A family book club checks off all the educational boxes without feeling like "school."
Moms, dads, and teachers of the world, it’s time to take a deep breath and a well-deserved break after getting through the past few months of distance learning! No one would have chosen such a tough gig, but you made the best of it, and summer vacation comes as a much-anticipated respite.
Most parents will be in no rush to do academic work with kids this summer, and are looking forward to an “old-fashioned summer” of running through the sprinkler in the backyard, catching fireflies, drinking lemonade, and not a whole lot else! But with few camps or classes in session this year, perhaps you’d like a way to get them learning, thinking, and reading for pleasure in all the leisure hours they suddenly have on their hands? This may be the summer to try a family book club.
The concept is simple, involving just a few steps:
1Choose a book for the whole family to read together.
If your kids are older, you might ask them what they’d like to read, or everyone might vote on the book club pick. But if your kids are young enough to be open to your suggestion, consider picking your favorite book from childhood. Revisiting it with your kids will bring back sweet memories. And if the book is one you love, your kids will catch your enthusiasm.
You might also consider choosing a book that’s the first of a series, so your kids can continue reading the sequels if they like the first one. Or you might choose a book about a specific place in the world (check out Give Your Child the World for great ideas!) and learn about that geographical location alongside the book.
2Read the book as a family.
Ideally you could read the book out loud together, perhaps you and your spouse taking turns, as reading aloud benefits kids of any age. But life is busy, so it might make more sense to have your kids listen to the book on audio (also a great way to “read aloud!”) or each read the book separately.
3Gather to talk about the book together.
Here’s the best part: Talking about the book! This is where the magic happens, as thinking critically and discussing the story powerfully impact children’s learning.
If your kids are older, you might ask each family member to think of a question for discussion. But even kids as young as three can take part in the conversation. Try asking some of the following questions:
- What was your favorite part? Why did you like it? How did it make you feel?
- What part was your least favorite? Why? How did it make you feel?
- Which character did you like best? Why?
- Was there a character you didn’t like? Why?
- Did any of the characters remind you of someone you know? Why?
- If you found yourself in the same situation as a character from the book, how would you have handled it?
- How were the characters’ lives similar to, or different from, your life?
- What do you think might happen to the characters after the book’s events?
Some families do book club over dinner, with themed food, activities, and decorations: Reading Heidi and eating goat cheese, for example. But there’s no need to plan a themed event unless that sounds fun to you. What matters is reading the book and having the conversation.
Reading a book in front of your kids, reading to your kids, and talking about what you read are three of the best-proven ways to help kids succeed academically. Family book club brings all three of those strategies together in one simple, fun activity. It’s a subtle yet incredibly effective way for kids to keep learning over the summer without even realizing it.