The new year is here, and your Book Club Launch is only weeks away!
You could start in February, but the first few weeks of school are crazy for children and their parents. If you plan to host your Book Club somewhere in the last two weeks of each month, you'll be fine - but think about whether you want to have a Christmas Party at the end of the year. Too close to Christmas is too stressful for everyone.
After trial and error, I began the book clubs in March of each year - (on the first Thursday of the month). It missed out a busy February and we got to have our Christmas Party before the silly season really got underway.
- What to bring. Start with something simple for the first bookclub of the year. Ask members to bring their favourite book they have read over the holidays.
So now you have your notice out for new members, you should let all your current members (from the previous year), know when your next bookclub is and what to bring. I would email them in a newsletter type format (Mailchimp is great for this - and free to use).
The first activity for the year would always be a Classics Quiz. I used different questions every year to keep things fresh for my current members.
See below for an example of a Children's Book Classics Quiz.
See you next time!
Many stores will have 'After Christmas' or 'Happy New Year' Sales - which won't just be on Christmas items.
Use this time (if you have time), to stock up on goodies for your Tween Book Club Tray.
At the very least - use it as an excuse to go shopping! Who knows what bargains you may find for yourself, while you're planning ahead.
Why did I make it the children's responsibility to sign in? Just that - to make them responsible for themselves with a nice incentive at the end of the year for doing so.
But - I would always ask before we began the Tween Book Club session if everyone had remembered to sign in - There was always a few who would jump up and do it if they had forgotten.
The incentive to do this? A bag of goodies at the end of the year at the December meeting.
This 'Christmas' meeting was always special. We would invite everyone to come along as a book character, and it didn't matter if it was just a little face paint or a costume from head to foot, everyone always had a fantastic time.
For the first few years I would bake xmas goodies, have popcorn, drinks and chippies. But when I asked if parents could bring along a plate of goodies for the meeting, they were only too pleased to help!
(One Christmas, a mum had only realised on the way to Book club that she had left her contribution on the table at home, so she dashed into a fish and chip shop and brought along a few scoops of hot chips. They went down a treat!)
After some fun photos, we would always talk about our favourite book for the year - it was a tough decision for most! Then I would hand out Christmas goodie bags, and this is where the 'Signing in Incentive' kicked in.
The more bookclub meetings a member came to, the more goodies they got at the December meeting!
It was tough (fun) competition amongst a few members and their friends, as to how many monthly meetings they could tick off over the year - and the prizes weren't by any means expensive. It was just friendly rivalry at being the person with the most ticks!
Possible Gifts for Christmas Goodie Bags - List
At our first Christmas meeting, we used brown paper bags - but then Banks, publishers, or retail stores would gift them to us. It was good advertising for the businesses because their logo was all over the bags, and a great way to hand out goodies!
We were lucky enough to get over-runs of books, 'readers' copies (with plain covers), and samples from publishers which we put aside all year, so that each book club member went away with at least one book to keep from the December meeting.
Don't have access to a publisher? Ring and ask them. You'd be amazed at how many books are pulped as returns from booksellers etc. If that is still not possible, why not check out the next second hand book sale in your area, or the next book sale at bargain stores. Many of these stores buy 'remainders', in bulk from publishers and then sell them at really cheap prices. I've found brand new kids and teens books at School Gala Book Tables.
Keep your eyes and ears open throughout the year. If you are anything like me, you'll be going to the book sales anyway - and its amazing what 'near new' treasures you'll find!
Inside the Bags - Can be sourced throughout the year
Special Note: Depending on whether you have chosen to charge members to attend your Book club could determine what you have in your goodie bags. We never charged a cent over 4 years and the members always went away with something.
Members Leaving: Members may leave for many reasons - but the special reasons were if they were turning 13, going to High School, or moving away. We would always make a fuss of them saying goodbye, and many times would be welcoming them in the New Year to the Teen Bookclub!
So - December Meetings were usually:
- Arrive in Book Character Costume / Photos
- Discuss our favourite books for the year
- Hand out Goodie Bags - 'the most attended meetings' members were first
- Eat the yummy goodies they'd brought along to share
- Farewell for another year!
My next 'Tween Bookclubs' post will be 1st January 2016 - Book Club Activities
Have a Merry Christmas and a fabulous time with family and friends!
Although I'd like to think all our Tween Bookclub members came purely for the love of reading, I know the truth - chocolate, lollies and other goodies - even if it was just a small inexpensive lollipop, definitely aided their presence!
Ok, so you might not want to have these sugary treats on offer, or the parents might not want their children having them - it's entirely up to you. But start as you mean to go on. If you have none in the beginning, none will be expected.
The tray became a huge part of our Tween Book club with all the goodies on offer (as mentioned in my previous post). But the members had to do something before they were given the opportunity to choose something off it.
But first we begin with the members arriving:
- The members sign in by ticking the box next to their name on the list you have prepared prior - or they enter their details onto the list while you are writing them a new name tag. (See the next post why they sign in.)
(Make sure their email address is correct so you can let them know all the details of the next bookclub night.)
- They make themselves comfortable on cushions or beanbags or whatever you have chosen to use. I found these help the members to relax. They are with other children they haven't met yet, and may be unsure of new surroundings if it is in a bookshop or somewhere they are not familiar with.
We began every Tween Bookclub with the tray.
