Book clubs can be a chance to discuss plot twists and characters with friends and neighbors.
But a family book club can be a chance to discuss books and much more with those living under your own roof.
Family book clubs can take on a number of different forms. It might be just the members of your family talking around the dinner table, or a group of families meeting regularly. Mother-daughter book clubs are popular, and the Evanston Public Library hosts a book-discussion group for teen boys and a significant adult.
Regardless of the format, family book clubs can encourage kids to become readers and increase family communication.
“Parents modeling reading is important to any age, especially if kids are older,” says Renee Neumeier, Young Adult Librarian at the Evanston Public Library.
“If Mom and Dad don’t seem to read very much, kids are less likely to read,” she says. “If kids see their parents or other important figures in their life reading, it encourages them to read.”
For kids who are advanced readers, family book club can be a way to introduce more challenging and enriching books. For kids who are reluctant readers, it is an opportunity to select books that will interest and engage kids.
“Anything that gets kids reading and gets them excited about turning the page is what you should be reading, even if that’s comic books,” says Lori Day, educational psychologist, parenting coach and author of “Her Next Chapter,” a book about mother-daughter book clubs to be released this spring.
She adds that family book club can also be a way for parents to impart family values, be it racial identity, religion or appreciation of the arts.
Books connect parents and kids in new ways and tackle a variety of important subjects that are sometime hard to discuss, such as bullying and sexualization.
“When reading about what is happening to the characters in a book, the discussion can pivot from what’s happening to the protagonist to what’s happening with the kids in the club,” Day says. “Children start talking about their real lives and the club allows a side door into a conversation that’s hard to start out of the blue.”
Neumeier says, “Reading young-adult books clues parents in on what their kids are interested in, issues they may be facing and is a great way to open the conversation about both.”
Christine Wolf, an Evanston mom of three kids, makes it a point to read and discuss books with her kids ranging in age from 10 to 16. She has learned a lot about them from their talks with each other and friends who have also read the books.
“Since there’s no right or wrong way to assess a book, it’s a fantastic exercise in teaching kids to express their individualism and their opinions,” Wolf says. “They also gain the benefit of hearing others’ perspectives.”
Parents are frequently surprised at what kids contribute to the family book club discussion. According to Day, parents “underestimate kids in terms of their sophistication and comprehension of both the world and what they read.”
“You never totally know the world of your kids, but you’ll know more if you have these lines of communication open, and reading together is a great way to keep those lines open,” she adds. “Parents need to find ways to stay connected with kids and book clubs are a great way to do that.”
Tips for a successful family book club from Lori Day, expert on mother-daughter book clubs:
- If your club includes multiple families, adults should be friends. Kids in the club should be compatible.
- Kids should be at similar reading levels.
- The club should have a regular meeting time and routine.
- Parents should agree on the mission of the club, how books will be selected and what is appropriate given that young-adult novels can include varying levels of sex and violence.
- A movie based on a previously read book is a good option for family book clubs during busy months.
Suggestions of titles for family book clubs:
- “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
- “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl
- “Frindle” by Andrew Clements
- “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself” by Judy Blume
- “Julia’s Kitchen” by Brenda A. Ferber
- “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel