Books

The Reading Pros

The Reading Pros is a youth book club (grades 3-6) that meets monthly at the Ellsworth Public Library.  Here’s a look at what goes on during our meetings and some tips for starting a book club at your library.

5 tips for starting a youth book club

1.  Find the books

I actually re-started the book club at my library, which means I was lucky enough to have a bookcase full of books at my disposal.  The books were purchased through a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.  If you don’t have multiple copies of books, don’t let that discourage you from starting a book club.  You could obtain books through Interlibrary Loan, write a grant, or ask for donations.

2.  Serve snacks

The Reading Pros meet after school, so snacks are definitely essential.  I try to serve something that goes with the book, such as Chinese food for The Westing Game,or blue M&Ms for Chasing Vermeer.  The snacks are funded by the Friends of the Library and by donations from the community.

3.  Use activities to enhance the reading experience

It’s one thing to read and discuss Action Jackson, Jackson Pollock’s biography; it’s quite another to actually throw paint on a canvas (or, in this case, a white sheet) and then hang it up in the library.  Book related activities definitely appeal to kinetic learners and they encourage book club members to explore a different aspect of that month’s reading.

4.  Make it work with their schedules

The Reading Pros meet the first Friday of the month from 2:00-3:30 p.m. and the consistent schedule has really helped the attendance.  The kids are already involved in a variety of after school activities, so we planned book club during a time that wouldn’t compete with extra-curricular programs. Even though we meet the same time every month, these kids are extremely busy, and parents seem to appreciate a reminder email a week before the meeting.

5.  Have fun and let go

I want book club to be a place where kids feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and their love of reading with others.  I do make an agenda which includes book related activities and discussion questions, but sometimes we don’t get to do everything on my list, and that’s okay. This is their club, and I want to give them as much control as possible.  I am not there to grade them on their responses or to make sure they’ve read the book.  However, I do serve as a moderator, and I make sure that everyone has a chance to talk.

Thanks to a grant from the Rose and Samuel Rudman Library Trust through the Maine Community Foundation, we have 15 copies of 5 new titles to add to the book club collection.  As you can tell, the Reading Pros are quite excited about the books they’ll be discussing this fall.  Rock on, young readers!

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Our guest blogger today is Abby Morrow. Abby works in the Youth Services Department at the Ellsworth Public Library.  She also blogs about library life in Maine at www.thelupinelibrarian.me.

 

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

7 comments

  1. Janet Thompson

    Excellent list of tips Ms. Abby, thanks. I would add that if you don’t have friends supporting the snacks, those can be very simplified. In fact, for our youngest book clubbers, 1st – 3rd grader, they tended to get too wound up regardless of what was served, so they’ve been reduced to the proverbial bread & water. I give them Smarties(R) as they leave (also safe for younger siblings), and offer bottled water during discussions. I think the activities are a huge draw. But the kids tell me they like the questions best. These are simple plot-related questions mostly, presented on an Ellison shape related to the story. For Bink & Gollie we fished for the questions with a a magnet on a string at the end of a short dowel rod. Questions were on goldfish shapes in a fish bowl. Somehow, there always seems to be a game of duck, duck, goose at the end. We change the names to something related to the story as in George, George….MARTHA.

    1. Abby

      Thanks, Janet for the book club ideas! I think it would be great to start a book club for 1st-3rd graders. I agree that the kids are usually most interested in the questions-they usually can’t wait for an opportunity to talk about the book 🙂

  2. Mary Morrow

    Great ideas for starting up a youth-oriented book club, Abby! I think snacks are a ‘must’ for any group encounter; it fosters a sense of nurturing and sharing. Rock on, Reading Pros of Ellsworth, ME!!

    1. Abby

      Yes, the snacks are always a big hit and the kids love to guess what I’ll serve…when we read Chasing Vermeer, one book club member said “I KNOW we’ll have blue M&Ms today!” They know me too well 🙂

  3. Sharon McClintock

    Great ideas–I especially like your suggestion for the Action Jackson activity and the story-themed snacks!

    Do you have sign ups or is it a drop in program? How many children do you usually have attending? Do you meet only during the school year, not the summer? Thanks so much for sharing your tips, Abby!

    1. Abby

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for your interest! The Action Jackson book discussion was a huge hit. I was surprised at how much the kids already knew about the artist and their willingness to discuss the question “what is art?”

      We sent out a flyer to all fourth and fifth graders when we restarted the book club. Ten kids responded and some of them still attend the meetings. It’s a drop-in program, so signing up isn’t necessary, but if I hear a child or parent who sounds interested in attending a meeting, I try to get their email address so they can stay informed about what’s coming up. The group has grown mostly through word of mouth…we had 13 kids at the June meeting and I think there are three more kids who may join us soon.

      We do meet through the summer. Attendance tends to drop off to 5-8 kids due to the fact that some kids attend a local day camp, and others are on vacation. The summer sessions tend to be more laid back. As a smaller group, it’s easier to spend more time discussing the book. I also try to incorporate outdoor activities whenever the weather allows 🙂

      Do you have a youth book club at your library? I would love to hear about your programs for kids!

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