Library Lifeline part 5: Running a school library book club

21 Apr 2022
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We're thrilled to share with you the fifth blog in our series, Library Lifeline, written in association with the School Library Association. This series is designed to support anyone working in a school library by answering their questions directly. If you have a question that you’d like to ask our ‘agony aunt’ – the SLA’s Member Development Librarian, Dawn Woods – then please email us at worldofstories@literacytrust.org.uk and your question may be the focus of a future blog!

What do I need to consider when starting a school library book club?

School Librarian

The only important factor to bear in mind with a school library book club is that it should be fun. It’s not a lesson, it’s a chance for children to enjoy reading and discussing books with others without any judgement on their views of a book.

It’s also a chance to expand pupils’ reading repertoire and motivation and provide a greater challenge for those who are happy to read and encouraging confidence in those who would otherwise struggle.

Questions to ask

Decide certain parameters:

  • Is it to be aimed at any particular year group?
    • Will younger children feel supported or intimidated by the presence of older pupils?
  • Or aimed at a special group of children?
    • Pupil Premium, EAL or perhaps an inter-generational group – parent and child?
  • Will numbers have to be limited as space is limited in the library or reading space?
  • Will it be after school or in the lunch break?
    • Will after school exclude certain pupils?
  • Do you plan to offer refreshments? Normally eating and drinking in the library will be forbidden, but squash and a biscuit help add to the relaxed atmosphere

Pupil voice

Invite pupils to decide on the direction of their book club.

This is a fun, voluntary activity, so if it means starting with just two pupils, that’s perfectly fine (and normal). Experience has shown that they will enjoy themselves, spread the word and you will soon grow.

The advantage of holding the book club in the library is that you will never be short of books to discuss. You don’t all need to read the same book title at the same time. If getting hold of multiple copies will be a problem, simply start with a general book discussion on what pupils have enjoyed reading.

Booktalk - the ability and confidence to express opinions about books - is a skill that pupils will improve with practice.

Start by modelling your enthusiasm for sharing your thoughts on the motives of characters and general theme of the book(s) and pupils will soon follow suit. Ensure everyone knows that you don’t all have to enjoy the same books and all opinions are valid. You could even focus your first meeting around discussion of Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader poster, which is free to download with your National Literacy Trust membership.

National Literacy Trust book club resources

Now that you are inspired to start your book club, don’t forget that the National Literacy Trust is here to support you all the way. Your membership gives you access to some fantastic ready-made book club resources to walk you through all the steps you need.

Consider the Marcus Rashford Book Club which aims to encourage and nurture a love of reading in children. Resources provided include an activity pack filled with high quality activities, exciting lesson plans and a poster.

Or, the resource for The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell, which includes guidance notes to take you through six book club sessions, including tips to engage your pupils in meaningful conversation around this book.

You might choose to explore Bali Rai’s Now or Never, and delve deeper into its historical context by using the links provided in the resource for further insight and exploration.

Further ideas for your book club

  • Consider shadowing a national or local award too
  • If you have time you can introduce other book activities in your meeting such as making bookmarks or book folding decorations- other curious pupils using the library at the time may ask to join in!
  • Use the school’s Twitter account to contact the author of a book recently read with children’s comments or questions. Many authors will respond, which will excite your pupils and encourage them to keep reading!

Helpful resources: