Parents often struggle with finding ideas to motivate their teens and pre-teens to read more. Though some schools and libraries post independent reading book lists, many students are reluctant to even look at these. What’s a parent to do? One great way to get kids reading, and at the same time continue to strengthen the parent-child relationship, is by creating a parent-child book club.
A parent-child book club should follow some of the same steps that a regular book club follows. First, a time to meet should be established. While regular book clubs tend to meet once a month, a parent-child club should meet weekly to discuss a book in progress. This is to ensure that the child is reading and understanding the book. The meeting can be done at home, or, to make it more fun, the location can change weekly, from home, to a coffee shop, to a library, or a museum.
Next, both the parent and child should work together to choose the books they will read. They can look at the suggested or assigned independent reading book lists, go on a joint trip to the library or bookstore, or even do a quick Internet search for books as a way to begin. The interest of both the parent and child should be taken into consideration, though the child’s preference is most important, since the goal is to motivate the child to read.
Together, they can decide if they want to read fiction, non-fiction, or a little of both. Once a book is chosen, the parent should also decide how many chapters will be read each week. It’s important to be realistic about how much the child will be able to read during one week, as well as to the level of the book. If expectations are above what the child can do, there is a risk of overwhelming him and setting him up for failure.
Once the book is chosen, the parent should take the initiative and prepare some discussion questions and topics for the first meeting. If the child is completely engaged in the book and has many thoughts to share, the questions might not be necessary, but preparation will help to ensure a good discussion about the book. They can also both keep a reading journal throughout the week, noting questions, ideas, or phrases that stand out. This will help both the parent and child remember what they want to discuss and will have the additional benefit of getting the child to practice some writing as well as reading.
Some of the basics that can be discussed include the themes addressed in the book, the characters, their development, the setting and its impact on the story, and what each one liked or disliked about the plot or characters If the teen or pre-teen is tally interested, he can research the author’s life and try to figure out how it has influenced the writing. These discussions have the added benefit that they often lead into a conversation about real life issues affecting the child. There are also reading guides available to help start the discussion.
A parent-child book club is beneficial to all involved, as it will get parents and children reading, but even beyond that, it will get them talking. Soon, parents will see their child develop into an avid reader who enjoys sharing his ideas with them. It can even become a whole family activity, especially if the kids are close in age, reading at similar levels and share reading interests.