• Melanie Notaras

Reading Clubs & Book Clubs - what's the difference?


Oprah has one, and so do Emma Watson and Kim Kardashian - in fact, you might already be in one too! Book clubs are a fun activity where a group of friends read the same book within a set period, then gather together to discuss it (everyone has their own copy). It’s popular among adults and increasingly too among children. Book clubs for kids might be run by schools (usually by the school librarian), by children’s bookstores, by parents (to spread their love of literature / introduce their children to books not read at school), or by kids themselves (I love the idea of one group of Year 6 girls, who knowing they’d all split up to different high schools next year, decided a Book Club would help to keep them in touch). Book Clubs aren’t usually held more than once a month, or once a term.

A Reading Club is a totally different story. Not necessarily remedial, a Reading Club is usually run by schools once or twice a week, and often in the morning before school officially starts. It’s a fun time that’s usually held in the library, with many parents and teachers involved. Kids read – often paired with their parent/carer, guided with a selection of stories brought out by the librarian especially for the morning – if they haven't already brought a favourite book to read. Essentially it’s practice combined with habit, a non-judgemental time where children are encouraged to read and love reading.

Other differences include:

  • Size: Reading Clubs might involve 60 or more children and parents (or however many you can fit in your library), while a Book Club is discussion-based so doesn’t usually have more than 10 or 12 members.

  • Reading levels: Because the reading in Reading Clubs is individual, it can cater to a wide range of reading levels/ages; Book Club members read the same book, so need to be at the same reading level (and preferably genre interest).

  • Affordability: Book Club members need to read the same book at the same time, so usually need to purchase their own copies (though school libraries might be able to offer sets); Reading Clubs usually use existing library books.

  • Parental Involvement: Reading Clubs often have parents coming along to read with their children (though children can also come by themselves if parents aren’t available); Book Clubs don’t have parent involvement (unless actually run by family groups).

Should your school run a Reading or Book Club? Why yes! The more kids read, the better they’re at reading (and maths, science and self-esteem too), so the more ways we can get children reading the better! Whether to encourage reading practice in infants, or enticing teens back into reading - if your school isn’t running one already, why not suggest it to them?

You might want to start a Reading Club:

  • If your school’s reading levels are below standard;

  • If you want to encourage reading as a fun hobby;

  • If you want to create a free before-school activity that many students can attend (for example, if paid before-school care isn’t available or affordable, or if bad weather/bad neighbourhood makes it uncomfortable or unsafe for students to play outside before school);

  • If you want to reduce the number of late starts to school (a fun, free school activity might entice those late-starters to get up and get themselves to school …. early!);

  • If you want to find a way to increase parent participation in the school, and help parents engage with their children’s learning.

You might want to start a Book Club:

  • For groups of children with particular genre or subject interests – to help them enjoy their subject in a new way, or to forge friendships through shared interests;

  • For groups of children who do not like to socially engage – discussions led by a teacher might provide the structure to get kids talking;

  • For groups of children with very high reading levels above their classroom peers – to provide extension;

  • For groups of non-English speaking children – giving them a forum to practice and enjoy reading appropriate texts and discussing in English without feeling judged or limited by native speakers.

And remember, we’re talking clubs – they're meant to be fun! Primary schools can encourage participation through reward stickers, certificates and badges. Middle and high schools might try something quirkier (did you ever hear of the Toilet Book Club*) or reward reading through formal “honours” or granting of special privileges.

* One librarian had the clever idea of sticking small Book Club posters on the inside of school toilet doors to catch students' attention. It was quirky, and it worked! And no, meetings weren't held in the bathroom (they were in the library).

This blog post was brought to you by My School Adventure - a reading fundraiser for primary, elementary and middle grade schools where we customise an exciting adventure gamebook novel to your school including 4 teachers as characters! Easy to run by one volunteer. To learn more please visit www.myschooladventure.com.

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