School may be out, but your kids don’t have to put the books down. Group reading and organized book clubs with friends and neighbors offers children and teens a way to have fun while still learning during the summer months. Jump-start a summer reading program with fun discussions, activities and games that will leave a lasting impression well into the school year.
Organizing a book club doesn’t have to fall on the shoulders of parents. Get your child and her school involved before school lets out for the summer. Chelly Wood, a middle school English teacher and founder of the English Emporium, an online English handbook, suggests speaking to your child’s principal about offering a once-a-week or once-a-month book club that meets during lunch. Then, once the club is established, carry it over into the summer by designating different homes to host the club meetings.
Organizing a book club involves dedication from both parents and children. Select a few kids to help plan events, games, reading materials and advertising each week or month. Wood also suggests creating a mailing list to send reminders to group members a few days before each meeting or activity. Get your child excited about the theme of each chosen book by helping him create posters or fliers to send to group members, too.
The more your child has a say in the book club's activities, the more she will be invested in participating. Allow each child in the club suggest a book for the week or the month. Solicit age-appropriate suggestions from teachers and librarians to ensure the material is at an appropriate reading level for all of the members.
Give your children plenty of options when it comes to choosing books. Wood suggests hosting an orientation club meeting where books belonging to various genres are on display. “One table may have all fantasy books while another table may have mysteries,” she says. She recommends dividing the kids into teams and assigning each team a different genre. Encourage them to illustrate their genre by creating posters that describe the characteristics of these types of books. “Consider it an art contest and give prizes to each winning team,” says Wood.
The 5 W's Game
If you want kids to stay involved, include games associated with the themes of each book chosen. “To get children thinking about the book, you want to encourage activities that match strategies including making connections to themselves and other books,” says Kathryn Starke, literacy specialist and founder of Creative Minds Publications. Starke recommends rolling a dice with colors or numbers that represent the five W’s of the book. Once the ball or die lands, prompt each child to explore the who, what, when, where and why of the book.
Field Trip Fun
Explore the theme of the book by sponsoring a field trip that corresponds to the plot of the story. For example, reading the “Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System” lends itself to a trip to the science museum or planetarium, says Starke. Head to your local farmer's market after reading a book about vegetables or venture to the theater to see a play or film adaptation of "Huckleberry Finn" or "Peter Pan".
Encourage the children to think critically about the book they are reading by creating a scavenger hunt to find similar places or items mentioned in the story. After reading “To Kill a Mockingbird,” prompt the children to explore the neighborhood in search of a tree similar to where the main character found treasures or have them identify homes or businesses that are included in the book. Create an alphabet adventure, asking little ones to find letters or words from the book in your home or throughout the neighborhood.
Bring each book to life with a puppet show or play illustrating the plot line of the story. Have the children create costumes and paper bag puppets for a final performance once the book discussion is complete. Help them create a script and even original songs to add to the show.
Culminate the book club experience with a special screening of the movie version of a book that the club has read during the summer. Prep for the screening by having each child create a movie poster showcasing main characters or illustrating the main idea of the book, says Starke. Teens may even want to create a video teaser of the film or photo slideshow that can be e-mailed to club members or showcased on social media.
Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.