Early Readers Book Club

One of my goals this year is to write more about the school-age programs I deliver at my library. A favourite of mine is the Early Readers Book Club aimed at kids in grades K – 2. I love this program because it supports the emerging literacy of kids who have graduated from storytime and are being introduced to more formal “learn-to-read” techniques in school. This program does not teach kids to read. This program is meant to introduce kids to awesome books for emerging readers, to get them excited about books and reading, and to help them develop social skills through interacting with their peers. Another goal is to connect them to an adult in their community (me!) with whom they have a positive, supportive relationship.

Here’s how I run the program. Firstly, this program is registration based and I take about 12 kids at a time. We meet once a month after school. My library system has special book club sets I can use which come with non-circulating copies of the book. When kids arrive their book is waiting for them in a circle formation where we all take a seat. I do a quick icebreaker activity where I pass out an M&M to each kid. Then I ask a different question based on the colour and kids respond according to the one they got. They also introduce themselves (every single month!).

Next we spend about 10 minutes “investigating” the book. What is on the cover? Who is the author? Who is the illustrator? How long is the book? What could this book be about? Then we either read all, most, or part of the book depending on how long it is. The goal here is to introduce them to the main characters and get them excited to take the book home to read.

After that we jump into the activities. This usually involves some sort of craft or game. Not all kids are able to write so I don’t choose writing heavy options (like making a poem or writing a story). We do draw though. I keep this part pretty informal. We all gather around a group of tables and help each other and talk while we play. I try hard to encourage them to ask each other for help before coming to me and it’s so rewarding when they start doing it on their own! Here are some of the books I’ve featured and the activities I did for each.

Chester by Melanie Watt
Who doesn’t love Chester? To inspire the kids to get creative in their own storytelling, I passed out discarded picture books and red markers. Then we spent time “decorating” the books just like Chester. They loved this activity! We ended by playing Pin the Award on Chester.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
To begin the activity I placed different types of books around the room – dictionaries, atlases, chapter books, graphic novels, information books, phone books, joke books, etc. To get the kids moving a bit, I had them each go to one of the books and see if they could figure out which type it is. Then we rotated in a circle until everyone had seen them all. We discussed the similarities between books and which ones we’d eat if we were like Henry. Afterwards we created our own plate of food using paper plates and images the kids cut out from discarded cookbooks. Each person got to present their ideal meal for brain power.

The Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems
The book club set we have has copies of different titles in the series so kids can pick which one they want to read. I read “There is a Bird on Your Head” to the whole group. Then we made Elephant and Piggie paper bag puppets and acted out the story again in pairs. There are so many Elephant and Piggie ideas out there – check out my Book Character Parties Round-Up post for a huge list.

The Disgusting Critters series by Elise Gravel
Step 1: Teach kids the Herman the Worm song. Step 2: Convince them to stop singing it (harder than you think!) Step 3: Make our own disgusting electric critters. Using a clothespin, a lithium battery, 2 LED lights, a paperclip, electrical tape, pipe cleaners, and scissors I walked the kids through how to create a circuit which lights up their critters’ “eyes.” Then we decorated them with pipe cleaners.

Here’s my disgusting critter

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
We read about the first 15 pages of this one by our fellow British Columbian and take note of the structure and sound effects. Then I walk kids through how to make their own paper aliens (aka ants). Next we designed spaceships for Binky to blast off in. I traced a basic shape of recycled cracker boxes and cut out holes on paper towel rolls to make the parts. Then I printed pictures of Binky on cardstock so kids could put him in the driver’s seat.

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee; illustrated by Tony Fucile
Kids get to choose which of the books in this series to take home. I read them the scene about the goldfish and then we make our own paper plate aquariums filled with cracker goldfish, plus extras for snacking. All you need for this are paper plates, construction paper, plastic ziplock bags, and colouring utensils. As we worked we talked about what would live in our aquariums and kids got super creative with names and backstories of all their goldfish.

Fancy version by Crafts by Amanda

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
After reading part of this graphic novel, I split the kids into two teams: Team Narwhal and Team Jelly. Then we plated a trivia game where I asked them true or false questions about these sea creatures. Afterwards we created our graphic novels using “miximals,” something I saw on Clanton’s blog. I had each kids draw two pieces of paper from a bag. Each piece of paper had the name of an animal on it. Then I used the Narwhal and Jelly graphic novel template and kids created a story by combining their two animals. This activity requires the most amount of writing so I saved it for later in the year.

