Books have always been very important to our family. Several years ago we started a book club so our children could read, discuss, and bring stories to life with their friends. It’s been a great addition to our language arts lessons.
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I’ve already shared the details about how friends and I started a book club for our kids. As our children moved into and through the middle school years we continued to meet regularly with our book club. And yes, we still include hands-on activities, presentations, discussions, and of course FOOD at each meeting!
Although many aspects of our book club have remained fairly constant over time, as our children reached the middle school years we began to make adjustments in the areas of:
- Book Selections
- Literary Analysis
- Discussion Starters
As the years go by the main goals for our book club remain the same – to introduce our children to great literature and to give them an opportunity to share their love of books with their friends.
Tips for How to Start a Middle School Book Club
Each year as we plan our book club reading selections we gather input from our students and their parents. We consider the other topics families will be studying (we have been able to link book selections to history and science lessons), the kids’ favorite authors, classic book lists such as Newbery Award Winners, and more.
Some of the books our children have selected (and would recommend) include:
Books with historical references
Multiple books by favorite authors to compare
- The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hudgson Burnett
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
- Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
- White Fang and The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Newbery Award winning books
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins
- The Tale of Despereaux
- Island of the Blue Dolphin
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM
We wanted to help our children understand and appreciate great literature so we gradually introduced various elements of literary analysis.
As a guide for introducing literary analysis with our book club we looked to one of our favorite resources – Teaching the Classics: A Socratic Method for Literary Education by Adam & Missy Andrews.
Rather than overwhelm our children with these terms and concepts all at once, we chose to introduce a different topic each month over the course of a year. We began by discussing the author and the context of the story and gradually moved on to talk about conflict, plot, setting, characters, theme, style, etc. with our students. We used graphic organizers to map the elements of the story and questions from The Socratic List provided in “Teaching the Classics” to guide their learning.
After a few months these new vocabulary words and concepts became second nature to our group. It didn’t take long before they began asking each other questions about the protagonist, narrator, language usage, and more. They would even tell you their new favorite words quickly became “onomatopoeia,” “anthropomorphic” and “omniscient narrator”!
As much as our children enjoy reading classic books, their favorite part of the book club experience is engaging in discussions about what they read. We have never used comprehension type questions with our group; we have always used open ended and thought-provoking questions as discussion starters.
We believe the main reason our discussions have been so dynamic is because of family involvement. Each month our book club students AND parents read the book selection and attend the group discussion. Sometimes families choose to read the books aloud together and sometimes each person reads the books individually and then the family has discussions together during the reading process.
As our children have grown and the themes of some of our book selections have become more complex, our group discussions have become deeper and more meaningful. For example, when we read “Moon Over Manifest” we talked about themes such as the importance of community and what gives them hope/perseverance, as well as historical events such as The Great Pandemic of 1918.
Some discussion starter questions to ask middle school students could include:
- What surprised you the most in this book?
- If you could write another chapter/a sequel to this book, what would you write?
- Do you think you would have acted in a way similar to the main character, if not, how would you have handled the situations differently?
- What else do you know about the time period/setting of the book?
- Why do you think this book is a classic/award winner/so popular?
- Would you want to read more books by this author? Why?
We plan to continue our book club through middle school and high school and we will keep you posted on our progress!
How about you – would you like to start a middle school book club with your children and their friends?
Make sure you join us this week as we continue sharing ways to learn with other families.