When my children were preschool age, we started reading chapter books aloud. I loved the idea of ending each book with a celebration to reflect on what we read and invite my children into fun experiences related to the themes in the story. After doing this on our own a few times, I decided to invite a few close friends to join us. Over time, we invited more and more friends and adjusted things to be more of a collaborative effort. Now, we have a committed group of five moms and eleven participating children. After many, many books and months of having an active book club, we have settled into a good routine. I am going to share with you how we set up our book club and some tips to begin and facilitate your own!
For each book club meet up, each mom brings one themed snack to share and one activity for the group along with all of the materials needed. We communicate ahead of time what we are contributing to help bring a diversity of activities. We try to have a good mix of table activities and active activities.
If you want to start a book club, here are my recommended steps.
Pick your people
My advice is to choose children within a similar age frame as your children so that they can enjoy the same books and can participate in the activities together. The children in our book club range from 4-7 years old. I also advise keeping your book club at a manageable number of children. My general rule is that they could fit around a kitchen table. Thankfully I have a large table and the eleven children fit fairly well if we pull up a couple of chairs.
You also want to communicate with the moms that you are inviting that book club is a collaborative effort, so you want to find moms who are willing to host, help create the experiences, and are willing to stay and help their children with the activities. I personally wanted a committed group of moms that would make it a priority to read the book with their children and attend as many meet-ups as possible.
For communication purposes, the moms and I started a private Facebook group.
Make a book list
All of the moms in the group submitted books that they would like to use for the book club to a list. I compiled the list into one and posted it in our Facebook group. If there were any books on the list that certain moms didn’t want to read for whatever reason, we removed them from the list. This list is constantly being added to as we all discover new books we want to read for book club.
Create a host rotation schedule
This has been the main reason our book club has been successful, in my opinion. All of the responsibility doesn’t fall on any one mom. The moms in the group rotate who is the host.
This is what the responsibility of the host is:
- Choose the book. Using the book list that we compiled, the host chooses which book is next to read and communicates that to the group.
- Choose the book club date. We usually go about 4-6 weeks between meetups. It is the responsibility of the host to determine what is a good amount of time to give families to finish the book (less time for shorter books and more time for longer books). It is also their responsibility to communicate to the group and nail down a date that works for everyone. The host creates the event within our Facebook group with all the details. We usually meet on a weekday morning for about 2-3 hours.
- Choose the location. The host either has the book club meet up at their house or chooses an outdoor location with a picnic table.
- Keep communication going as we prep for the meetup. During the weeks leading up to the meetup, the host reminds the other moms to RSVP and to submit their activity and snack ideas to the group so that we have a good variety.
- Facilitate the meetup. The host is responsible to make an order of events for the book club and to keep the activities going on meetup day. We have found it to be most successful to set up the order of events in a way that moves the kids around throughout the activities, rather than keeping them in one spot for a long period of time. We have done activities in the kitchen, outside, in the living room, and at the kitchen table. We put snack time in somewhere in the middle and do some book discussion as we munch. We have also experimented with breaking the group into two smaller groups and rotating the smaller groups through activities. The host is responsible for looking at the activities and deciding on the best order and way to implement them with the group. Whichever mom brought each activity, also leads the group in the activity.
Here are the books we have used in book club so far and have enjoyed:
- Charlotte’s Web
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle
- My Father’s Dragon
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
- McBroom’s Wonderful One Acre Farm
- The Trumpet of the Swan
Unfortunately, I didn’t document all of the details of each of these meet-ups, but you can find the ones I did document with details here.
One more tip
If you have baby and toddler siblings in the group, you may want to try setting up a separate area for them to play during the meetup and rotating moms in to watch them. We have 7 babies and toddlers that come to our meetups, so it got really loud and challenging to lead activities without a plan in place. We recently started trying this and it has helped so much! Of course, there are still baby-wearing mamas, nursing sessions, and toddlers needing their mama, but having an area set up just for them with toys or sensory bins has been a helpful option.