The Joys of Exploring Books Together

We all know that reading is a great solo activity. There are many ways to make reading a communal experience as well, whether that community be a group of students, your family, or some fellow reader friends. Exploring books with others is an excellent way to deepen relationships, create lasting memories, and engage with literature in a richer sense. Below are a few suggestions for creating group activities around exploring books. I invite you to try a few this summer. 

 

  1. Reading Aloud  

Why should reading aloud end after early childhood? We don’t suddenly stop finding pleasure in being read to or in giving voice to a fictional world. The great thing about middle grade fiction is that it has something to offer everyone, meaning the whole family can enjoy a middle grade read aloud session before bed. Teachers can create common ground and bonding in their classrooms by reading sections of a novel out loud to their students or letting their students take turns reading aloud. Whoever the readers are in your life, get creative and get everyone involved—you’d be surprised how much fun you all have.  

 (P.S. – listening to an audiobook together is another great option––especially for family car rides!)  

        2. Bringing Books to Life  

One of my favorite ways to get everyone engaged with a book is to bring an element from the book to life. Most authors have activities on their website, and I am no exception. The activity ideas I’ve created for my book Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe are an example of what I mean by bringing a book to life and most of these activities can be used with any middle grade book you are reading, including these great books by From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade authors. You can find a link to those books here. You can do a group scavenger hunt to find items mentioned in the story in the real world, research the setting of a book together to make the fictional world come alive, and create a playlist of songs that relate to the chapters in the book. You can find more activities here.  

       3. Literary Inspiration

In a similar vein, there are many ways to use a book as a springboard for your own creative project. You can work  individually or as a group to create a blackout poem from one or more pages of the book you are reading and stage a performance of your poetry for the group. You can imagine what happens after the story ends, write a new chapter that begins after the last chapter of the book, and share your chapters with your group.  You can work with your group to act out your favorite scenes in the book you are reading. You can also create a book menu, looking up and making recipes that the characters in your book might eat during the story.  

        4. Bookish Conversations  

Finally, get chatting! Take advantage of the discussion questions at the end of the latest novel you’ve read. Get curious with some friends. Verbally dissecting literature is a great way to build critical thinking skills. When discussing a book, keep in mind the themes, characters’ motivations, setting, and especially anything that really got you thinking or feeling.  

 Reading is a way to bring loved ones as well as new friends together. Exploring books together creates excellent opportunities for communal learning. I hope you’ll be inspired to read aloud, get creative, and have some great conversations.  

 Want some more ideas? You can check out the books and links below.  

   

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction”

“Talking Texts: A Teachers’ Guide to Book Clubs Across the Curriculum

 

“Getting Started: How to Start a Book Club”

“Choosing Books for Book Club Reading” 

“Planning A Diverse Library” 

“The Importance of Reader Response” 

Jo Hackl on Email
Jo Hackl
Jo Watson Hackl has been locked inside a library twice (mostly accidentally) but never has been able to manage sneaking into the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an overnight stay. Jo grew up in the piney woods of Mississippi surrounded by great storytellers. Her middle grade book, SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF MAYBE (Random House Children’s/Yearling Adventure) is about a girl who runs away to live in a treehouse in a ghost town and sets out on a clue-solving adventure. SMACK DAB won the Southern Book Prize and the Mississippi Library Association Children’s Author of the Year Award, is an Amazon Teacher’s Pick, and featured as a 2024 Read Across America 50 books from 50 states selection. She lives in Greenville, South Carolina with her family and her poetry-loving dog.

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