by Belinda J. Mooney

School is out and summer is in full swing. The last thing your kids have in mind is learning of any kind. Their thoughts are on the beach, video games and hanging out with their friends – all while you’re itching to do something educational over the summer. Why not combine the two goals with a summer reading club that you and your kids plan together? They get to hang out with their friends and you get to see them reading – a definite win-win situation.


Set Your Goals

To start off your reading club, decide on a goal. Do you want your kids to read a certain number of books this summer? Do you simply want to encourage them to spend time with a good book? Think about your goals when planning.
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 or if they may choose whatever they like. If you have a variety of reading levels and ages in your reading club, allow for everyone’s goals to vary.

Choose a Theme

Choosing a theme 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 base your club around a series of books such as the Boxcar Kids or Amelia Bedelia.

Choose a Name & Meeting Time

Once you know what your goals are and you have chosen a theme now it’s time to name your group. Let the kids submit ideas and help choose the name. Now is also the time to decide how often you are going to meet. Do you want to meet every week or monthly? There are advantages to both. Meeting weekly keeps the interest flowing but requires more planning.
If you are going to meet weekly you might want to set a time frame such as a six week period for your club. If you decide to meet monthly keep in mind that you may only have three actual meetings over the summer months. A nice compromise is meeting bi-weekly.

Choose Your Books

It is very helpful to have a prepared reading list that the kids can choose from. These can be books within your theme. If you have several ages attending you may want to divide the list into reading levels – picture books, chapter books, youth. Your local librarian can be a great asset when preparing reading lists. If you are working with younger children have a few books that can be read aloud at the meetings.
Plano Children’s Librarian Cindy Boatfield suggests using book lists at your local library to narrow down your child’s book club reading material. Many libraries offer lists of titles that are categorized by age and popularity among readers, she says.

Choose Your Meeting Place

Next decide where you are going to meet. You might want to choose the library, especially for your first meeting. Many libraries have meeting rooms that the public can use, adds Boatfield. Families can also take turns hosting the meeting.
Make sure wherever you decide to meet is bright, cheery and comfortable. Bean bag chairs and large comfy couch cushions can be placed on the floor for kids to sit upon. If you are going to have snacks keep them simple and away from the books. Make sure that food is allowed if you are planning on using a meeting room.

Reading Club Meetings

Have kids take turns being the host at the meetings. Ideas for meeting participation include every sharing something about what they are reading, a craft related to a book or series, such as making corn husks dolls with Little House on the Prairie books, preparing a food related to a book, scavenger hunts or guest speakers.
Guest speakers can be fun and are easier to find then you might think. If your theme is mysteries call the local police station and ask a detective to come speak. Have a local historian (ask your librarian where to find one) speak on unsolved mysteries in your area. The local police department will often come and do fingerprinting and ID kits for kids if you just ask. Just remember what ever you choose to do the goal is to have fun why diving into a good book.

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