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How to Start a Book Club for Elementary Students

Robin is a former third grade teacher, has a Masters in Education, and has three children of her own.

Our daughter ready for her first Book Club!

Our daughter ready for her first Book Club!

Getting Starting

Promoting a life-long love of reading is a priority for teachers and parents. Creating a fun environment to read and discuss books is a great tool for fostering this goal! We have started book clubs for our daughters, and they have continued for years. The key is to make it fun and rewarding and chose books that provide children with the opportunity to think, reflect, and share. I've provided this guide with the following tips that I have found beneficial over the years:

  • Appropriate book club books for kids from 2nd-5th grade
  • How to get started
  • Organizing the book club
  • Choosing the right book
  • Preparing for the book club
  • Sample questions to ask during the meeting
  • Thinking about the rules of the meeting
  • Sample emails to send to parents

Book Club Book Ideas for Kids in 2nd and 3rd Grade

BookAuthorReading Level

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Kate DiCamillo

3rd/4th Grade

The BFG

Roald Dahl

3rd/4th Grade

The Chocolate Touch

Patrick Skene Catling

3rd Grade

Any Magic Treehouse Book

Mary Pope Osborne

2nd/3rd Grade

The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

3rd Grade

Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball

David Adler

2nd/3rd Grade

Time Warp Trio Books

Jon Scieszka

3rd Grade

It's Raining Pigs and Poodles (poetry)

Jack Prelutsky

2nd/3rd Grade

The Year of Billy Miller

Kevin Henkes

2nd/3rd Grade

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things (Alvin Ho, #1)

Lenore Look

2nd/3rd Grade

Frindle

Andrew Clements

2nd/3rd Grade

Because of Winn Dixie

Kate DiCamillo

3rd Grade

Book Club Ideas for Kids in 4th, 5th, and 6th Grade

BookAuthorReading Level

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Kate DiCamillo

3rd/4th Grade

The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate

4th/5th/6th Grade

Where the Red Fern Grows

Wilson Rawls

5th/6th Grade

Hatchet

Gary Paulson

4th/5th Grade

The Giver

Lois Lowry

5th/6th Grade

11 Birthdays

Wendy Mass

5th Grade

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

C.S. Lewis

4th Grade

Wonder

RJ Palacio

5th/6th Grade

Out of My Mind

Sharon Draper

5th/6th Grade

Counting by 7s

Holly Goldberg Sloan

5th/6th Grade

When you Reach Me

Rebecca Stead

4th/5th Grade

Organizing an Elementary Age Book Club

If you have a school-age child, it's the perfect time to start a book club with them, their peers, and their peers' parents! We recently started a book club for our second grader and the kids had a lot of fun.

I was particularly impressed with the kids' discussion and their level of insight into the book. There was a bit of silliness since they are 8-year-olds, but the book club leader did a great job keeping the group focused.

I wanted to share my experience with you and provide a guide to getting started in your book club. The format that I'm going to lay out is doing book club as an extra-curricular, although you could try to coordinate with your child's teacher and see if you could do it during school hours.

So let's get to it! Here's a step-by-step guide to starting your book club for kids.

Step 1: Send out an Email

  • Email the parents and children from your child's grade to see if anyone is interested in participating in a book club. Remember that the kids will need to be able to sit for about an hour to discuss the book, so keep age in mind as younger kids will have a harder time staying focused.
  • I would aim to get about twelve kids involved since some won't make every book club, and you need at least eight kids present each month to have an excellent discussion.
  • In the email, explain that the book club will happen once a month and that everyone will be asked to choose a book, purchase the book for the group, and lead the discussion based on a rotating schedule. In our experience, buying a bulk amount of books at one time is better than having each family buy their book separately every month.
  • I would also suggest that the parent reads the book with their child to ensure the child fully understands it and can have a meaningful discussion with their friends. This is especially true for younger children.
  • If you send out the introductory email, you should be the first to choose the book and lead the meeting. This way, you can set the tone for how future book clubs will be run (there's a sample email attached at the bottom of the Hub).