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
Dory is the longest book we read in this club, so it’s best to feature it towards the end of the year when kids have had more time to learn how to read. I read the part where Dory pretends to be a dog and then we make our own set of dog ears. Kids can decorate them however they’d like. After everyone has their ears, I take the kids through a series of commands and they have have to learn how to be good puppies. Things like jump, sit, lay down, roll over, bark, etc. We end with them eating a snack “puppy style.” This probably sounds weird but trust me they will love it.

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
After reading the entire book together we play a memory game. I gathered a bunch of “emergency” items (whistle, paperclip, tape, etc.) and put them on a tray. The kids get to look at the tray for 2 minutes. Then I take it away and they see how many items they can remember. You can also take away an item and see if they can work together to figure it out. After, we created a parachute for Scaredy Squirrel. We used plastic bags, cups, yarn, and tape. Trace a circle on the plastic bag, cut it out, cut out 4 holes in it and reinforce with tape. Then tie yarn through each hole and connect it to the cup with tape. I had pom pom balls the kids could fill their cups with to see if they would work. Lots of experimenting with this one!

These activities take us right up to the full hour and caregivers are encouraged to come in and talk to their child about the book and what we made each week. One thing I’d like to add is some sort of take-home activity or discussion guide for the caregivers to encourage them to read the book at home with their little one. I just don’t want it to feel like homework, you know? The kids take the book home and bring it back the next month.

Do you run any sort of book club for this age group? I would love to swap ideas! Please leave a comment below with any tips or tricks you have.

Tween Book Club Resources

Awhile back I wrote about the Tween Book Club I run at my branch and all the extension activities I’ve done with the kids.  I recently landed a new (PERMANENT FULL TIME!) job that has me switching my focus from middle years to early years, so unfortunately I won’t be in charge of a tween book club anymore.

But I did promise to write more about the resources I used to plan my tween book clubs.  I view this post as a living document, so please leave a comment if there is anything you think I should add.


Websites and Blogs

Discussion and Activity Ideas

  • Skype Book Club by GreenBeanTeenQueen – call the author via Skype and let the kids ask him or her questions.
  • 10 Ideas to Get Your Book Club Talking About Books by Teen Services Underground
  • Grab some dice and play roll and retell.  Or make one of these Cootie Catcher Story Elements (Thank you, Angie for pointing me towards these!)
  • Book Resource Guides by the California Young Reader Medal – these include discussion questions, activities, read alikes, and more! Super, super useful.
  • Have the tweens write tweets and then share them with the author. I did this with Sage Blackwood, author of Jinx.  The kids spent a good 15 minutes of the meeting writing 140 word questions and feedback that I later tweeted to Sage (who replied to them all!). At our next meeting I shared what Sage wrote.


What did I miss? Please leave a comment and I’ll add in your suggested resources!

Tween Book Club Extension Activities

This post is so long overdue! I’ve written once about the Tween Book Club I run at my library, but I really should take more time to share the books and activities we do each month. I’ve got a solid group of 12 kids who show up to every meeting, and we’ve been having a great time.  I think I’ll make this a blog series and write up posts on icebreaker activities, how to encourage discussion, and places you can find other resources.  For now, I thought for  I’d share some quick and easy meeting ideas.

The first 20-25 minutes of each meeting is the same. We do an icebreaker activity and then we discuss the book.  I will write more about each of these activities in my future posts, I promise!

For the second half of the book club, we do some sort of extension activity that is thematically related to the book. I try to vary the type of activity because the tweens all have their own personalities and preferences, and I also aim for fun and laid back options.  Here’s a list of the books we’ve read and the matching extension activities.

jinx sage blackwoodJinx by Sage Blackwood
We did two activities for this book.  First, because there is lots of magic in the story, I showed the kids three different card tricks and they had to work together to see if they could solve them.  Then two kids demonstrated card tricks of their own.  Secondly, we did a window decorating craft.  I loved the setting of this book, a magical forest called the Urwald.  Using large pieces of black construction paper, we cut out trees and creatures that reminded us of the book. Then we taped them to the library’s windows creating a shadow display. Here’s a Halloween example of what the final result looked like.

amulet Amulet: The Stonekeeper (Book One) by Kazu Kibuishi
As I was reading this book I kept thinking about the theme, “Things aren’t always what they seem.” So for our first activity I printed off a bunch of funny pictures (the ones I chose were all tween appropriate), and had the kids discuss what was really happening. Much laughter ensued and this led us back to talking about the book. Next, we played an Amulet themed version of “Would You Rather?” I had about 10 pre-written scenarios, and the kids each wrote down two of their own. Again, lots and lots of giggles.

