I thought I was doing everything right in preparing the soil for my son to sprout reading roots before he started school. We spelled words with letter magnets, “read” street signs and ended most nights with our book-before-bed ritual. As much as I tried to ensure good reading habits, by the time my son made it to Grade 4, his interest in reading began to wane. He was a good reader; he just didn’t find pleasure in reading. I longed for him to open books and peek into other worlds, to snuggle up with a book the way he had with his teddy bear. When I heard myself say, “Turn off the TV and get your face behind this book NOW!” I knew reading had turned into a chore.
One day as I listened to my son and his friends talk about their favourite scenes in a popular movie, it got me thinking. I realized these lukewarm pageturners could talk about a book in the same way. I hatched a plan to take my son and two of his reluctant reader friends on a reading journey.
According to Paul Kropp, author of How to Make Your Child Read for Life, ”the window of opportunity for a reading club is around 10 to 14.” Paul agrees that a reading club “can be a great way for boys to engage socially.” Another benefit that can come from a book club is “the nature of the discussion that flows from a book is of a higher order than from talking about a video game. And when it’s boys only or outside the classroom, then it’s not always the girls coming up with all the answers.”
Over the course of a few months, my son and his two friends bonded over three different books! That goes a long way for boys who normally made a mad dash for the game controllers when they got together. The book club didn’t transform them into voracious readers, but my son discovered his favourite author and that he liked the adventure genre best. And when someone asks what he likes to read, he knows just what to answer.
Start a boys’ book club in 5 easy steps
1. Host a launch party
Recruit two or three friends so it’s easier to coordinate and share. Host the launch party and invite parents and siblings to bring a special book. Everyone shares something significant about their book: When did you first read it? Did someone special give it to you? Name a favourite scene or character. At our launch, one parent brought a cookbook from her huge collection, while a dad shared a book given to him as a child by his father.
2. Choose the book
Take the boys to the bookstore to choose the first book. Ask a salesperson about popular titles and have the boys agree on a book. Arrange for a snack afterwards so they can make a pact: We promise to read the book and we seal the deal with an orange juice toast to the club!
3. Prepare for the meeting
The boys read the book within two weeks and check in with each other midway. In our club, the most reluctant reader procrastinated and crammed to make it in time for the meeting. That’s okay, as long as he made the deadline.
4. Host the meeting
When the boys got together for the first meeting, a parent (who also read the book) engaged them in a discussion. They shared impressions about the story, their favourite parts and showed off about which scenes they had predicted. They considered if the book would make a good movie and realized that many movies actually began as books.
5. Make time to celebrate
Make sure to celebrate the first book they read with a special activity. Take a photo of the boys holding their books and make copies so they can use them as bookmarks. Have them consider a book of non-fiction as the next reading choice.
Montreal-based writer Voula Plagakis shares her passion for reading with the three As in her life: Anthony, Ari and Alex.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2012.