Add Flair to Get a Book Club Running by Christy Kepler

At the Oswego Public Library District we have had a lot of success with book clubs. We have 7 monthly book clubs! We offer a book club choice for kids ages K through 8th grade. What is it that attracts young readers to these book clubs? Flair!
All of the book clubs have a different “flair.” Either the kids get a free book, eat pizza or do activities together. The book club topics are varied and hit special interests. We have two graphic novel clubs, a mystery club and a K-1 club that targets emerging readers. If you are looking to create a club, think of why would kids want to join? What special thing will this club offer that will make them want to keep coming back?
Here is the “Flair” we have had success with –
1. Pizza – we have a 4-5th grade book club that eats a pizza snack while discussing their book.
2. Free copy of next selection – We give attendees a paperback copy of the next selection at some of our book clubs. This helps prevent tons of multiples needing space on the shelves. When we use a set from our collection at these clubs, we give out Advanced Reader copies that we are done with. The kids love these! Tip on giving out the books – do it at the meeting and do not give out books to those who miss the meeting. The kids not in attendance and new comers can check out a copy. This prevents books going out to kids that never actually attend.
3. Activities – We have a book club for 2nd & 3rd graders that start the book that night and then do an activity or craft that goes along with the book. This works well for this age group since the kids are reading at different levels and speeds. There is some discussion while they are reading the first chapter or two together. The kids check out the book afterwards to finish it at home.
4. Picture Books – We have had a great response from K-1 kids in a group that reads an entire picture book together in the program. They have a brief discussion and then do a related activity or craft afterward. We use mostly current Monarch nominees for this club. We have multiple copies on hand and related books for the kids to check out at the end of the program.
5. Graphic Novels – There are many kids – boys and girls- who LOVE graphic novels. We have targeted them with this club. We had such a great response with the initial club for 4-5th graders that we started a 6-8th grade club too! Kids who really like comics and graphic novels love to discuss them with others who enjoy them as much as they do.
Not every club we started has succeeded. It is often hard to pin point the exact reason one worked and another didn’t. If your club is struggling to take off, take another look at these 3 things-
1. Are the selections popular enough? We have found the best success with starting clubs with books that are current favorites and then working in other titles later. Movie tie-ins or popular books like the Wimpy Kid series, Divergent, or Magic Treehouse will bring in fans of the books even if they are not previous book club goers.
2. Is the book short enough and easily available? Choose a shorter book for your first selection and be sure there are plenty of copies available for checkout. We have had great luck with books like Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. It is short, popular, in paperback so we can get multiple copies. It has both boy and girl appeal too!
3. Does your name have zing? Make sure your name is appealing to your target age group. Beware of making it too cute or juvenile. Book Buddies will not bring in the junior high school students. Also don’t forget to make it have boy and girl appeal. If you are stuck on names then try a google search for book store or book club names.
Book Clubs are a great way to offer something for every age group. Readers and emerging readers alike enjoy meeting up with like-minded kids and talking about their passions. Clubs can be enjoyed by kids who are not fast readers, voracious readers or even independent readers. Just find some flair and give it a whirl. If you can’t get a steady group coming, don’t give up! Try again. It is all worth the effort once you get your group going.

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