Adults like reading groups – meeting to talk about a book, eat sticky buns and gossip. Kids love them even more. A book group is a party, but a party with a purpose – the sort of party you remember long after any memory of jumping castles has faded.
Book Groups for Littlies
(three months – school)
It doesn’t matter how young kids are – they will still enjoy a book group.
Here’s how to do it. Parents meet once a week or fortnight with their kids. Each parent brings a book to read and a plate of something to eat and each adult takes it in turn to read a book to the assorted kids while the other adults gossip and stop little Mikey from eating Jessica’s stuffed rabbit.
The group can meet either at each house in turn or at a library or anywhere that will donate space and maybe a tea urn. (Libraries are great as you can borrow the books there for the day.)
Result: kids get exposure to lots of books; they learn that stories are fun even if they’re not sitting on Mum or Dad’s lap; they learn that other kids like books too. And if it’s at the library they learn that book filled places are fun places to be.
And, of course, in between the books the kids get to play, eat stuff and the adults get to gossip.
PS Little kids love to participate when you read to them. If the book has a rabbit in it, make them rabbit ears or give them pink rabbit noses and whiskers with face painting pens and have them hop around in a circle before and after the book. If the book talks about a big elephant and a small ant, show them how to make big and little gestures.
Try a theme day – books about animals and they come as their favourite animal or machines and they bring a toy one. But if you don’t have the time, energy or stamina for any of this – and few parents with under fives do – just bring the book, eat the bun – and read…
Reading Groups for Early Readers
This is great for weekend afternoons or school holidays. It works with between two and ten parents.
Each week (or fortnight or day for that matter – if it’s a long boring holiday) choose who will bring the book. It’s best if it’s one none of the kids has read. Again, bring a few buns, plates of fruit, drinks etc to make it a party as well.
The adults take it in turns to read a chapter of the book. It doesn’t matter if the book isn’t finished that session – it can be finished at home, either by the parents or – even better – by the kid who can’t wait to see what will happen next.
Again, it’s easier for a kid to read a book when they know what it’s about and what the more unusual words in it are going to be.
PS Series books are excellent for this – if the kid falls in love with one of them, they’ll really work at reading the next and the next and the next. And be genuinely disappointed when they run out!
Primary School Reading Groups
These are school book groups. They can be a group of kids who meet at lunch time just because they love books and stories, or with an energetic teacher or librarian.
There can be several book groups, according to who is interested in what:
The Adventure Reading Group
The Horse Book Readers
The Sci Fi Readers (the New Worlders?)
The Comic Club (ie comic format, not necessarily hilarious books)
The Giggle a Minute Book Club – devoted to books that have you rolling on the floor by the end of page one.
The book can either be chosen by one of the group or the group can vote on a book or the teacher/librarian can choose one they think the kids would like – which is usually the best bet, as they’ll know what books are around.
Option 1: The kids read the book and discuss it at the meeting; or
Option 2: The adult can read the book to the kids or the kids can take turns reading it out and then maybe have a short discussion or just give the book a mark out of ten and say why; or
Option 3: The group can swap books or comics for the next week – this is probably the best strategy for the comic group, who’ll love getting their grubby mitts on more comics but want to spend most of their lunch hour galloping in sixty directions at once.
PS. If possible have free popcorn (done in the in microwave – it’s pretty cheap and fairly healthy too) or sliced watermelon (who cares about the drips) or cups of fruit punch to make it clear that this is fun, not school work!
Adolescent and Teenage Book Club
Like Primary School book groups, these can be a group of particular friends – in which case maybe four or five groups will meet each day or a group who just loves books or a particular interest group.
When they meet they can:
1. Talk about books they love, and nominate a book to read the following week to talk about (make sure though the library has multiple copies in that case).
2. Swap or lend books – in which case, accept that teenagers often don’t like reading what you want them to read. But before you get too shocked remember what they’ve seen on TV and at the movies lately!
3. Raise funds so each kid can buy a book – one THEY want. Put their name in their book and keep a register of who owns what book and who has borrowed it.
The books are now swapped round each week.
This type of book group only works with close friends who trust each other with their books. A book can be a much loved thing and there needs to be a contingency plan to replace lost books, if the kid who loses it isn’t able to pay for it.
*Adapted from Rocket Your Child into Reading, by Jackie French, Harper Collins. Jackie French’s kid’s books have won more than 40 awards in Australia and overseas, but her favourite is the half mars bar awarded by two bush kids to their favourite author – they ate the other half on the way to school as they knew she wouldn’t mind sharing. Jackie’s Rocket Your Child into Reading shows the many challenges kids can face and how they can be overcome. (Jackie has dyslexia.) Jackie’s most recent books are They came on Viking Ships, Pete the Sheep, The Secret World of Wombats and My Uncle Wal the Werewolf.
by Jackie French, Australian Author