Tag Archives: book clubs

Middle Grade Book Discussion Groups


Are you in a book club? What kind of book club? Do you discuss books for grown-ups or books for kids?

Most of the books I read are middle grade or YA. But it took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t the only grown-up (am I really a grown-up?) who read kids’ books…thus maybe a book discussion group for grown-ups who want to discuss kids’ books wasn’t a terrible idea.

My first book club was made up entirely of people who were also writing kids’ books. We alternated between middle grade and YA, and we discussed the books from a writer’s point of view. How did the author develop this character? How did he evoke a sense of place? What do you think of the structure? The plot? Why did an editor say yes to this? Would it have been published 10, 20, 30 years ago? Why did it win X award? Why was it passed up for Y award? What does this author do really, really well? What could she improve upon? This was a great group, but alas I moved away so I’m no longer in it.

I am in another book club, though. This one is mostly a middle grade book discussion group and it’s made up of authors, librarians, teachers and booksellers. People who are passionate about middle grade, but coming at it from a variety of professions.

book-club-clip-art-290707Here is how we operate:

  1. We meet once a month…at someone’s house.
  2. If it’s your house, your responsibilities are to:
    1. Choose the book
    2. Send out a reminder to the group that includes your address and directions, if necessary
    3. Lead the discussion and provide some additional information on the book, which could include notes from an interview with the author, reviews, anything that enriches our experience of having read the book and adds to the conversation
    4. Provide beverages
  3. Everyone else will:
    1. Let the host/hostess know if they’re coming
    2. Bring treats

It’s all very low key and easy. We also leave a little time for socializing and everyone gets a chance to share what other books they’re currently reading. It’s a great way connect with other kids book people and stay current on what’s being published.

If you’re interested in being part of a kids’ book discussion group, check out Forever Young Adult, which is an international YA book discussion group that hosts club meetings in many cities. Each club, no matter where it’s located, reads and discusses the same YA novel each month. If you know of other national or International kids’ book clubs for grown-ups that are open to anyone, please let us know!

You might also consider starting your own club. Reach out to other authors, teachers, librarians and booksellers. You might be surprised how many people in your community also read kids’ books.


Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of the Haunted Library series, the Buddy Files series and many other books. For more information visit her website or look for her on Facebook or Twitter.

Make Reading Fun

Summer is full of fun in the sun, dips in a pool, and hopefully reading some great middle-grade novels, too. Here are some ways to help inspire reading this summer.

Middle Grade Books and Ruby

Read books together. No matter how old a child or teen gets, it’s nice to share great books with relatives. Why not find a comfy spot and take turns reading to each other?

Read to a pet or a young child. My older daughter used to love reading books to her sister, and I lost track of how many times I found her snuggling with our dog while reading a book to her. Books with fun dialogue or younger siblings are great choices for this. As a child, I absolutely adored Judy Blume’s books (I even wrote my first fan letter to her). My girls are three years apart, and when my older daughter was six, I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to her. I was pleasantly surprised when my younger daughter sat with us, laughing and intently listening to all of Peter and Fudge’s adventures.

Find a fun location to read. You can encourage reading at a beach, pool, or park. You can grab a seat and read almost anywhere! I think it would be fun to sit where you can watch gorillas in a zoo and read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

Create a contest to inspire the kids or teens in your life to read. You can have them put their name, the book title, and their favorite part of the book on a circle and see who creates the longest bookworm by the end of the summer. To celebrate, you can go someplace fun or have a treat like pizza or ice cream, and maybe give the winner a gift card to buy a new book or two. You could even create a themed party where you make fun treats like the ones in their favorite book/s.

Join a book club, or start one of your own. Hanging out with friends and talking about great books is an awesome way to encourage kids to read. Here are some Mixed-Up Files posts about book clubs that might help you:

*Starting a Parent/Child Book Club

*One Mom Plus Two Sets of Twins Leads to Three Great Book Clubs

*Middle-grade Book Club Guide

To make a book club even more fun, you can check to see if any of the authors on this list are still available for a free 15 – 20 minute Skype visit after all the kids in the book club read at least one of his or her books!

