by Belinda Mooney
School is almost out and summer will soon be in full swing. Likely, the last thing your kids have in mind is learning of any kind. But what if they can hang out with their friends and some good books at the same time? Set up a reading club with your child and his or her peers as members! Here are the basics:
Set reading goals. Do you want your kids to read a certain number of books this summer or do you simply want to encourage them to spend time with a good book? If your goal is for each kid to read five books over the summer, have a reward for that at the end. Make a chart where everyone can keep track of the books they’ve read. Help them set realistic goals. Decide if everyone is going to read the same book (perhaps your child’s school has a required summer reading list) or if they may choose whatever they like.
Choose a theme. Themes can be fun, especially for reading clubs with younger members. Your theme might be mysteries, animals or cooking. Make goal charts and reading logs with themed graphics. This is nice when planning activities for the group – as you already have a theme around which to base your activities. You can also base your club around a book series such as Boxcar Kids or Amelia Bedelia.
Pick a club name. Let the kids submit ideas and help choose the name. Now is also the time to decide how often you are going to meet – every week, every other week or once a month?
Settle on the books to read. It’s helpful to have a prepared reading list that the kids can choose from. These can be books within your theme. If you have club members of different ages you may want to divide the list into reading levels – picture books, chapter books, youth literature. Your local librarian can be a great asset when preparing reading lists. If you’re working with younger children, include a few books that can be read aloud at the meetings.
Choose your meeting place. Many libraries have meeting rooms that the public can use. Families can also take turns hosting the meeting in their homes. Make sure that wherever you decide to meet is bright, cheery and comfortable. Beanbag chairs and large comfy couch cushions can be placed on the floor for kids to sit upon. If you’re going to have snacks, keep them simple and away from the books.
Encourage a variety of activities at each meeting. Have kids take turns acting as the club host. Ideas for meeting participation include everyone sharing something about what they are reading, a craft related to a book or series (such as making corn husk dolls to coincide with reading the Little House on the Prairie books), preparing a food associated with a book, scavenger hunts or guest speakers.
Guest speakers can be fun and are easier to find than you might think. If your theme is mysteries, call the local police station and ask a detective to come speak. Invite a local historian to speak on unsolved mysteries in your area. The local police department will often come and do fingerprinting and ID kits for kids if you ask.
Just remember, whatever you choose to do, the goal is to have fun while diving into a good book.
Belinda Mooney is a freelance writer and mother of seven.