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tell me about your children's book clubs (or discussion groups)

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Our hs group is starting two groups (upper elementary and junior high) and while I would love to use something established like the junior great books, we need to go with something lower cost. I have dozens of discussion guides, but I've seen so many of these things fizzle in the past because the kids are passive with only one or two talkative children.

Please, share your insight on what works and what doesn't.

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Well, I started a book club for younger elementary kids, ages 6-9. Our library has book club discussion sets, so you can check out 15 books as one big set. Each book has a different serial number, so you can assign it to each kid and know which books have come back to the set.


We meet once a month, and since it's younger kids, we do a book-related craft and have a book-related snack after a brief discussion.


ETA: Each family takes a turn choosing the book, craft and snack. That parent leads the discussion for that month, and in an organic way, the parents seem to try to get the more talkative ones to back off and they directly address questions to the less talkative ones. So far, the kids seem to enjoy it.

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I can only speak for the younger set. I'm currently running my second early elementary book club.


The first one was "Around the World with Magic Tree House." That club had a geography theme - I gave each kid a "passport" and each session they got a "passport stamp" for the new country. Each week we followed the same basic schedule:


1. Put mini copies of the book cover on the map and timeline. Because of the geography theme, we also talked about how we would travel from one place to the next, which ocean we were crossing, etc.)


2. Talk about the book: did they like it, which parts did they like best/least, did any parts surprise them, did the story remind them of anything.


3. Usually I gave a brief mini lesson about a literary topic, like setting, characterization, conflict, plot climax. We'd review these at later meetings by talking about what the conflict or climax was in the latest book.


4. We'd learn a little about the country and do an active craft or activity. For example, for Dingoes at Dinnertime they collaborated on a big "Aboriginal cave painting." For the ninjas book we played a game where the kids tried to sneak past a ninja master.


My current book club is called "heroes of history." Each week the kids read a biography - they take turns picking the famous person, and members can read any biography they like. That helps deal with the differing reading levels. At these meetings, we:


1. Place the individual on the map and timeline.


2. Have a brief lesson about the historical and cultural context. (For example, when we studied Clara Barton this part included a very brief introduction to the Civil War and a bit about women's roles in the 19th century.)


3. Recap the person's life, usually including acting part of it out. Discuss what we thought of the books we read.


4. Do an activity or active craft sponsored by the family of the kid who chose the historical figure.

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I've been leading a book club for middle school age kids and I love it! We meet once a week with kids from our co-op. I think the key to making it interesting has been facilitating thinking questions that force them to make connections across the text and with their own lives. So many discussion guides I've looked through strike me as horribly dull because they focus on basic narration of the book or they use books to teach voacabulary, etc....all good skills but no fun for a book club, IMHO. I did learn the hard way that I need to get input from all the parents before choosing books for us to read, to make sure that they are new to the kids and that no one has strenuous objections to the content. (The Hive helped me sort that out when I assigned The Giver by Lois Lowry.) Our very talkative group tends to talk over each other, so I am also focusing on trying to help the kids develop skills in group discussion. Sometimes I need to put as much work into planning that aspect as I do into creating the questions for discussion.

Have fun with your club!

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our kids are mostly in the lower grades---and all are on a different reading level so that's the only bump I've come across-some of the books that our club picks are longer and harder for some kids and my son has lost interest in it all....we try to do a craft or "something" to go along with the book but sometimes it's hard-like the one I hosted a few days ago-I could only think of coloring pages so I printed some out and had the kids color while I asked questions and we all discussed the book....advice would be to stay with something that all the kids can read easily....