Step 2: Decide on a Time and a Place

  • We have our book club on the first Monday of every month, which makes it easy to remember and to plan for. Choose a time and day to meet, and keep it as consistent as possible every month.
  • You can either host the book club at a local library, the school library, or at your home. We like hosting ours at the public library, and have found that hosting at peoples' homes can be difficult because most families have other siblings that tend to be distracting, but it might work for your group. You just have to ask!

My Favorite Book Club Book for Kids

Step 3: Choose the First Book

  • After finalizing your group, it's time to choose the first book and decide on activities for the hour and the materials you might need.
  • If you are starting in 2nd or 3rd grade, I recommend a grade level chapter book that's on the easier side for the kids to read. Since this is their first book club, they should feel like this is a fun experience instead of a huge chore. For our second grade book club, we chose The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet from the series The Secrets of Droon. It is about 70 pages, but has large print and is fairly easy reading for most second graders. It also appeals to both boys and girls, which is something you might want to consider when choosing a book.
  • If you need help finding appropriate books, you can check out the Scholastic Book Wizard for Teachers site that has an index of grade appropriate books. I also recommend Goodreads.

Step 4: Preparing for a Successful Book Club

Since you chose the first book, you will be in charge of leading the book club and developing activities for the kids. You can start the book club with 10-15 minutes of discussion prompted by some pre-determined questions about the book (more on discussion questions below).

You'll get better discussion results if your child leads, asking the questions and calling on the other students. Of course if your child is young, they may need a lot of help with this.

Unlike adult discussion groups, which can last for hours and hours, after some questions at the beginning the kids will be ready for a book-related activity that allows them to stand up and use some other forms of creativity. Some activity ideas are:

  • Printing out a few short descriptions from the book on small pieces of paper and letting the children choose one to draw.
  • Having the children act out a few parts of the book in either small groups or as a whole group.
  • Dividing the children into small groups and guiding each one to create a Venn diagram or character web of the characters in the book.
  • Create a film strip of events that happened in the book, splitting the book into parts and giving one to each group, or having the kids work together on doing the whole book.

It's a good idea to have a short tutorial on the activity for the kids before letting them start - don't assume that all children will know how to do something.

You might also want to enlist the help of other parents at this point in the book club. At least one or two adults should be involved with each group of students.

Examples of Book Club Questions for Kids

Depending on the age of your child, you should have at least 10 discussion questions ready, and probably more just to be safe. You and your child can choose the questions together beforehand. Focus on picking open-ended questions that cause the children to think and that have more than one answer.

A good way to start the discussion is by asking the kids to put their thumbs up if they liked the book, to the side if they thought it was just so-so, and down if they didn't like it. This question gets the kids focused and moving their body right at the beginning of the book club.

Here are some other ideas for discussion questions to start off with:

  1. Would you give this book a thumbs up, down, or to the side (if you just thought it was okay)? Show the group.
  2. Who in the book do you most relate to? Why?
  3. What would you do if (relate to something that happened in the book)?
  4. If there was a sequel to this book, what do you think would happen?
  5. Are any characters in the book like characters from other books that you've read?
  6. What was one of the problems that happened in the book? How would you have solved it?
  7. Did any of the characters change in the story? How so?
  8. Would you read another book by this author? Why?
  9. How did the story make you feel? (You can talk about a specific part or in general)
  10. In what ways are you similar to or different from any of the characters in the book?
  11. What characters in the book were good? Why?
  12. What characters were bad? Why?
  13. Now that we've talked a little about the book, do you still give it the same thumbs up, side, or down? Show us and tell us why.
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Structuring Your Club: Developing Book Club Rules

Just like it's important to let the kids lead the discussion, they should also be active in helping organize the group and give it structure. In the first meeting, have your child help lead the group to establish some ground rules.

As you establish each rule, write it down on a piece of paper that you can bring to every meeting and go over briefly at the beginning to remind everyone of what they've agreed on.

Here are some of the ones we've used in the past:

  1. Come prepared to discuss the book.
  2. Allow the student leader to lead the meeting.
  3. Be good listeners.
  4. Raise your hand if you would like to talk.
  5. Be respectful of our friends.
  6. Ask questions.
  7. Feel free to disagree with your friends, just do it respectfully.
  8. Have fun!

