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Whether it is Oprah Winfrey’s, Resse Witherspoon’s, or Mindy Kaling’s book club doesn’t matter: The selections are always for adults. But maybe its the kids who would really benefit from a book club, both socially and academically—after all, according to the Department of Education, two-thirds of children in the United States are not proficient readers. Luckily, it doesn’t take an industry insider to get a local book club off the ground. While you may not have the clout of Winfrey or the star power of Witherspoon, you easily start a book club for your kids and their classmates to enhance their reading and social skills.

Establish expectations early

My 7-year-old is in a book club, and at their first meeting, everyone was so excited to talk about the book they read that they forgot all about conversational norms and started talking all over each other. Establishing ground rules early on, like giving everyone a turn and not talking over anyone, ensures everyone is heard and respects what each other has to say. Establish a no-cell-phone policy if your group has tweens or young teenagers so no one unintentionally interrupts or ignores anyone.

Keep things short and simple

Adult book club selections sometimes come with lengthy questions to start the conversation. That might work for you, but it’s best to keep things short and simple for kids. Three or so questions about their favorite characters or the funniest parts of the story should generate a good amount of conversation to see what they took away from their reading.

Add an activity related to the book’s plot

In the book Stuart Little, the titular mouse participates in a boat race. One way my son’s book club tied in that scene was with an activity where attendees made a small boat themselves out of aluminum foil, popsicle sticks, and paper. It unleashed their creativity in a totally different way, giving them another method to remember the book’s story. 

Find a craft or activity members can try that ties in with the book’s theme, like listening to the music Chester performs in The Cricket in Times Square or making bird pies out of paper plates and pipe cleaners for Roald Dahl’s The Twits.

Get other adults involved

There’s no shame in asking for help, especially when taking on something as fun as a book club. You can work with other parents to develop ideas, assemble crafts, or rotate duties for each meeting. You can even reach out to your child’s school teacher to see if they’d be willing to assist. In the case of my son’s book club, his teacher recorded herself reading each chapter of the month’s selection in her backyard and put them on YouTube. 

Honor every child’s reading ability

If your child’s book club consists of second graders, maybe now isn’t the time to break out Judy Blume’s Tales of A Fourth-Grade Nothing. A book club is meant to be fun, not for a grade, so try to find selections everyone can enjoy. Remember, it doesn’t matter if they’re reading Harry Potter or Captain Underpants, as long as they’re fostering a love of reading.

Keep everything consistent

Children thrive on routine, so keeping a schedule and sticking to it is essential for consistent attendance. Also, considering other activities vying for a child’s attention (playdates, birthday parties, sports leagues, etc.), keeping to the same day every month will ensure other parents make time in their schedule well in advance. 

Bring snacks

Getting creative with the goodies is key to a successful book club meeting. For example, bring Turkish Delight to the discussion about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or a chocolate gummy worm cake to the meeting about How to Eat Fried Worms. 

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