It’s a Hit! One Mom’s Quest to Make Reading Literature Fun

May 14, 2018 | Posted by Danielle Olander


When Danielle’s oldest son went off to college, she reflected on some of her regrets and decided to do something about them. Read her post and see how she created some fun social time along with learning literature for her daughter.

Something had to change. My son had graduated from high school and was successfully handling his freshman year in college, but I still had some regrets. As an English/literature teacher, I hadn’t been able to maintain the momentum of reading and talking about great books with him throughout his senior year. Since my daughter was entering tenth grade, I determined to do something about this. After reading a friend’s post on Facebook that mentioned her book club, I was inspired and proposed a monthly teen book club to our homeschool group. Once I had the approval, I began the preparation and planning for the discussions.

To prepare, I watched Teaching the Classics and completed all the exercises. I also read through the sections of Socratic-style questions at the back of the teacher’s guide. Through our local library I located online sources for author background information. Finally, I read through the first two novels and a short story collection over the summer so I could stay ahead of the students.

Once I felt prepared with the material, I began to plan for the discussion time. Like most book clubs, I decided our group would meet once a month to discuss the book we had read the previous month. I chose to meet in the evening so that parents could attend if they wished. As I looked over the calendar, I left off meeting in December because the holidays are already so full. We simply picked a longer book that would stretch until January. After watching Teaching the Classics, I decided to pick a different area of literary analysis to be the theme that we would focus on each month, such as setting, characters, etc. Structuring it this way helped me to limit the number of questions I used during the discussion and provided a focus for the evening.

Because I didn’t want to intimidate anyone at the onset, I didn’t assign a book before our first meeting. Instead, we listened to a short story by Mark Twain and then discussed it. I also used the time to cast a vision of what our group time would look like. For those who desired a high school English credit from this, I provided two writing assignments each month. Fearing that the participants initially might be reluctant to talk, I wrote each of their names on popsicle sticks that I could randomly draw upon if needed. This wasn’t necessary. We had a great response, and I often had to hold up my hand to stop the animated opinions that were bouncing around my living room! Like at any teen event, a bowl of chocolate and other snacks also helped the discussion along.

With a little preparation and planning, the monthly book discussion became something we all happily anticipated. Most importantly, my daughter was getting her literature discussion with her friends. Our teen literary club was a hit, and I can’t wait for it to begin again next fall!

Do you want to add more literature into your students’ lives? Maybe, like Danielle discovered, a book club is the perfect solution! To gain more insight about reading books and discussing literature with your students, check out Sarah Mackenzie’s website, Read-Aloud Revival. Sarah offers some great ideas for selecting the perfect novels to create the perfect book club.


Danielle Olander, an IEW® Accomplished Instructor, is the author of Rockets, Radar, and Robotics. Married to her college sweetheart, Ray, and a homeschooling mom of five amazing children, she teaches several of IEW's online writing classes. After graduating from her parents’ homeschool in the pioneer days of homeschooling, Danielle graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in English/History Education from Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, MI.

Live Chat with IEW