If you’re looking for great new middle-grade novels to read this summer, check out our monthly new release posts. You can also browse through all the unique book lists on our site and search for categories like humorous, mystery, action & adventure, animal, fantasy & paranormal, etc.

I’d love to know how you make reading fun, and what middle-grade books are on your must-read list.

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

Starting a Parent/Child Book Club


Statue of mother and child reading

This fall, my third grader and I and some friends from the neighborhood started a mother/daughter book club. There are so many benefits for the kids, who are reading, analyzing books, socializing, interacting with adults outside the family, and learning to voice their opinions. It’s also been a fun social opportunity for the moms, and a chance to get to know the other girls in the group better. And we’ve read some great books! Here are a few tips for those interested in starting a kid book club.

  1. Forming the group

First, think about the number of group members. Too many can get quickly out of hand and can silence the quieter kids, while too few can make it difficult to get a conversation going, particularly when it’s likely there will always be someone who can’t make the meeting because of a conflict. Our group has nine parent/kid sets, and I don’t think I’d go much larger than that. Somewhere between five and ten is probably a good number.

To find group members, think about your child’s friends from school, your own friends and their kids, your neighbors, your place of worship, your kid’s summer camp or sports team, and even your family, if it’s big enough.

  1. Logistics

Next, decide where and how often to meet. You may want to have a first, organizing meeting with your group to talk this through. The families in our group take turns hosting. The host parent and child provide snacks and lead the discussion. We meet every four to six weeks during the school year, on a weekend late afternoon. Each meeting lasts an hour, with the first thirty minutes for eating, chatting, allowing for late arrivals, and maybe a craft or activity. Then we begin the discussion.

  1. Choosing the books

This part is hard, but also really fun. First, consider whether to focus on a particular type of book, such as nonfiction or Newbery winners or science fiction. Then, think about the age and interests of the kids in your group. Teachers and librarians can be great sources of book ideas, as can websites and blogs like this one.

The trick with choosing is to encourage the kids to select books that interest them, but not to let them get over their heads in terms of what they’ll enjoy and be able to finish. My advice would be for the parents to narrow the selections to a group that are all acceptable, then let the kids vote. It’s probably best to err on the side of easier rather than harder, particularly at the beginning when everyone is getting the hang of group discussion.

It can be good to pick a few books at once to avoid spending too much club time on the picking, so more kids can get their favorites chosen, and so people can read ahead. Don’t pick too many at a time, though. You need to allow for the kids’ changing interests and maturity, which happens so fast at this age!


  1. Encouraging participation

As a formerly shy girl, I know that it’s important to make it easy for the quieter kids to speak. One idea is to give the kids a notebook to use to write down their thoughts as they read. You can send questions ahead of time and let them write answers in the notebook, so that they feel prepared when the discussion starts. It’s also nice to have a question at the beginning of the meeting that each child answers. For instance, they can give the book a thumbs up or down, or rate it on a scale of 1-5. Once you start talking, it’s easier to continue. It’s also good to encourage raising hands to speak.

Recognize that it may take a while for the kids to feel comfortable talking. If most of the meeting seems to be the parents talking, remember that you’re modeling for the kids, and they’ll be able to do it themselves soon.

book club snacks

  1. Have fun!

Keep discussion on the book, but don’t forget that it should be fun, too. Try to keep the mood light. We usually have snacks that match the food or theme of the book (above are the mermaid snacks we had to go along with The Tail of Emily Windsnap). We’ve decorated bookmarks and eaten cookies shaped like books. Consider costumes. Kids can write letters to authors, and many authors have book extras on their websites, which can make for fun activities. Be creative and enjoy your new club!

If you have other ideas for kid book clubs or can recommend books that your club has particularly liked, please share them in the comments!

Katharine Manning is a writer and mom of three. She reviews middle grade books at www.kidbooklist.com. You can follow her on twitter @SuperKate.