Running a Book Club

SLS UKAdvice

Subject: Literacy

Topic: Reading for Pleasure

Year Group: KS1 and KS2

Synopsis: A look at how book clubs can support book awards by Diane Scarborough from Lancashire School Library Service. Tips include how to encourage students to get involved and how to structure sessions as well as useful voting criteria.

Diane Scarborough
Lancashire SLS

Librarian’s view:

It’s always amazing to see how schools use the Lancashire Fantastic Book Awards and Brilliant Book Award as the focus for their book clubs. I love this feedback from one of our participating schools. “They were all so excited to participate. There was a real buzz on book club days. I found my reluctant readers sneaking their new books out to read at playtime!” 

Participating in book awards is an exciting way to engage pupils with reading and help build a reading culture. Many schools in my area say that running a book club to support the Fantastic Book Awards and the Brilliant Book Award helps to inspire reluctant readers and promotes reading at greater depth. Here we share tried and tested ways to run your own book club to support book awards, whether that is an award local to your school, School Library Service or you are taking part in the Yoto Carnegie Medal for writing or the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration (formerly the Kate Greenaway).

Remember the important thing is for both you and the pupils to enjoy taking part. Happy reading. 

Decide where and when you want to
run your book club

The library is great, provided there is enough room. If you are in the classroom, create an informal reading space to cater for different activities. Consider holding the sessions in different locations around school or even outdoors.  

Plan a regular programme of meetings, establish a set time every week/fortnight, perhaps lunchtime, or after school. Make Book Club time special! Encourage a relaxed environment to create a club that children will want to join and tell their friends about. 

Promote the award

Generate interest and build anticipation in your pupils – “It’s coming soon!” “What can it be?”  

Create an award noticeboard with items including competitions, posters, voting scores, book reviews, author links and artwork. Highlight news, photos of children reading their books. Promote on the school website and social media. The reading ethos will cascade around school and encourage pupil involvement. 

Launch your Book Club 

Aim to start after the launch of the award, to give time for children/staff to read all the books on the shortlist. Consider launching the event with a party, or assembly announcement. Ideally involve the whole school.  

Aim to build excitement – you could get everybody to predict a winner based just on the book covers. 

Announce the event as a challenge 

If all the books are read and reviewed, a prize could be awarded. Perhaps a copy of last year’s winning title? 

Have a big reveal 

Initiatives for a reveal include wrapping the books in brown paper, match the blurb to the front covers and “pass the book” around as if it was the game pass the parcel. 

First Session: it’s their book club

Invite pupils to think about the stories they enjoy and their favourite characters. This provides a starting point for discussion in the first session. Encourage them to decide how they want to run the club, what activities to include. Allow the group to take control of the organisation and running of the club. Let them take ownership. 

It often helps to have some questions ready to get the discussion off the ground and gently encourage opinions. Importantly, let the book club develop into something they enjoy. It’s a chance for children to discover the pleasures of reading in a way that suits them. You could:

  • Invite pupils to tell you why they would like to join the Book Club.   
  • Let the children choose which books they would like to read, swapping when reading is complete.  
  • Check the internet for book trailers.  
  • If a book isn’t working, that’s fine, move on to another title. 
  • Take suggestions from the children. Read what they are reading and encourage them to try something new. 
  • Pick a favourite section of a book and read it out to the rest of the group explaining why you liked it. 
  • Contact the authors and illustrators via websites or via twitter. 

Ideas for your Book Club meetings

Use some or all of these at every meeting.

  1. Welcome Activity 
    This is for everyone. It can be relatively short and relate to a book they have read or are about to read. 
  2. Refreshments 
    Set time aside for a break. Chatting about books is thirsty work – drinks and biscuits/fruit will help energy levels.
  3. Choosing a book 
    Discussion is the heart of the book club, and exchanging views on the books will stimulate other members to read. The group may like to agree on a book for shared reading.  
  4. Book scoring 
    To close a meeting, offer an opportunity for members to score the book. In Lancashire we encourage schools to use the Fantastic Book Awards Bookmark to help pupils keep track of the scores they award each book. 
  5. Close 
    Finish with a reminder of the date and time for the next session. Share ideas on what’s happening next and any future activities or competitions. 

Special session: Get Ready to Vote 

Points to think about when voting: 

  • Did the cover catch your eye? 
  • What do you think of the characters, were they credible?  (Note: You don’t have to like them) 
  • Did you like the writing style? 
  • Was it funny or thought provoking? 
  • Did the story have an interesting plot? 
  • Did it have an exciting start, did it make you want to keep on reading? 
  • Where there any twists along the way? 
  • Did it have a happy or shocking ending? 

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