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I have run several. For the younger ages (up until high school), we did mother-son and mother-daughter groups. This took the pressure off the host. We had a rule that everyone would bring two discussion questions and put them into a bowl. Each child would pick a question from the bowl and he(she) would get first crack at answering the question. Then we would open that question up to the group. The moms were able to help tease out some responses from the shy kids and help the more talkative ones hold back. We had to ban certain all-too-common questions (i.e. "Who is your favorite character?" "What was your favorite scene?"). Although we did allow one boy's creative attempt to work around that rule ... "Who is your preferred protagonist?" We had to give him brownie points for the attempt:). We also had to help them understand the difference between comprehension questions and discussion questions as well as open-ended questions versus "right answer" questions. The moms often helped out by looking for questions from various online study guides.


One thing we are starting with my daughter's group is a pre-discussion using some of the techniques from Deconstructing Penguins. We pick one aspect of the book (character, plot, setting) and study it in more depth.

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My dd participates in a preteen book club for 9-13 yos. I've led the club a few times and listened in a few times while others led.


My dd strongly dislikes straightforward knowledge and comprehension questions. She views these as a teacher's attempt to see if kids really read the book. The organizer of our group specifically asks leaders to move beyond that level of questions for this age group. Many discussion guides seem to focus on that type of question. I usually google the title of our chosen book until I come up with good questions.


Guided by the adult, the kids discuss parts of the book like theme and character development, and also give their opinions on what happened. There are also open ended questions like which character kids related to, how the book made them feel, why the book might have won the Newbery, etc. Frequently the kids reveal personal things about themselves as they relate to what a character went through. My dd loves these discussions, even when she didn't enjoy the book.


There will always be a few kids who more or less answer every question and carry the discussion. I think that is okay as long as others have the option of sharing. If a quiet kid looks like they might be ready to speak, I'll always call on them first. Occasionally, I ask a question and go around the circle letting everyone answer. Ex: Which character could you most relate to? In our group, only 1 or 2 kids will decline to answer such a question.


The hard part is choosing books that the kids get excited about.


I'm subbing to this thread for more ideas. :bigear: Have fun with your club!

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I co-lead a parent-child book club. We have 8 moms and 12 kids in 1-4th (maybe one in 5th?) grades, plus a couple older siblings who listen in on the discussion.


We use Deconstructing Penguins as our big picture guide and Teaching the Classics as our more specific method. We draw and fill in a story chart on the white board during the discussion.


My sister and I definitely lead the group. We teach the elements of analysis, and we ask questions (often using the list of Socratic dialogue questions from Teaching the Classics). For the past four months we've read a picture book at the meeting and then discussed it. I felt like this was an EXCELLENT way to get started. The book was fresh in all of our minds, we could refer back to it for 'clues,' and the picture books were so much easier to analyze. This next month we will be discussing a single chapter of a longer book. The next month we will be discussing a very short chapter book.


You can read my book club notes on my blog. Be sure to scroll down for the first post, as it has the most information.

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Our reading club was a little different from the others posted here.


It was for girls in elementary grades, and ended up being grades 2-5. That is a wide ability range, but it didn't matter.


Instead of picking one book that everyone read and then discussed, we picked a genre for each month. One month was mystery, another was biography/autobiography, another was science fiction, one was historical fiction, reader's theater (we pre-assigned parts), etc. There was something for every taste. We gave out a list of each month and the genre so people could plan.


Each girl read a book in that genre, and send the title and author to us so we could compile a master list. We then copied it and passed it out at Reader's Club so each girl went home with a book list of books they might like to read.


During Reader's Club, each girl gave a short presentation about her book, the plot, an interesting or favorite character, what she liked and did not like about the book, anything important or interesting she learned, why she picked the book, does she recommend the book and why, etc. We also had a time for questions and answers, and the girls got into doing that and asked good questions. Sometimes we asked them to prepare a visual to go along with their presentation, and when we did the biography genre, we asked them to dress up and present the book as though they were the person in the biography. They really enjoyed that. Sometimes they did a poster board, some did a diorama, some brought in an object that was pertinent to the book, etc.


So this way we could have a wide ability level and the girls were introduced to books they may not have known about, and most the girls went on to read books that others recommended.

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