Step 5: It's Time to Meet

It's the big day! Time for book club to begin. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the different parts of a successful club:

  • Get to the venue 15 minutes early to move around tables and set up a circle for the kids and parents to sit in. You might also want to get a white board or flip chart to write down anything you'll need for the lesson.
  • Once everyone arrives, go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves.This is a good segway into deciding on and going over the rules, but don't spend more than 5 minutes on this.
  • After you've decided on some rules (see example ones above), write them down and bring them each time to go over briefly before club begins.
  • Let the discussion and fun begin!
  • After you've asked a few questions, go over your brief lesson that introduces the activity, if there is one, and split the kids up into groups. The activity should take about 10-15 minutes.
  • Come back into the group and have the children share their activity.
  • If you have time, ask a few more questions from the list.
  • Before you pass out the snack, have the next book club leader discuss the book that they have chosen and distribute the books as everyone leaves. (Be sure to send the parent a reminder to bring the book to the next book club meeting.)
  • Pass out snack and discuss the leader schedule for the next book clubs (after the one next month).
  • You might want to consider starting a Google or Facebook group as a way to keep everyone organized. This, of course, depends on what your group members are most comfortable and familiar with.

Let us know how it goes in the comment section if you decide to have a book club with your kids. The most important thing to remember is to have fun and make the experience as enjoyable as possible for the kids to help foster a lifelong love of reading!

Email Example for Recruiting Book Club Members

Hello 2nd Grade Families,

I hope you're doing well. I had the idea recently to start a book club for our kids and wanted to pass it by you all to see if you might be interested in a project like this.

The book club will meet once a month (hopefully at our school library) to discuss a book and engage in different book-related activities. The overall goal, of course, is to encourage the kids to discuss and enjoy different kinds of literature.

Participation would entail reading a book with your child once a month and attending the meetings together as well as choosing a book and leading one of the meetings. (That would be once a year if we have 12 kids.) The leader is also in charge of purchasing the book for the group and distributing.

We are aiming to involve around 12-14 kids.

The child that chose the book will lead the discussion, and I and my child will lead the first one to demonstrate. We can choose the order of book club leaders later, as well as discuss how to help choose a good book for 2nd graders that leads to good discussions.

If you're curious, the general format of the book club will be to start with discussion of the book (which the kids have read together with their parents), then to engage in a short activity relating to the book (could be acting parts out, doing a craft, etc.), and then ending with a small snack that is connected to the book in some way.

Please let me know if you are interested and what nights of the week work for you (possibly the 2nd Monday of the month.)

Would you and your 2nd grader be interested in joining our book club?

Thanks,

Your Name

Comments

Kela Makwetla on May 13, 2019:

Thanks for this information, this will assist in starting a community book club in disadvantaged areas where I reside.

Clare Kennedy on September 25, 2018:

thank you for this!! i'm excited to help my first grader start one :D

Nenafloripa@gmail.com on August 14, 2018:

Thank you so much for all tip and exempl for book club. I will open a book club for my son friends. ;)

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 02, 2017:

I think you're on the right track getting book club questions on the author's website. You could also try their Facebook page. My other suggestion would be to google "book club discussion questions *name of book". Thanks and please let us know if you find any good resources.

Annette on October 02, 2017:

Thank you so much for all this information! I'm on my third child's bookclub but I still got lots of new information. One question - I like to find discussion questions (usually not too hard) and printables (crosswords, word scrambles, word finds, vocabulary sheets, etc) for our book of the month. It seems increasingly harder to find free printables for kids books. Do you have any suggestions for applicable websites? I sometimes find them on the author or publisher website but not always. Thanks!!

A kid on September 25, 2017:

I hope this will help me with my book club

linda on February 19, 2017:

thanks for helping me !!!1

Jay Dickens on May 30, 2013:

Great idea! With summer vacation starting tomorrow, this looks like a fun way to sneak in some education.

Lori on October 19, 2012:

What a wonderful hub! Thanks so much for this it has helped me organize and direct my current after school book club!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 03, 2011:

Hi Robert, thanks for the comment. I'm glad the guide was useful!

Karen, feel free to act like it was all your own idea! ;) Thanks for leaving the comment!

