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.
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.
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 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: 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 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 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 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 differentonlineresources 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.
The 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.
Bone: 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.
Space 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!
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!