Take a group of kids, add their parents or grandparents to the mix, season with a blend of child-oriented fiction and you have the recipe for a Better Homes and Gardens® Family Reading Club, a wonderful way for you and your children to experience the magic of reading together.
Reading and sharing stories not only promotes literacy and an overall love of books, it also builds stronger relationships. When you expand the activity to include other families, you encourage your kids and their friends to associate reading with fun, especially when you turn club meetings into parties complete with treats and activities that bring to life the books you and your kids are reading.
A family reading club can also improve communication by using the featured book as a springboard for discussion. There's no end to the insights, lessons, and feelings that can flow from a fun read. Parents can use stories to teach valuable lessons and offer solutions to the kinds of conflicts everyone faces. And kids are more likely to take those lessons to heart if they come in the form of a story, instead of a parental lecture.
Build a Book Event
To make a book club meeting a captivating experience for everyone, create an entire event around your discussions -- a wooded picnic for a story like Alice in Wonderland, for example. The more enjoyable each meeting is, the more excited your children -- and you -- will be to do it again and again.
Here are a few tips for making meetings fun. Some may be more appropriate for younger or older readers. Talk it over with other parents first to get a sense of what will work for the kids who will be attending.
Read the Book
Calculate a reasonable time frame in which even the slowest reader will have completed the book (except for early readers, who will read the book together at the club). Then meet once everyone has read it. While everyone is reading, you can make plans for your meetings: determining who will host it, letting the kids decide what sort of activities they'll add to the discussion.
The more you make the reading club feel like a party and less like a "meeting," the more exciting it will be. Keep it casual and comfortable. Supply plenty of cushions on the floor so everyone can relax. Young kids might enjoy having a special "reading rug" that they can bring for their own personal lounging.
Keep it Small
Try to limit your group to 4 or 5 pairs of parents and their kids, or no more than 8 to 10 people overall. This keeps the group to a manageable size and gives everyone a chance to talk and share ideas.
Give Kids Center Stage
This isn't a classroom, so don't pick kids and ask them questions. Let them lead the discussion. If you must, ask open-ended questions to the group, and questions you don't necessarily know the answer to.
Connect the Meeting to the Story
Meet outdoors for a nature-focused story or have everyone dress like a character in the book you're discussing. Offer snacks or make crafts that tie to book themes or encourage discussion about books in general. For example, make a plate of "conversation cookies." With frosting, write words on the cookies such as "best part," "humor" or "surprise." The child who picks that cookie can talk about the plot twist of the story, or tell what he thought was the funniest or best part of the book. For older kids, words such as "plot" or "theme" can encourage more age-appropriate discussions.
Hand Out Reading Journals
At the first meeting, give each child a blank journal that he can turn into a reading diary. This is where kids can compile their favorite books list, copy favorite passages, or write down anything that inspires them. They may even want to try writing their own story.
When you pick books for your club, involve your kids in the selection process. "Kids are more likely to read and enjoy books they pick out themselves," says Carol Rasco, president and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental, Inc., the nation's largest nonprofit children's literacy organization, who suggests seeking out these characteristics:
Early Readers (Ages 3 to 5)
- Main characters who are the children's ages or slightly older. Playful animals, both real and imaginary, will also hold a child's attention.
- Images that are clear, colorful, and engaging.
- Simple, engaging plots. The action should move quickly, so each book can be read in one sitting.
- Lively rhymes and repetition that children can repeat and remember.
- Stories about everyday life and events that encourage kids to ask questions about their world.
- Books that review basic concepts, such as letters, numbers, shapes, and colors.
Young Readers (Ages 6 to 11)
- Clear text that is easy to read.
- Colorful, attractive images that bring the text to life and give clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words.
- Books that appeal to the children's interests.
- How-to, crafts, and recipe books with clear, simply worded instructions and helpful illustrations.
- Other books by favorite authors and illustrators.
- Books with the children's favorite characters.
- Stories the children enjoyed hearing when they were younger. These are great books for children to begin reading on their own.
- Books that encourage discussion.
- Chapter books that can be read over several days instead of in one sitting.
Adolescents (Ages 12 and Older)
- Books about subjects that interest your child.
- Novels that might help children cope with daily challenges of growing up by featuring characters dealing with similar experiences.
- Books showing new ideas and opportunities.
- Fact books, such as trivia books and almanacs.
- Biographies, historical fiction, classics, folk tales, and mythology.
For More Information
Visit the National Center for Family Literacy Web site: