Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Heidi Scovel of Mt. Hope Chronicles.
Have you ever finished reading a book and craved to share the experience with someone? Maybe you wanted to find out if they loved the same characters, if they identified with the emotional theme, if they were frustrated by certain events, or if they understood why the author chose to weave the story in a certain way.
My most favorite way to treat myself socially, emotionally, and intellectually is to attend a monthly book club. I’ve been involved with the same wonderful group of ladies for over six years. We each anticipate the evenings of sharing our love of reading. Through this connection, we deepen our understanding not only of the books we read, but also ourselves.
Our children can benefit in the same ways when they are regularly involved with friends, family members, or mentors who encourage their appetite for books and the ideas within.
For homeschooling families, book clubs may also be a valuable way for children to gain experience and confidence sharing their thoughts and ideas within a group atmosphere.
The possibilities for book clubs are as endless as one’s imagination, but I’d like to share a few spring-board ideas for organizing groups for young people.
Photo from Amazon.com
“Books are like puzzles…The author’s ideas are hidden and it is up to all of us to figure them out. Whenever you read a book you want to know what the book is really about, not what it’s about on the surface, not the story, but what’s underneath the story…” ~Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone in Deconstructing Penguins
Parent-child book clubs:
If you are like me, your own literary education might be sadly lacking, and the thought of leading children through meaningful discussions of books could be a bit intimidating.
In their incredible book, Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone share their experience in leading parent-child book groups. While their book selections and detailed discussions are aimed at guiding elementary children through the literary analysis of fiction books, I found that the insight I gained had a profound effect even on my adult reading.
“The notion that in a good book—any good book, adult or children’s—there was something going on under the story that the author was trying to communicate through the characters and the plot was apparently a revelation, and not just to the kids.”
The authors provide the reader with a framework approach which helps children (and the facilitating adults) to uncover the layers of a story.
“The All-Fiction-Is-Mystery idea turned out to be an especially useful tactic for kids’ books because everyone loves a mystery. Even more, everyone loves to be the detective who solves the puzzle. When we began to communicate to the kids that in reading a book they were actually entering a crime scene where they were to be responsible for identifying clues, figuring out how the deed was done (method) and why it was done (motive), the discussions suddenly took off.”
Solving the puzzles of character, setting, climax, theme, and point of view is a great way for children and parents to have meaningful, interactive conversations about stories.
“In our book groups, parents and children speak to one another with mutual respect, as equals. Often a child and a parent will take different sides of a question and the room will divide strictly on the basis of argument and not age… More than that, because we talk about real issues, the kids come away with insights into their parents (and vice versa) that we have been told spills over into other parts of their relationship.”
Starting with picture books is one way to gain confidence in literary analysis and is appropriate for both younger and older readers alike. The Center for Literary Education has developed a program called Ready Readers which you can purchase and includes complete discussion notes for ten classic stories (Brave Irene and The Relatives Came happen to be two of my all-time favorite picture books!).
Photo by Heidi Scovel
Children-only book clubs:
Your child might enjoy having more input, control, or planning experience through a child-led book club. The initial club members can get together and make decisions on the following details:
- How many members?
- Where to meet and how often?
- What books to read (and should every member read the same book)?
- What type of book discussions to have and should there be a leader?
- Should there be food or activities?
Adult-led book clubs:
With a parent (or other adult) facilitating a group, there are many possible themes for book clubs.
Book selections can be centered around a historical period, a specific author, book awards (such as the Newbery or Caldecott Medal winners), literary genres, or other defining factors (mysteries, character development, etc.).
While it is often nice to keep things simple, book club meetings may include more than book discussions. Consider adding in field trips, food, crafts, guest speakers, or other activities to enhance the ideas or themes presented in the story.
A fellow homeschooling mom started a history club for young girls who are reading through the American Girl books. They are discussing the books, exploring American history, writing journals, and creating a quilt. She has shared detailed plans and ideas on her blog, A Smart Start.
Photo by Heidi Scovel
Family book clubs:
Book clubs can also be wonderful bonding time for families. Schedule regular ‘meeting’ times to discuss a specific book read by all family members, share thoughts or journal entries from individual reading, act out stories, or take turns reading aloud.
However you structure it, setting aside time to talk about books can inspire children (and their parents) to read, think, explore ideas, and share their love of reading with others.
“The art of reading is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one’s encounter with it in a book.” ~André Maurois
Is your child involved in a book club? Has it been a positive experience?