Support Med., reading with your kids is one of the biggest influencers of children learning to love to read. I'm so glad that you read and talk about the books with your family!

Habee, I bet your grandkids would love a book club! We are actually going to our meeting tonight. Georgia really loves the experience! Cheers!

Holle Abee from Georgia on October 03, 2011:

Wonderful idea! My grandkids love to read, so this would be right up their alley. Your daughter is beautiful!! Voted up.

Support Med. from Michigan on August 23, 2011:

Very interesting hub! Great for helping children maintain a joy for reading. My family and I do this with each other, as I often read what they are reading - and we'll talk about it. voted and rated.

Karen on July 15, 2011:

You are supermom, Robin! I love this! I'm stealing every idea here, and I may or may not pretend that I thought of it myself. :)

Sonya Medema on June 29, 2011:

Robin! It is so timely that you posted this now! Charlotte and her cousin were just talking about starting a book club. This will get us focused - thank so much! I hope you are well.

Robert Veight on May 13, 2011:

Robin, what a great hub! You have provided a very useful idea along with a well-laid out plan and set of recommendations to get started. I have bookmarked this hub for future reference. Thanks.

Rosefall from Ohio! on April 23, 2011:

I like this idea. It encourages reading at a very young age! Great hub!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on April 14, 2011:

Thanks for the comments, anjali and jpcmc. I agree, the "why" is the most important part of the story. Open ended questions get the discussions rolling and are a great way to help kids start to think about the events and characters.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on April 13, 2011:

This is really awesome and useful. I love books and I want the next generation to appreciate them as well. This is a great hub.

anjali on April 04, 2011:

What is the name of the best friend? etc,) but the main goal is to get the kids discussing the books. Not just what was your favorite part, but WHY?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 31, 2011:

Hi Mrs. Menagerie,

You should try it with your third grader and their friends. They can continue for many years and eventually do it on their own. It's a great way for kids to really discuss books in a fun environment! Thanks for reading!

Mrs. Menagerie from The Zoo on March 30, 2011:

I have a first and third grader and this sounds like an awesome idea. My third grader loves to read and I think he would really get into a book club. Thanks for the idea.

laine harrison on March 29, 2011:

i remember my very own book club. thank you for this hub!

brianyin on March 16, 2011:

yes,it is usefull

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 15, 2011:

Hi Peggy,

I did love teaching kids, but it is also fun teaching adults! Usually there are fewer behavioral issues. ;) We do have a few rowdy Hubbers, but they make life more interesting! ;) Thanks for reading!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 15, 2011:

Hi Robin,

I'll just bet that you were a terrific teacher! Book clubs for children (and their participating parents) is a great idea. You have nicely laid out a workable format within this hub for others to follow. Sparking an interest in reading at a young age benefits those youngsters the rest of their lives in so many ways. Useful and up rating!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on March 11, 2011:

A wonderful idea. Wish you luck.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 10, 2011:

Ohhhh! Organizing something like this through the library would be wonderful! If you decide to do it, let us know!

Sam Little from Wheelwright KY on March 10, 2011:

Nice stuff. I run a library so this might be very useful.

Dr irum on March 10, 2011:

That's very nice informative hub .Great knowledge , So i rate up .

maria.rose from Florida on March 09, 2011:

Good Robin! your hub is very nice & energetic I really appreciate it. It is full knowledge and I shall also try this message that you are giving by your hub is very interesting and heart touching & getting this we amazingly said Wahoo! Thanks a lot to share this information with us........

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 09, 2011:

Hi Lily Rose! Thanks for the comment. You could do a modified version for Kinders. I would have less children (maybe only 6-8), a picture book that parents read with their kids, and have it be shorter (maybe only 30 min.) It would be a great way to get things started! It sounds like you have a great reader on your hands! ;)

Lily Rose from A Coast on March 09, 2011:

What a fantastic idea, Robin! I never would have thought of a book club for this age, but it's perfect for those that love to read (which I firmly believe all kids should!)

My oldest would probably love to be a part of a club like this but she's only in kindergarten (yet reading Junie B. Jones books already!) so we've got a couple of years...I'm bookmarking this, though, and I will come back to it to organize her first book club when the time is right!