How to Start a Middle School Book Club
Books have always been very important to my family. Several years ago I started a middle school book club as a way to encourage my kids to read great some classic literature and enable them to discuss the books with their friends. Through the activities we added in, they also got a chance to bring the stories to life. It’s been a great addition to our language arts lessons.
If you’re looking for a way to get your tweens reading or want to see them engaging more with the stories they’re reading, gather a couple of friends together and start your own book club. It’s the perfect way to expand your homeschool by learning with other families.
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We’ve been a part of a book club since my kids were young. Now that my kids are older, we still meet for book club and continue to 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.
You don’t need a lot of people to have a book club. Start out by asking a family or two if they’d like to read a book and have some fun discussing it together. Keep it simple.
Starting a Middle School Book Club
One of the most important parts of a book club is the books you choose to read. You can do this on a month-to-month basis or you can choose all of the titles the club will read together at the beginning of the year.
In our club, we choose the titles at the start of the school year. As we plan our book club reading selections, we gather input from both the kids and 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.
If you have no idea what books to start with, give one or two of these a try. They were some of the kids’ favorites and they highly recommend them.
Books with Historical References
Multiple Books by Favorite Authors to Compare
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
- The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hudgson Burnett
- White Fang and The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Newbery Award Winning Books
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, 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 discusses it together.
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?
More Book Club Inspiration
If you want even more insight into what our book club meeting looked like, check these out. Within each post, you’ll find all kinds of activities you can use when reading these books with your kids.
The best part about a book club is that it can accommodate multiple ages and can grow with your child. So get one started now and see where it takes you.
How about you – would you like to start a middle school book club with your children and their friends?
This is just one of the ways to learn with other families. Check out some of the others.
You know, I’ve been tossing the idea of a book club around for a bit. Then the “what if’s” start. But I keep tripping over posts like this one that seem to be saying “Helllloooo, are you not listening, you should do this.”
Thanks for the nudge, and for the resources you’ve shared.
Joesette, I’m very happy to give you a “nudge” to move forward with a book club! 🙂 Start by finding a few families, have each child select 1 book for the group to read, and get everyone together for a conversation. Just keep it simple and fun. We would love to hear how it all comes together!
I’m thinking about this for summer, thanks for this unbelievable list and ideas, how could it fail ??? 😉 It’s Wonderful!
Meredith – A book club would be a great summer activity for kids! Keep us posted on your progress!
A great resource!! Thanks for sharing at After School!
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