Parents new to book clubs are often concerned about book discussions. What if the children do not want to talk? What if everyone says the same thing? What if everyone tries talk at the same time? How can you make sure that discussions are appropriate for the ages of the children?
These simple tips will help your kids’ book club to have successful conversations.
- Have your group decide on ground rules for discussion. Ground rules might include having only one person talking at a time, not "putting down" or insulting others, and accepting differences of opinion. Depending on the ages of the children, consider writing the rules on poster board and reviewing them at each meeting.
- Make sure every discussion has one parent-child facilitator pair to ensure a smoother discussion. The facilitator should not dominate the discussion, but should be in charge of asking questions when conversation is stalled. Many book clubs set up a rotating schedule for discussion facilitation so that each parent-child team has a turn.
- Avoid having adults dominate the conversation. While it may be necessary for adults to get discussions going initially, make sure that children’s voices are heard. Encourage children to respond to one another in addition to responding to adult questions.
- Provide children with adequate time to put their words together. Children vary widely in the time they need to speak, particularly if they feel "on the spot."
- Prepare discussion questions ahead of time to ensure a rich discussion.
- Ask a wide variety of discussion questions. Some questions such as, "What did you enjoy about this book?," can be used for many of the books your group reads, while other questions will be specific to a particular book. In addition, some questions such as, "Who was your favorite character?," lend themselves to short answers. Others such as, "Why do you think the author chose this title for the book?," challenge children to provide longer responses.
- Encourage—but don’t force—children to participate in discussions. Children vary in their level of comfort in speaking in groups, and some children are naturally quieter than others. Simply by establishing and valuing all opinions, asking a variety of questions and allowing children enough time to respond, you encourage all children to share.
- Select books carefully. When you choose books that are interesting to children, are at an appropriate level for children in the club, and raise enough issues that children want to discuss, book conversations are more likely to be successful.
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