The Nonconformist Book Club

Are you running a successful book club at the library or your local school? If your book club lacks a spark, what model do you follow? Perhaps it is time to think outside the box and change your modus operandi.

I have run numerous book clubs for youth including a book club for differently abled teens. They have all been unique even though they have one common denominator, reading a book.  The distinction relates to the age group of the book club members, their personal features, or the goals of the program. Here you have three models that seek to connect and respond to the needs of our clients.

Book Club for Differently Abled Teens:

Image of headphonesIn this book club I worked with teens and their teachers once a month. Reading a book posed a challenge for some of the members, so we used early chapter audiobooks instead.

Then, the teachers would use classroom time to play the audio book selected for the class.  Later, we would discuss the book in our session with a set of prepared questions. My challenge was to find the appropriate book to stimulate this age group with books that were not too childlike, but had simple plots, characters and stories that appeal to the teens.

Beginner Readers Book Club:

This weekly book club targets kids in first to third grades. Since it is a weekly program, kids read an easy reader book during the first twenty minutes of the program and then write a book report. This program seeks to:

  • Develop children’s ability to articulate thoughts in writing using the grammatical rules taught at school.
  • Practice reading comprehension
    • Fiction: be able to refer to the setting of a story, the characters, the problem and the solution.
    • Non-fiction: Refer to facts learned from the book.
  • Promote homework habits such as watching hands, holding pencils correctly, and concentrating.

Girl reading a bookThis is a popular program for caregivers because it goes beyond reading and connects with school competencies.  However, to make it appealing for kids, I select a number of easy reader books – fiction and non-fiction – and lay them down on the table where kids can choose what they want to read.

Caregivers are invited to bring book reports forms from their schools so children can submit these reports to their teachers.

Kids Book Club for Ages 8-12:

This is a monthly book club that follows a regular book club setting. The first two years this club thrived, with more than fifteen members participating in each session. This year, I noticed kids were disenchanted so I tried a couple of different approaches.  The last method included a book talk.

Image of a varieity of chapter books on a table which will be used for the book club
Image courtesy of Kathia Ibacache

Twenty-two books from 2017 were laid down on the table. Their cover contained a white paper signaling one subject connected to the story. Kids were invited to browse these books and choose the one they wanted to read. This time, kids were not going to answer questions about the book. Instead, they will try to convince us to read or not to read that title through a book talk.

Kids reacted with fascination with this layout because it not only empowered them with decision making, but also astounded them that they would not be reading the same book.

This approach also builds interest in your new titles and improves your circulation numbers.

Our next meeting is in November, if you are interested, I can tell you how it goes.

Some peers go to schools to deliver a book club, some book clubs can be online. Regardless of your design, we want to keep the enthusiasm high. Therefore, if your approach needs assistance, try something unique. After all, we are in the book business and what better way to connect with your clients than through a book club.


Headshot of Kathia Ibacache
Photo courtesy of Kathia Ibacache

Kathia Ibacache, is a Youth Services Librarian at Simi Valley Public Library. She has worked as a music teacher and Early Music Performer, and earned her MLIS from San José State University and a DMA from the University of Southern California. She loves to read realistic fiction and horror stories, and has a special place in her heart for film music.

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

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  1. Laura Jenkins

    Love these variations! Here’s one more:

    Many years ago, I picked up this terrific idea at a YALSA urban librarians meeting. A Cliffhanger Book Club lets kids come to a meeting without having to read a book in advance. I choose a book I think will be enticing, and read the first few chapters aloud – then stop at a cliffhanger. Kids who really want to know what happens next will check out copies and read on their own. When I do this program, we usually have a little conversation about predictions and why the book is appealing (or not). It gives you a little more time than a book talk to engage some potential readers, and it’s just really fun to read aloud to older kids.

    1. Kathia Ibacache

      Hi Laura,

      Great idea. How long is your cliffhanger book club session in general? Do the kids have a turn reading as well?

      I will try it out!

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kathy Wellington

    Re the Book Talk format: did you present it at the end of an earlier book club meeting? Or were the titles on permanent display throughout the month? Please let us know how it worked out.

    1. Kathia Ibacache

      My apologies, I did not see your message.
      Around three months ago I noticed kids were disenchanted with the normal format of the book club, which was that we all read the same book, I prepared a questionnaire and the kids participated answering questions about the book. So, I collected more than 15 newly published kids novels (all different titles) and prepared to bring them to the last meeting of the old format. So without letting the kids know of the change, the books were spread around the table we use for discussion letting the kids wonder about them. When we finished the book discussion for that month, the kids were explained that now they had to choose a book from the table, read it, and prepare a book talk to convince us or not to read the chosen book. Once the kids selected their books, they proceeded to check it out with their library cards.

      We met last Tuesday for our second meeting after the new format had been implemented. All the kids read the books and they did very well with their book talk.

      The original idea was to rotate these new books among us as we got interested through the book talks, however, some kids did not show interest in any of the books presented and had to choose a book from the shelves.

      I would be delighted to talk to you more about this new format, if you would like to call me. The good thing about this new format is that you are using the books on your shelves, instead of purchasing 10 or more books of the same title that will not circulate more after your book club is done. In my old format, I would select popular books, but even with that, some of them still have multiple copies seating there.
      Please call me so we can talk about some challenges I see as well. Best,

      My number: 805-526-1735×5021

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