Have you been considering helping your homeschooler start his or her own book club? Book clubs, or as we call them, “Party Schools,” are an excellent way to introduce your child to the joys of literature.
When I started my first book club for middle school girls, I thought it would be a great way for my daughter to build friendships. I have since realized that so much more can be gained from starting a book club. It is a wonderful way to build friendships, but it’s also a great way to help your child find a lifelong friend in books/reading. By choosing a variety of genres to explore within the bookclub, your child will also be able to gain exposure to all different kinds of writing styles, information and perspectives, which truly broadens worldview!
While I may be biased, I believe everyone should start a book club for all these reasons and more. But how does one go about launching a book club for homeschoolers? Follow these steps as a guide to starting a book club for your homeschooler.
Decide on the type of group.
I designed our first bookclub group specifically for middle schoolers. Due to the nature of the middle school crowd, I chose to make this group for girls only. In my experience, children of this age are more free with their opinions when members of the opposite sex aren’t sitting around the table.
I first chose a few girls from our local homeschooling group. Our first meeting involved seven girls. Most of them were acquaintances, and a few of them were already friends. They all gathered for tea and discussion at our kick-off, Secret Garden Party. From that first book club meeting, the girls all became fast friends. My plan to help my daughter build friendships with girls her age worked (and they were secretly learning from amazing literature)!
Invite members to join your book club.
When I decided to start our second book club, I felt much more at ease with the process and more comfortable with a larger group. I put a Facebook post on our local homeschool page. Then I started a Facebook group for the book club and referred anyone who was interested in joining.
We invited friends who weren’t involved in our local homeschooling group to join, too. We’ve had children from as far as an hour away travel to the book club. Don’t be hesitant to ask people to join. After the first meeting, most of the students and their families were completely sold on the idea of a book club, and any anxiety about it was over.
Determine the books you will read.
When planning the books, I tried not to specify an age. Instead, I told the parents that the book choices would be within a certain reading age level, and they could determine if their child would be able to read the book alone or if it would work better as a family read-aloud. To help them make the decision in advance, I made and distributed a complete list of books that we would be choosing from throughout the year.
Book lists can range from twenty to a hundred books (or at least mine did!). The list gives the parents lots of reading options. Sarah McKenzie has a great list of novels for the younger elementary years and Heidi at Starts at 8 has a huge list of engaging books for middle school.
Set up a mode of communication.
It’s important to be able to communicate with the parents of the book club members. As I mentioned previously, I started a closed Facebook group and added anyone who was interested in our book club. From the group, I was able to convey my ideas of what book club would be. I posted the book list, a calendar of dates and times, and anything else I found relevant (like sales on books we might be using). I was also able to post events to our book club meetings and invite the group to attend.
For those not on social media, emails or text messages are an effective way to inform members of book club meetings and plans.
Make a calendar and invite others to help plan.
If I had tried to organize every book club, every month, for two groups, I would have burnt out quickly. Instead, I made a calendar of dates and times of all the book clubs for the school year. I chose the first book to read and designated myself as the host of that book club. Then I opened the calendar up to all the other moms. Each mom could choose a book and a month to host. This was not a requirement, but entirely voluntary. I even offered my house as a location if a host mom didn’t want to use her home.
Once the moms who were willing to host chose their months and their books, I filled in the rest of the open spots. My goal is always to keep the book club going strong, so I’m happy to host multiple times in a year. However, I have found that the moms enjoy the “Party School” atmosphere almost as much as the kids and are eager to host.
Invite members to the book club.
After the books, hosts, and locations were determined, I created an official event for meeting of each book club and invited the members of the groups. I also added a link to the book on the event page to make it easy for the parents to find the correct book. This has been especially helpful since some books have abridged and movie versions that can cause confusion. By making sure to “advertise” for each specific bookclub event, you’ll remind all of the interested individuals on social media which books are upcoming and give them a chance to get ready and excited to participate.
Create an atmosphere of fun.
Book club doesn’t have to be formal or rigid. Our book clubs are a way to have some fun as a group and expand on what the kids have read that month. Usually, the meetings start with snacks and book discussion and end with an activity or a movie. There isn’t a strict schedule to follow. We just do what feels like a natural extension of learning. Below, you’ll find a couple of specific examples of fun activities we did to go with certain books!
At our Tales of Despereaux book club, we ran with the idea of illegal soup and spent the afternoon learning how to make vegetable soup.
At our Nim’s Island book club, we ate tropical fruit and made islands from salt dough.
There is no right or wrong way to host a book club. The goal is for the kids to have fun, enjoy each others company and ideas, and become excited about the next book on their reading journey!
What are your favorite books, and how have you created a party school atmosphere around literature? Please tell us in the comments! And if you’re considering starting a book club, be sure to find out why you need to start a book club for your homeschooler!