A how-to: Starting a book club for your kids

Photos by Allie Whalen
Photos by Allie Whalen

A how-to: Starting a book club for your kids

by Allie Whalen
Stripes Okinawa

One of my favorite parts about homeschooling my kids are the books we get to enjoy together! We love reading chapter books aloud and sharing our favorite parts. As a book lover, it’s only natural to foster that love in my kids and want to share it with friends, too!  I have wanted to start a book club for kids since my own kids were too young to appreciate it. When I met a like-minded homeschooling mom here in Okinawa that was also interested in starting a book club, I knew I hit the jackpot!

Ashley and I met through a wonderful network of homeschool moms that connect through a group called Wild + Free. We have kids that are similar ages and we have a love for the classics, so it didn’t take us long to figure out that we should start a book club together! About a month later our Wild + Free Okinawa Book Club was created and we have enjoyed seeing not only our kids, but also the moms, create friendships over a shared love of books.

Our first Wild + Free Okinawa Book Club met in January after the rush of the holidays and our book choice was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Ashley and I both read the book as kids (and loved it!!) so we were thrilled to share it with our own kids!  We knew we wanted a location that would do the book justice so we met at a remote beach in the rugged northern parts of our little island. Everyone brought a picnic lunch and a craft to share. We had activities including cave drawings, jewelry making, and animal matching cards.

But don’t let all of our plans fool you! These kids (ages 2-11) had more fun running around, exploring the beach, and hiding in caves than they did with the activities. And that’s ok! We talked about the book during snack breaks and the kids had so much fun being with their friends. And that was the most important thing after all. We encouraged stronger friendships in our community and those friendships grew a little more through the book we shared together. Book club is a great way for kids to forge closer friendships over a shared experience of great literature. The love of literature is a gift in itself!

Even if your kids aren’t homeschooled, book club can be a fun way to pass the summer months! The summer is the perfect opportunity to help your kids and their friends coordinate a book club. The work load during the school year often doesn’t leave time for reading extra books. Why not challenge your kids to choose a group of friends and two books that they’re interested in?! You could choose two dates and meet at different locations to discuss the books. It will also help keep your kids motivated to continue reading during the summer months.
If you would like to start a book club for your kids, here are some things to consider that will help it be successful:

  • Choose two coordinaors or hostesses to run the group. The work load of managing the communication and social media pages is so much easier (and so much more fun!) when you split the work load. Sometimes all you need is one other like-minded person to help get your idea off the ground.
  • Choose someone to facilitate the book discussion. The perfect time to have a book discussion is after you’ve let everyone reacquaint with each other. You might even find that you have a captive audience while kids are eating. 
  • Pick a theme for your book and make a Pinterest idea board. You can easily share the idea board on a Facebook group page and everyone can pick a snack or activity to share with the book club. 
  • Read the classics!  I feel like there is too little time to read all of the books on my “To Be Read” list. Book club is the perfect opportunity to work on the classics with your kids. 
  • Aim for quarterly meetings. If you try to fit in too many books in one year it will be difficult to keep up with. But planning your books and meetings with the four seasons makes it manageable and fun!
  • Remember that everyone has their favorite style for reading books. Some fun ways to read books are: listen to a book on Audible while driving, read a book aloud at bedtime, morning circle time, or for school!
  • Meet at special locations for book club. Some fun places could be at the beach, at a botanical garden, or in the  forest or woods. 
  • Book club can also be as easy as gathering a group of kids in your home and letting them enjoy some homemade cookies while you facilitate the discussion.

If you live here in Okinawa and you’d like to join our book club we’d love to have you! You can find our group on the Wild + Free Okinawa Book Club Facebook Page and you can find Ashley and myself on Instagram. The more, the merrier!

And if you enjoy checking off lists as much as I do, I’ve got a checklist full of classic books you can enjoy with your kids, by yourself, or with your book club! Print it out and hang it up to encourage reading all year long!

I hope you’ve been encouraged to pick up a new book or an old favorite! And I hope you’ll share your reading adventures with me!
I’ll leave you with some encouraging words from Gladys Hunt –  “Reading enlarges my vision of the world; it helps me understand someone who is different from me. It makes me bigger on the inside. We tend to see the world from our own perspective; it is good to see it from the eyes of others. Good literature helps me understand who I am in relation to what others experience. Far from being an escape from reality, good literature is a window into reality. I read to feel life.”

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Allie Whalen is a culinary artist and amateur photographer with a genuine love for the outdoors. She has recently begun sharing her experiences online where she talks about natural and healthy ways to take care of your body and the world around you. She is a military spouse based in Okinawa near Camp Hansen. Allie and her family are excited make beautiful Okinawa their best move yet. There they enjoy the rugged, tranquil life on the northern parts of the island. You can find Allie’s blog at alliemwhalen.com, where she details her travels, basic conservation techniques, home education, and leading a healthy lifestyle.

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