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Just Imagine Blog: Join the Club

Join the Club

Thinking of setting up a book group? This month, we are sharing some of our top tips to get you started.

Joining a book group is a natural thing to do as a keen adult reader. They give you the opportunity to discuss your reading with other book lovers. They give a sense of belonging to a community of readers and are a great way to pick up recommendations. If you are considering setting up a book group for the children in your school you will be keen to give children access to the same opportunities to enhance their reading experiences. Before you set up your group it is worth spending some time considering the following:

  • Who will come to your book group?
  • What time of day will your book group take place?
  • Where will your group meet?
  • What books will you read?
  • Who will run the group?

Different types of book group

Think carefully about the needs of the readers in your school before you begin your book club. You may be guided by data (e.g. our Year Three pupils are not making as much progress as they should) or by conversations you have had with pupils.

Building partnerships with parents

If you are looking to engage parents, an after school club with a more relaxed feel could work well. The session could give opportunities to read aloud from books and recommend titles as well as giving time for parents and carers to share books with children.

Engaging readers

If your aim is to hook less engaged readers a similar relaxed style of book club could entice them. Offering drinks and snacks can make the club feel more special and exciting. Creating a non threatening atmosphere is important where children feel relaxed and not under pressure. Having a range of reading material is key to the success of this kind of group. One way in is to provide books which the children can enjoy together such as You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Hilary Robinson or Yuval Zoomer’s The Big Book of the Blue. There is plenty to discuss and pore over in these books and they provide a very social reading experience. If you have a range of ages in the group you could have book buddies as reading with younger children can boost the self esteem of children who are finding reading more difficult to engage in.

Our work in schools across the country has shown that children in Year Three are most vulnerable to ‘switching off’ as readers. Our HaHaBoing Bookclub is all about having fun with books. Sessions always begin with an experienced adult reading aloud to the children and include some fun focused book based activities including art, performance, music, craft. The sessions end with some sort of collaborative sharing. We are taking bookings now…

Challenging higher attainers

Higher attaining readers will benefit from being given the time and space to discuss their reading in more depth. Our award winning Reading Gladiators programme provides teachers with a wide range of resources to support Year 2, 4 and 6 pupils to develop and grow as thoughtful, reflective readers. The judges of the Teach Primary Resource awards say: “It is evident that the developers have an in-depth understanding of children’s literature and reading development. This resource has principled and knowledgeable foundations.”  A further benefit of the programme is that schools are encouraged to share their responses to the books using the dedicated website. This allows them to develop a wider community of readers and further opportunities for reflection. In addition Reading Gladiators comes with all the resources you need to run your club – all you need is a willing and enthusiastic adult! Visit our website  or email gladiators@justimaginestorycentre.co.uk for more information and booking.

Some higher attainers benefit from support to make more adventurous reading choices which can be provided by a book club. Having a range of books available to choose from and time for peer recommendation will be helpful.

Frequency and timing of meetings

Holding a meeting of your group every week is the most manageable and enables momentum to be maintained between meetings. Depending on your aims you may want to meet more regularly for a shorter period of time or even fortnightly. If you are all reading the same book then having a week between meetings gives group members the time to read enough of the book to discuss. Treat your book group like any other extra-curricular club by holding it outside of lesson times. Having a lunchtime club with a working lunch could be ideal for some schools while after school may work better for others. It really depends on the way your school is set up and the person who is running the club. As long as you will not be interrupted (easier said than done I know!) and the group can be given your full attention your club will work well.

Reading spaces

One way of making sure your club is uninterrupted is by using a dedicated space where there is not a steady stream of children walking through on their way to the playground. In an ideal world you will have a library to meet in but if you don’t then you may need to be creative. An empty classroom, Headteacher’s office or even an outdoor area (in fair weather) can provide a space.

What shall we read?

This has been partly covered in the section about different types of group as it does depend on the needs of the group.  

Books that take readers outside their comfort zone may be suitable for some groups while interactive reads may provide an incentive for less engaged readers. Most adult book groups involve each member reading the same book to provide a shared focus for discussion but it really does depend. For further support with book selection please contact us at assistant@justimaginestorycentre.co.uk and we can help you build a list for your group.   

Who will run the group?

Anyone with a love of books can run a book club. You, your Headteacher, a teaching assistant, parent, grandparent – you get the idea! Bags of enthusiasm and a desire to pass on your love of reading to others are the only qualifications needed. Once you get started do let us know how you get on.