Brewing Up Book Club Magic!

Display Books - Adventure
Display Books – Adventure

This summer my library offered a unique book club called READ Quest for the third year.  READ Quest is for entering 3rd and 4th graders and focuses on genres–Fantasy, Mystery, Humor and Adventure in Fact & Fiction.  The program encourages kids to read for the fun of it, discovering the enormous benefits of reading for pleasure.  The children who participate don’t all read the same book, but choose a book for themselves from each week’s genre.  In this way we are able to accommodate a wide variety of reading levels and interests.  Kids can sign up for any one or more of the genres.

We decided to target 3rd and 4th graders because it is such a critical time in children’s development as readers–when they shift from learning to read to reading to learn.  Focusing on genre and series fiction and non-fiction, providing reading choice and presenting a physically active program also helped encourage boys to participate.  And they did–we sometimes had almost twice as many boys as girls!  This format also makes the program attractive to both reluctant and enthusiastic readers.

This year we were awarded an $8,200 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant to expand the program, increasing the dates offered from 4 to 8, adding a community event, and buying additional copies of titles from our recommended reading lists.  We also added one adult volunteer and 14 teen volunteers, both male and female, to act as reading role models.  The inclusion of these volunteers turned out to have pretty magical results!

Fun with Books

  • The group (~ 25 kids, ~ 5 volunteers, 1 librarian–myself) met
    Readers Theater
    Readers Theater

    once a week for 75 minutes.  Kids registered ahead of time.  Booklists with suggested reading were on our website.  I sent an instructive email to parents to help the kids prepare.

  • We encouraged kids to read a book from the featured genre before the program so they had the opportunity to book talk it in a small group.  Some created a project ahead of time (book review, drawing, sculpture, short film, etc.) which was shared with the group and displayed in the library all summer.
  • The weekly programs looked like this:
    • I read aloud from the featured genre (picture book or single chapter).  This was enlivened by puppets, live music, and other techniques to add what Jim Trelease calls a “third dimension“.
    • Brief discussion of the reading.
    • Lively activity such as a drama game to explore the reading’s characters, plot or theme.
    • Small  breakout groups, led by myself and the teens.  Kids and teens book talk what they’ve read.
    • I book talk from the genre.
    • Kids descend on the books set out on tables–many kids check out a stack of books they’ve just discovered from all of the book talking!

+ Kids

Kids enjoying read aloud
Kids enjoying read aloud

To determine the program’s effectiveness we administered 2 surveys to the children who participated and their parents–one before the program and one soon after, with a 3rd to come at the end of the school year.  Parents and children reported that:

  • Entertaining and active elements of the program really engaged the children.
  • Teen helpers inspired the kids to read.
  • Exposure to a variety of genres broadened the children’s reading interests.
  • Children fell in love with new series and read more during the summer as a result.

Besides this, I noticed that children returning week after week became increasingly comfortable in the library and felt a stronger connection to it.  I believe that this was a result of being known by name (they wore name tags), having a great time and the opportunity to talk and listen and get to know each other, as well as the teen helpers and their librarians.

+ Teens

Teens greet participants
Teens greet participants

In our community we have a program called Project Cornerstone which promotes children’s and teen’s healthy development through the Search Institute’s developmental assets approach.  One of the reasons I became so excited to work with the teens was that I realized, as the program progressed, just how beneficial the inclusion of the teen volunteers was for the children, and how much the teens were gaining as well.  The teens were reading right along with the children and were eager to share with the kids what they had read.  And they loved talking with the children about favorite books they had read when they were younger, and recommending stories they had great affection for.

A few of the developmental assets that READ Quest cultivates in teen volunteers are:

  • Community Values Youth:  Young person perceives that adults in the community value youth.
  • Youth as Resources:  Young people are given useful roles in the community.
  • Caring:  Young person places high value on helping other people.
  • Reading for Pleasure:  Young person reads for pleasure three or more hours per week.

= Magic!

One of my favorite pieces of feedback from our after-program survey was from a 7-year-old who had just arrived from another country:

“I liked that you got to take some books and share what you read.  I liked that you had big kids helping and they were really kind.  There were fun stories and games.”

Much of what we do in the library promotes kindness, but inviting teens to contribute in a significant way to a valuable program draws the best from our teens, and has a marvelous impact on the children.  The teens’ sense of self-worth and leadership skills increase as they experience being role models and small group leaders.  And for the children, reading’s cool factor grows as they hear the teens’ enthusiasm for books–a benefit that’s hard to overstate.

Seeing wonderful outcomes, such as what resulted from the magical mix of fun with books + kids + teens, keeps my job continually fresh and gratifying.

— All photos courtesy of blogger


Our guest blogger today is Sharon McClintock. Sharon is a Children’s Librarian at the City of Mountain View Public Library in Mountain View, CA. Sharon can be reached at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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


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