- On the very first meeting you could ask members to talk about their favourite book, or author, why etc, or about the book they have brought along for the first meeting.
Some will be too shy to do this on the first Bookclub, but there will always be a keen, confident member or two who can't wait to talk about their book, or favourite author.
- Ask them to come up the front with you (I always sat on a chair - not the floor!) and talk about their book.
Public speaking is frightening for many - young and old. But this is a way to help the young members with that. They will have to stand up in front of their class at school at some stage, and parents commented on how doing this with a smaller group such as Tween Bookclub, helped with those fears.
- First, have them introduce themselves (even if they are wearing nametags), say how old they are and maybe what school they are at?
- Help them to structure their review by asking simple questions like who wrote it, why did they like it, etc and further down the track when they have a few bookclubs under their belt, you can add questions about genre, style, point of view or any manner of things, which will help them structure book reviews for school etc in the future.
- Keep their review/talk to about 2-3 mins each, and then when they have finished, offer them something from the tray.
Suddenly, eyes light up and they realise that if they are brave enough to do a review, they too can choose from the tray.
Bribery? Trickery? _ I call it Incentive!
My next post will cover just that! What next?
Now you have your members, your venue and your time sorted you need to choose the same date each month to hold your new Bookclub. This makes it easy for your members and their parents to remember and it can be circled on their calendars in advance.
Through trail and error I learnt that the middle of the week seems more acceptable to busy parents and children.
Mondays creep up on us far too fast and by Friday everyone just wants to go home and blob, or there is a family event or other function to attend.
(You can always ask what suits your members when they arrive or sign up on the first night. You will never keep everyone happy, but can let the bulk of the date requests help you decide.)
Set up Kit - Before the date of your first book club arrives, put together your set-up kit.
This could include:
You can buy stickers, badges, pencils, glitter pens etc very cheaply to put on your tray. The sticker books can be cut up to make them last many months of book clubs. You could speak to your local bookshop or contact children's publishers to ask if they have any promotional material (even if it is old), like badges, bookmarks or even books. You would be surprised how many books are pulped as damaged when they have a small mark, are sun damaged or sometimes perfectly fine but not required any more.
A clipboard - holds your A4 sheet that is split into columns as listed above. Fill in the details of the new members you have already signed up, so that when they arrive they can tick the box next to their name etc to say they have attended that month's bookclub.
(I'll explain why soon.)
Have lots of spare lines for any new members that arrive.
Name Badges - can be bought in a box of 50 or so and will last for years. Write the names of the members who have signed up already onto a name card each and have them ready for when they arrive. I put them in alphabetical order, so they can pick them up on the way in the door.
Have a black marker pen handy at the beginning of any book club so you can quickly write up a name badge for any new members who come along. Siblings, cousins and friends will often want to join in - as long as they are 8-12 years - tweens (or what ever age you set at the beginning).
The tray - can be filled with any type of treats if you don't want to give out lollies and chocolate. If you want to make handmade treats, just make sure they're individually wrapped on the tray, which is more hygenic, less messy, or so the child can take it home if they wish.
Now you're ready for your first Book club night.
Next post is: 'Why the Tray full of Goodies?'
One of my favourite things to do is talking about and sharing books with Tween readers. (8-12 yrs) And what better way to do that than hosting a book club?
As a children's bookseller for 4 years at Beattie & Forbes Booksellers, running the Tween Bookclub was heaps of fun.
Book clubs can be as small as 3 people, and I've had up to 30 at a session, but 15-20 was the best for a number of reasons which I'll talk about later.
Finding members - If you're beginning a bookclub at your school you can advertise in the school newsletter to let parents know, or on the school noticeboard, in the school library, and in class notices.
Sometimes students will be dubious about a book club. The perception that book clubs are for dorks or nerds or whatever the 'cool' kids want to call them; is still out there.
But word of mouth around a school is a powerful thing and the doubters will soon be lining up to join - if there are any spaces left of course! A waiting list is great for drumming up interest.
I began with 100% girl members and it turned around to over half of the members being boys.
Starting a Tween Bookclub out of school can be advertised in newsletters in schools in your local area, as a poster in your local bookstore, or again, just by word of mouth, text, internet, etc. between interested book-lovers.
Time - It will be tricky to suit everyone, so pick a time that suits the bulk of your new members. If it's at school, lunchtimes or after school are perfect, because everyone is there already.
If it is a bookstore or public bookclub, I found 5.30pm was a good time to host it.
The member's family's made Tween Bookclub night their monthly takeaways night, picking up their dinner on the way home afterwards.
Whatever suits your members is best, because sharing books and how cool they really are, is the result we are aiming for!
Ages of Members - Tweens 8-12 yrs Teens - High School Students
These were the age rules of our book clubs and it was much easier to be firm with them than have disruptive younger siblings during the book club or topics of books being discussed that weren't suitable for younger children.
Venue - Somewhere that is warm in winter, and comfortable in summer is the best venue. Somewhere with room to set up activities, be able to split your Tweens into groups for competitions, or just spread cushions and beanbags around for the members to relax on while you are discussing books.
Free or Pay? - It's up to you whether you have a charge to attend, either yearly or for each book club. Expectations may rise from parents, even if it is incredible value for money. We never charged members, but were lucky to be well supported with prizes, goodies etc.
Consider costs etc to run your book club. Organising activities takes some time, but I will be helping with ideas along the way.
More on beginning a book club soon....