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KIDS CELEBRATE CAT IN THE HAT
Patrick G. Ryan  /  FEATURE PHOTO SERVICE
First graders Yanira Torres, Marcela Gonzales and Keily Rubio at John Quincy Adams Elementary School in Washington, D.C., read Seuss classic "The Cat in the Hat." (Feature Photo Service)
TODAY
updated 5/7/2007 11:25:37 AM ET 2007-05-07T15:25:37

Setting up a book club for your children will not only encourage them to read, but it may also help you get closer to them. Here are some tips from Scholastic Press about how to set up a book club for kids:

Start a parent-child book group and reap benefits beyond reading.

With the proliferation of book clubs for adults — from neighborhood groups to Oprah's Book Club — it's no wonder that kids want to take part in the action. But with homework, sports and much more competing for your child's time (and yours), the idea of setting aside a couple of hours every month or two to discuss books can be daunting. Consider, though, that a parent-child book group can help you:

  • Get closer to your child
  • Share different aspects of his life
  • Expand your conversations beyond "How was school today?"
  • Provide insight into your child, her peers, and how they think

Best for kids in 3rd to 8th grade, a reading group can be a wonderful opportunity to see your child in a different light. Making the book club a priority will help make reading at home a priority as well.

To get started, follow these tips:

  • Compose the group: Invite kids in your child's grade or close to him in age. Look for members with similar interests and abilities — but not too similar, to keep the discussions interesting! How many? Aim for a group of 8 and 12 (including adults and children). If some are unable to attend, there will still be enough to have a lively discussion. Any larger and there won't be enough time for everyone to participate.
  • Appoint an organizer to keep the schedule, send out reminders, and be available to answer questions. If your group's kids are young, have a parent act as the organizer; but older kids will be able (and eager) to handle this responsibility themselves.
  • Set a schedule: Meeting monthly or even bi-monthly gives everyone time to read the selection without too much time pressure. Some groups meet only during the school year; others meet only in the summer. Find what works best for yours. "I found it best to choose dates at the beginning of the year rather than leaving it up to each host family to pick the date for its month — that way there were less likely to be conflicts," says one New York mom. Or plan a recurring date, such as the first Monday of every month.
  • Find a place: As a group, decide if you would rather meet at participants' homes or at a public spot, such as a bookstore, library, or coffee shop.
  • Select the books: Have the host of the first meeting choose the first book, then let the kids decide on the rest. Some groups select books months ahead of time; others choose only one or two in advance so they can see what is new or interesting.
  • Prompt discussion: Encourage each child to come prepared with at least one topic for discussion or question to ask the group. What happens when someone doesn't finish the book? Find out why, and don't exclude her from the conversation. She may have a compelling, interesting reason worth discussing, suggests Enola Romano, the director of the children's department at Montclair Public Library in New Jersey.
  • Focus on the kids: You and your fellow parent members are there to facilitate discussion, but mostly to listen. Let your child take the lead — you'll be amazed at what you'll learn.
  • Plan an activity to complement the book. You might plant seeds after reading a book about nature or try your hand at poetry after reading Robert Frost. My local librarian hosted a very successful reading group for the Angelina Ballerina books, accompanied by a tea party.
  • Set up a snack: Agree in advance: Will the host provide all the edibles, or will the responsibility be shared? Are there any foods that are off limits due to allergies or other sensitivities?
  • Keep it simple: Don't plan elaborate activities, themes, or meals, and make sure the books you choose are within the capabilities of the group. Thirty minutes to an hour for discussion and another half hour or so for any activity or snack afterwards is enough.
  • Stay flexible: Your group will naturally evolve as your kids grow and change. You may meet more or less frequently or choose different books to explore. What matters most: Keep the pages turning and the conversation flowing!

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