Have you been thinking about how to start a book club? Book clubs are an excellent way to have meaningful conversations with friends. No matter your age, you can start a club with fellow readers, and the fall is a perfect time to start! Whether you will be the club’s facilitator, or just the ringleader for friends, here are some tidbits I’ve learned while participating in and facilitating book groups.
How to Start a Book Club:
1. Keep the group small. Six to eight is plenty and allows everyone the chance to speak and be heard.
2. Agree on a structure for each meeting. In the clubs I facilitate, I email a list of questions ahead of time. The questions give our conversation structure and make it so readers who like time to reflect have the time they need. We start with a general book review from each reader, and then discuss the questions. In many of my groups, each reader brings one extra fun question. To wrap up our meetings, we each give the book a star rating (from 1-5), and choose our next book.
3. Use discussion guides as a resource. Most books have discussion guides online that will provide a starting place for your questions. If you’re looking for discussion guides for From Sadie’s Sketchbook, those are here.
4. Use the Scholastic Book Wizard. If you’re looking for a book that will fit a certain level of reader, or just want more information on a book, you might find this tool particularly helpful. The Scholastic Book Wizard helps identify reading level and interest level for most books. A couple other tools I love are Commonsense Media, the Our Story app from We Need Diverse Books, and the What Should I Read Next? podcast.
5. Ask for book recommendations in advance. I like to ask for recommendations from group members by email, but you could also have a jar for readers to drop ideas into. It’s nice to have looked into the books a bit before putting them up for a group vote. The other option is to have members “pitch” a book to the club, explaining why they think it’s a good match for the group.
6. Tap into authors as resources. Most authors are happy to answer questions from the group via email or even by Skype. It never hurts to ask!
7. Keep things fresh and varied. It’s easy for a group to fall into a genre pattern or for meetings to start to become stale. Mix it up by asking the group to set the questions one time, choosing a very different kind of book, or gathering suggestions for fresh approaches from the group.