Middle-grade Book Club Guide

So, you want to start a book club! Cool! But, how do you begin?

I asked my pal and librarian extraordinaire, Deb Marshall, about what goes into making a successful middle-grade book club. She and her Backroom Kids Book Club members came up with some awesome advice to get you started:

Deb’s report on the kids’ thoughts as she went around the table :

SNACKS: since we meet right after school, the kids are hungry and have had NO FOOD since lunch. They really like having a chance to just sit around and chat about ‘whatever’ while they eat. In other words, we start with fifteen minutes or so of eating and chatting. 

FIRST GRABS: the book clubbers LOVE getting first dibs on new books that come into the library. It’s like Christmas every Thursday!  Some call this “first grabs”.  They also like that they get to read Advance Review Copies and do reviews on them.

NEW RELEASES ‘HEADS UP’: they get to find out what new releases are coming out. We decided to make this a weekly feature of our book club.

NEW FRIENDS:  You never know who you will meet, but you all have one thing in common: you love to read! They really like that the book club feels like a social event. (Deb: this one surprised me, actually. That is one of the reasons I love book clubs too!)

OPEN REGISTRATION: they like the open registration and that they don’t have to come to every meeting (although they DO come to every one, lol). They like that we don’t have ‘required reading’ right now…we just go around the table and talk about what we are reading and why we like it. It’s like ‘show and tell’ for books!

Deb’s thoughts on book clubs:
OPEN DOOR POLICY: it’s important to make everyone feel welcome and on equal ground.  Book clubs are about a love of books and if you are reading the same book over and over again, that’s okay. I had a girl in a previous club who did just that; in fact she told me she didn’t really like to read. I told her that was okay–she could still come and join in–we’d find her something else she liked. And we did! She became one or our most voracious readers!

START SMALL AND GROW FROM THERE: if you start with small numbers, don’t get discouraged. Just keep going if your time and budget allows. Both book clubs I’ve been a part of started really small. In both cases, 2 kids. We ran all summer with just two kids, then fall arrived and they brought friends and so on–until that club was running with at least 10 kids per week.

Same with the one I have now–we started with two, now we’re up to 12! The key here (I think) was letting the kids know it is a social event. We get together and talk about books, laugh and have fun.  Even if you’re not a speed reader, have only read one book in your life but love that book to death—join us!

Wow! Thanks so much to Deb and the Backroom Kids Book Club for all these great tips! I  totally want to join your book club now (especially if you have SNACKS! ;-))

In fact, I’ll be joining them via SKYPE in the next little while and can’t wait. 🙂

Your turn: Are you part of a middle-grade book club? Are you planning to start one? Please share your tips for success in the comments!

Hélène Boudreau is the author of the upper middle-grade novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky).  She offers FREE 30-minute Q & A sessions via SKYPE with REAL MERMAIDS book clubs. You can visit her at www.heleneboudreau.com

Helene Boudreau
  1. Thanks for commenting, everyone! I must say I love my book club kids. They are amazing. Hard to believe it’s my job, lol. And yes on joining a book club, Megan. Maybe she could suggest it to her library, help organize it. When we started there was just 2-3 at a time, one of the boys really said he didn’t like reading, but he loved taking part in the planning and talking about the books he did like (many of which are graphic novels, so I told him it was great to have a graphic novel reader on board, I’d don’t get time to read as many as I want, so he is our go to guy, he’s been coming weekly since…Sept.) I think the key is to fit the club to the kids and recognize we are different kinds of readers. Some are good with reading one book a month, sometimes the same one over, some read a book a day. If we mold to them, though, I think we create the ground work for building non readers into readers, little bit of reading readers into more readers and voracious readers into kids who are willing to explore a wide variety of genre’s and take a role in creating a love of reading among their peers without being all “well I can read a book a day and you are only reading one a month?!?” (yeah started with a couple of those too, lol!) Anyhow, am still talking! Will stop. Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  2. This is a great idea! I am a writer, but, ironically, getting my daughter to read has been a struggle. I mentioned a book club, and she is excited. I think this will be the perfect thing to get her reading. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for great ideas for middle grade book clubs! I run a book club for my kids (5th and 3rd grade) so it is great to know what is up head. I wanted to share my posts on Book Clubs for Kids at http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?category_name=book-club-for-kids

    I have some book and project ideas that might be helpful on this post: http://www.pragmaticmom.com/?p=120

  4. Thanks so much for the great post, Deb and Helene! I’m part of several critique groups and we often discuss books we’re reading, but I’m not involved in an actual book club. Wow–wish I could be a part of yours, Deb! I’ve always thought that book clubs had participants read the same book–I love the thought of a more show and tell approach! I bet it helps a lot of your readers find wonderful new books!

  5. This makes me miss our old mother-daughter book club so much now that my girl is all grown up (and still an avid reader). Many good memories. LOVE the idea of talking about what books kids are reading. That could have really worked for ours when there was disagreement on choices and the reading felt forced. Didn’t happen often but once in a while.

    Thanks for a great post!

  6. Such a fantastic post – because it makes me realize, exactly like Cathe – that book club can be just kids talking about what books they are reading… fantastic…

  7. I really like the idea that the kids don’t have to all read the same book to discuss it. I love that they just share about what they are reading. I think that opens it up to so many more kids.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Sounds like a fun club. Wish they had something like that when I was a kid!

  9. Helene! You are so welcome, thanks for asking us to share our passion!

  10. One of the things a middle grade book club my daugher and I belonged to did– We took turns “choosing” three books to recommend, then we gave a description to the group. The whole group voted on which one to read for the next month. It worked out pretty well.