How to start a parent and child book club

Getting kids to read a book for the sheer pleasure of it isn’t always easy. Starting a book club at home, however, is easier than you might think. Plus, it’s a fun and inventive way of adding a little more excitement into reading.

Puffin team
A photo of a young girl against a green background sitting down and reading a book
Image: Puffin

Step 1: The plan

Firstly, book clubs shouldn’t mean children – or grown-ups, as a matter of fact – reading dusty old books they have absolutely no interest in. Your book club will work best if it’s totally tailored to one goal – getting your kids excited about reading and committed to finishing a book they actually want to read; this means FUN, FUN, FUN! Think games, activities, themed decorations, snacks, music, and even day trips – and believe it or not, these can all revolve around your club’s current book. Book clubs should celebrate reading and this can mean a lot of creative fun for you and the kids.

Step 2: The pitch

Okay, let’s not beat around the bush here; the mere suggestion of a book club will see some kids running a mile, so – and this, of course, depends on the type of child and reader – pitching the book club to the kiddies is a pivotal and delicate moment. Talk to them about the types of books they like to read, or WOULD like to read and discuss reading some of these books as part of an exclusive club. Also, make sure they know that this is THEIR club! Although you’ll be steering the ship, they can come up with ideas for the club, think about how they would like to decorate their club (we’ll get to that), create club rules, and even invite members so they can share the experience with friends. Making them an equal part in the decision-making is key and helps them feel involved.

Step 3: Choosing the first book

Find a book that matches their interests and let them play a part in picking it, as the key to getting any young reader to read is to give them material that they’re interested in. Top of the chart books are also a good shout – chances are they’ve heard about these books, characters, and authors at school or on the playground. We have tons of lists and guides on our website to help you choose a story, and of course, your local library is a brilliant source of information, too. But when making the final decision, make sure EVERYONE is happy with the choice. And if you find the book isn’t working, don’t be afraid to abandon it and move on to another. Finishing a book isn’t the be-all and end-all – it’s far more important to find the right book. The kids don't need to like every aspect of the book (that actually helps with discussion!), but they do have to be interested in it in some way.

Step 4: The members

Okay, so who’s in the club? Well, that’s entirely up to you! You can pitch it as a super-exclusive club for just you and your kids, or you can encourage them to invite their friends along. Try inviting just one or two of their friends at first – preferably pals that you know enjoy reading. Your kids might be more inclined to talk about the book with you if their friends are enthusiastic too. As a finishing touch, why not get them to design personalised invitations or membership cards too?

A photo of a young boy sitting against a bright yellow background whilst reading a book
Image: Puffin

Step 5: The clubhouse

Finding some sort of regular reading zone is important – a base for the club if you like. If you and the kids create a reading space and really make it your own, you’ll find they want to keep going back to it. This is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in the decision-making and get creative – think bunting, pillows, posters, plants, stuffed animals, music, and arts and crafts! The kids need to feel like they have somewhere fun to go for club meetings. However, that’s not for everyone; if you don’t fancy holding the meetings at home, then find a fun space outside of the house, like a cool coffee shop, a treehouse, or a pretty spot in your local park where you can enjoy a picnic at the same time. This brings us nicely onto snacks...

Step 6: The snacks

This is a VERY important step. Those hungry minds need fuel, so stock up on some scrumptious snacks for your meetings as a special treat. You could even whip up some book-themed snacks together, before the meeting starts (again, a good way to get them all excited about the next meeting!). Imagine serving up some Wonka Bars, The Witches’ Trick or Treats, or George's Marvelous Smoothies? Mmm!

Step 7: The follow-up meeting

Once the first meeting has wrapped up – and we know it went brilliantly – schedule the next one and set a reading challenge for everyone to complete before you next meet. But whatever you do, don’t make this feel like HOMEWORK! Remember, this is all about reading for pleasure. We’d recommend meeting at the same time, in the same place every week or two. You’ll know how fast the group reads better than we do, but if you’re lost, why not suggest finishing two or three chapters before the next meeting? And if the Matilda’s of the club read more – well, that’s just brilliant! Make sure you come to the next meeting with questions and discuss ideas on what they’ve just read to encourage some chit-chat between members.

Step 8: The next book

There’s no need to rush into a second book – go with the reading pace of the group. Take your time exploring and enjoying each story. You will, of course, eventually need a new book to tackle, so why not ask the group what they want to read next? What aspects of the first book did they love and is there another book that matches the criteria? But above all, the most important thing about running a book club is having lots of fun together – we can’t wait to see which books you choose!

Some book club picks

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