word nerdWord Nerd by Susin Nielsen
This book takes place in Vancouver so I knew I wanted to do something about neighbourhoods and maps. I printed some maps of the Kitsilano and Granville Island areas and we marked off the places that Ambrose visits. And then of course we played a team round of Scrabble which the kids loved so much they asked me if we could play it every month!

rules Rules by Cynthia Lord
We talked a lot about autism and disabilities during the discussion part of our meeting today, so for the activity I brought out Pictionary. A character named Jason in the book communicates via picture cards, and I thought this game would be an interesting way for the kids to see what that would be like.

better nate than everBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
I have a pretty outgoing group of kids so I knew I could get away with doing a bunch of theatre games.  The main character, a kid named Nate, tries out for the Broadway musical version of E.T. and he’s asked to show off a special skill. So we started from there! After that I pulled 4-5 games from different online resources I found and we all channeled our inner Nate.  This works even better if you can scrounge up some props for the kids to use.

Ttom gateshe Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon
This book takes place in England, so the characters say lots of British sayings that my tweens were unfamiliar with. Thankfully, the author includes a glossary at the end with definitions of the words.  I created a quiz based on her list and the tweens tried to remember what each word or phrase meant. The tween with the most correct answers won a free book. Usually I try to stay away from “school-like” activities, but this was more of a contest and the kids loved the competition aspect.  Next, I found this fun drawing activity on the author’s Tom Gates blog: grab some bananas and some pens! I took pictures of their drawings and hung them up in our meeting room.

BoneBone: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith
If you hadn’t already noticed, my tweens are obsessed with graphic novels.  For our first activity, I printed out pictures of every single character in the book and hung them up around the room. Then I gave kids about 5 minutes to go around and write down one word that best describes each character next to their picture. We had a lot of fun with this activity and I had each tween present one of the characters when we were done.  Next we spent time trying to create our own graphic novel panels.  I knew some of the kids would struggle with a blank slate, so I brought out lots of magazines and discarded books. Anyone who didn’t want to draw their own could cut out pictures and assemble them instead.

zita the spacegirlSpace Adventure Graphic Novels
I tried something different this month and pulled three different graphic novels/manga that take place in space or on another planet. They are Zita the Spacegirl by Bet Hatke, Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity by Dave Roman and Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma.  I hadn’t done a craft activity in awhile so I collected a bunch of small cardboard boxes and we made these alien creatures and placed them on top of the science section in the juvenile non-fiction collection.  Any time our activity leads to decorating the library in some way, the kids get really into it!

So that’s what I’ve been up to in my Tween Book Club.  Do you run a Tween Book Club? I’d love to hear about the books you read and the activities you do at your meetings!

Tween Book Club: Yotsuba&!

Since March I’ve been working as middle years focused Children’s Librarian. One of the programs I inherited is a Tween Book Club that meets once a month to discuss a book or graphic novel we’ve all read the previous month. I was so nervous to take over this program, but it has been an absolute joy! I’m really starting to get to know the kids, and we usually end up laughing the entire way through our meeting.

My group really loves graphic novels. They read Smile by Raina Telgemeier last fall and we recently read Bone #1: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith. With a limited number of graphic novel book club sets to choose from, we settled on Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma for this month’s choice.


Each meeting is an hour long.  Here’s what we got up to!

1. Icebreaker Activity (5 minutes)

I usually choose something silly and quick. This week I challenged the kids to line up in birth order without talking. This led to lots of giggles and wild hand movements.

2. Discussion Time (10-15 minutes)

We spend some time each meeting discussing the book and the characters, but I really don’t push this part if the group isn’t feeling it. I want the focus to be on having fun. I come prepared with some broad questions that I use to get us started, but I let the conversation veer in the direction the kids take it. I usually ask:

  • Did you like the book? Why or why not?
  • Who was your favourite character?
  • Talk about a scene that stood out to you.
  • What would you do if you were _________ (insert character’s name)?
  • What would you if you met __________ (insert character’s name)?

 3. Sound it Out Game (10-15 minutes)

In the graphic novel, Yostuba often mispronounces common words or phrases, mistaking them for other things. It’s part of her charm; she’s very naive about the world and it usually leads to humorous situations. As I was reading these parts I was reminded of a board game I used to play as a kid called Babble On. Basically, you’re give a phrase made up of nonsensical words and you have to get your team members to guess the real phrase by saying it out loud. Here’s an example:

Ace Tray Taste Who Dent = A Straight A Student

I found a bunch more examples on this website. I printed these out and gave each kid a few of them.  Then we took turns saying the nonsense phrase and we all tried to guess the real phrase.  They thought this was so hilarious!

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