This year I have the honor of leading a book club for 1st -3rd grade readers and their parents. I agreed to lead the book club because I wanted to share the love of reading with children and their parents and also have the ability to continually introduce children to books that featured children of color. I’m finding that preparing and guiding the readers through discussion is making me a better author.
The George Washington Carver Museum is hosting the book club the first Saturday of February – May. I chose the first book, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. What a wonderful book to get us started. It took the readers out of the United States and gave them a glance of “Africa, amazing Africa.” The beautiful illustrations and playful story of a little girls’ middle class life was a relaxing read. Intended for pre-k and up, the language was suitable for a parent to read and both an emergent and experienced reader to enjoy. My biggest take away was asking the readers what was different about this book compared to other books they’d read and one little reader replied, “This one has black people in it.” Diversity in literature and entertainmentt matters.
The readers chose the next book from a choice of two or three books. Our March book was Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay. This gave us another opportunity to travel the globe as the author Hilary McKay resides in the UK and the language gives an illusion of a similar setting. I think this meeting went even better as I was able to gauge the flow of the readers and incorporate parent feedback.
I come prepared with an icebreaker to start and then ask the readers and parents a series of open ended questions. It’s also good to sometimes have the young readers pair up with a parent or a friend to answer a question and decide who’ll present their answer. Our meetings are 1.5 hours. This gives time for people to mingle, icebreaker, discussion and play afterwards. Forty minutes of discussion has been a good time to target.
Next month I gave them the choice of reading two picture books (Grace for President & Not Norman) or one chapter book-Home The Chapter Book (based on The True Meaning of Smekday). The readers overwhelming chose Home this month, which coincides with the release of the Dreamworks Movie Home. I think we’ll have a book club field trip to see the movie in early April.
If you’re looking to start a similar book club
- Chose a leader/guide (they need to read that months book and offered books prior to meeting)
- Find a location
- Agree on frequency
- Invite kids
- Gather open ended questions
- Get parents involved in the discussion
- Have fun
- Provide a few agreed upon guidelines (listen openly to what is said, comment to the group, your opinion is important)
Icebreakers we’ve used so far
- If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world where would you go?
- What’s your favorite animal and give there adjectives to describe- this one I asked them to pair up and share
Sample generic questions (Make them more specific to the book)
- Ask a question that allows them to turn in their book and read aloud
- What do you think of a particular character? How are they same or different from someone you know with similar qualities
- Find a turning point in the story, ask the readers their opinions on the action that changed the direction of the story
- Describe the setting of the story, your favorite character, language
Enjoy and happy reading,