more accessible. Lending options on ereaders such as Nook provide a venue for students to share literature. Both Nook and Kindle have a large selection of classic literature available, free of charge, making it possible to focus on some of these selections as a part of your young people’s reading group.

~Activities

Reading groups often meet to discuss a specific piece of literature. An oral book report is a great way for a child to present his information about his piece, but the idea of giving a report can make it feel more like school. Keep things fun, with interesting activity titles, as well as interesting activities.  Rather than a book report, call it a “spotlight”. A student can spotlight a book, or selection, at each club meeting, giving as much information as he chooses. Include a question and answer session, which allows other participants to ask more.  Spark a discussion, using open-ended questions to provoke thinking and conversation. 

Plan for some activities to be routine, but allow for variations in others. A good mix of predictable and unexpected activities will keep your group members’ interest. 

~Time and Schedule

Depending on the time of year, and the age of your group members, your schedule may be spread out, on a monthly meeting basis, or more frequent. Summer vacation is a good time for weekly club meetings, whereas a group meeting during the school year may need more time between meetings. You don’t want to lose interest, by scheduling meeting dates too far apart, but you need to be aware of time constraints on a student’s schedule.

Whether you are simply trying to encourage your own child to read more, or whether you are coordinating an extra-curricular activity for your students, you can use a children’s reading group to challenge children to read more, and to think more about the materials they choose to read. Making a reading group fun, through theme or name, can help children to be interested in what the group has to offer.  Providing diverse activities, and opportunities to participate, can keep children engaged in the experience. Ultimately, a reading group is a great way to encourage recreational reading for both the avid, and the reluctant reader.