Summer Fun in (and out) of the Sun: Building Book Clubs

Jun 04, 2021 | Posted by Jennifer


“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” This quote, often miscredited to Oscar Wilde but actually stated by the Reverend C.F. Potter, is especially poignant today, when many students read nothing at all if they aren’t compelled to. According to a report written in 2018 by the American Psychological Association, the number of students who read for pleasure registers at less than twenty percent, while more than eighty percent of students reveal they spend daily time on social media (Twenge). While middle schoolers and beyond might indeed read the books selected for them by their teachers throughout the school year, they often do not choose to read books, magazines, or newspapers on their own for pleasure.

Reading, however, offers so many benefits, including exposing children and teens to higher level vocabulary and sophisticated syntax, just for starters. Parents and educators often wonder how to bridge the gap between assigned reading and pleasure reading. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to create a book club for students that offers high quality, engaging literature to read, friends to discuss what they read with, and delicious food to bind it all together. Summer presents the perfect opportunity to keep the reading fun!

How can you go about building a book club that kids enjoy? Begin with the participants’ ages and interests in mind. Are you wanting to engage middle school boys? The books you select for them will differ from ones you select for a group of high school girls. Figure out your invite list first, and fill in the details from there. It can be especially fun to construct the club around a theme. Themes centered around discovery or travel, nature, coming of age, and courage are ones you might consider. If possible, select two or three titles, and then have the participants vote on which one from the list they would like to read first.

Start small. Short stories offer compelling narratives in bite-sized chunks and make it easy for students to dip their toes in the reading waters. Stories penned by O. Henry, Saki, or Mark Twain make for fun starters. Once the group has tackled a short story or two, they will likely be ready to read longer fare. There are a number of places where you can find great books to select. IEW has a suggested reading list that includes titles geared towards students who would rather be building forts all day, for example. Read-Aloud Revival is another great source of book list inspiration. As further inducement for reluctant readers, consider having the kids participate in a reading program alongside the club such as the Book It! Program through Pizza Hut®, the Barnes & Nobles® Summer Reading Program, or your local library’s summer reading program.

Next, decide how often the club will meet. Will you meet weekly to discuss the latest short story or chunk of chapters? Or will you meet once a month to discuss the entire novel? And when you get together, what will you do if no one actually, well, discusses? One way to build a sense of community and camaraderie is to begin with an icebreaker or game. A quick search of the Internet provides list after list of suggestions. Take a look, too, at going through the training in Teaching the Classics before you begin. The appendix from that resource provides lots of Socratic-based questions that will fuel discussion for hours! Don’t turn the novel into a writing assignment. Kids will enjoy being able to simply talk about what they read without having the additional responsibility of having to also write about it.

Finally, consider where you would like to meet. You can choose to rotate different homes and have different hosts each time or to keep it at a single location. You can also move the fun to the park or another outdoor venue. Don’t forget the food, and bring plenty of bug spray and sunscreen! Before you know it, you will find you have readers who enjoy reading for the sheer pleasure of it.

To read more about books and book clubs, take a look at these prior blog posts:


Work Cited

Twenge, J. M. “Teens Today Spend More Time on Digital Media, Less Time Reading.” American

Psychological Association, 20 Aug. 2018,



Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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