Never drag a child to a book club. “The idea has to be appealing to the child or you will be swimming up stream!” says Susan Scott, owner of Seattle’s Secret Garden Bookshop.

Look for members with interests and personalities that complement each other – that goes for parents and children. Shireen Dodson offers qualities for a good fit in her book The Mother-Daughter Book Club. They include: an interest in reading, similar reading skill levels, ages or grades close together, an acquaintance or friendship with someone in the group, a cooperative attitude, comfort with discussion and an interesting mix of viewpoints for the mothers.

Plan activities, crafts or outings inspired by the book. For example, come dressed in period costumes, write to the book’s author, bring food from cultures represented in the book, keep a book club scrapbook or, when possible, visit a site mentioned in a book.

Independent book clubs tend to revolve from house to house. Allow the child-parent pair hosting the book club in a given month to choose the book.

Parents should decide up front which types of books and topics they are not comfortable reading/discussing in a book club setting. Reassess your list of “absolutely not” topics every six months and be open to your child’s evolving development.

Keep it small. Most book club experts agree that keeping an independent or neighborhood group to four to six kids and their parents is optimal.

Meet monthly, even if you decide to read one book every two months. Meeting consistently is key to creating a cohesive group and keeping reading a priority throughout the month.

Kids love to eat, especially when gathering with friends, so make snacks part of the club.

Think about two-hour meetings to ensure time for deep discussion, snacking and play.

Don’t forget the boys! While the majority of existing groups are mother-daughter or general parent-child, consider starting a father-son or mother-son group. Start them early since boys’ interests in an organized club may fade after age 12 because of added activities and peer pressure.


Award Winners

To obtain current and past lists of books that have won one of the following prestigious children’s book awards, go to the American Library Association’s Web site

The Newbery Award is named for 18th-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

The Coretta Scott King Book Award is presented annually by the Coretta Scott King Task Force of the American Library Association’s Ethnic Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table. Recipients are authors and illustrators of African descent whose distinguished books promote an understanding and appreciation of the “American Dream.”

The John Steptoe Award for New Talent is chosen by a seven-member national Coretta Scott King Award Jury. These books affirm new talent and offer visibility to excellence in writing or illustration at the beginning of a career as a published book creator.

The Caldecott Award is named in honor of 19th-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Cheryl Murfin Bond is a freelance writer living in Seattle, Washington .