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NEA's Read Across America
Celebrate a nation of diverse readers with our recommended books, authors, and teaching resources.
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Book Club Basics

Book clubs should celebrate reading!
Diverse Students in Library

The book club experience is social and a great way to motivate kids to read, get them talking about books, and have them share ideas and perspectives. A Read Across America book club should focus on reading fun and diverse book choices, but everything else is up to you and your book club members.

Choosing Books

Readers can come together to talk about a specific book or discuss a topic or theme across several different book titles. Student interests, reading levels, and book accessibility may play a role in determining what titles your book club chooses to focus on.

  • Specific titles
    If your book club has everyone read the same book, Read Across America has a curated list of recommended picture books, middle grade titles, and young adult books to choose from.
  • Book Genres
    Reading different titles in the same genre or format is a great way for book club members to compare how unique themes, issues, and more play out in a single genre.
  • Themes
    Diverse books feature all kinds of themes and topics. Pick a theme and readers can choose any book that fits! Every title featured as a Read Across America recommended book also includes themed suggestions of even more titles to try.

Where to Get Books

  • School library
    Your school librarian may be able to get multiple copies of specific titles through interlibrary loan within your school system. Your school librarian can also help you with eBook options like Sora.
  • Public library
    Coordinate with your public library to help students borrow books, eBooks, or audiobooks, or work in partnership with your public library to seek grant funding for books and book club programming. Some public libraries also offer book club kits with multiple copies of a title, discussion questions, and other enrichment materials to help you have a successful book club experience!
  • First Book Marketplace and Open eBooks
    First Book partners with NEA to highlight a wide range of engaging and diverse stories. Schools and programs serving children in need can buy low-cost books from the First Book Marketplace at 50-90 percent off retail price or register for Open eBooks to receive free eBooks for students.
  • Free Materials
    Browse this list for more resources to bring print and online books to qualifying schools and students.

How Best to Meet Up

You might start your club thinking that you’ll meet in person every month but then find that a video chat every six weeks works better. Or you might have a Read Aloud book club that meets weekly to share a picture book and discussion. There are all kinds of possibilities for when and how to have your book club meet.

  • In Person
    Your book club members can get together as part of your regular classroom day, a breakfast or lunch bunch group, an afterschool activity, or if you’re getting families involved, an evening event.
  • Virtually
    If everyone has access to necessary technology, try video chat platforms for connecting kids to real-time conversations about books before or after school.
  • Online Platforms
    Google docs, Flipgrid, Padlet, social media, or other text chat platforms give book club members a virtual space for sharing their thoughts with each other without having to make it to a meeting.

Getting Conversation Started

Talking about books helps boost a love of reading. Encourage students to bring their own experiences and perspectives to the conversation. Some students may need help getting their discussions going. Plan to review strategies for active listening, asking questions, and contributing to discussions with your book club members, especially if your entire class is participating.

  • Break the Ice
    Board games or ice breaker activities can help get kids talking. Tap club members to help with activities such as creating trivia questions about the book for a quick trivia contest or bringing in objects related to the story or characters, like map, song file, or a favorite food for a show and tell.
  • Discussion Roles
    For student-led discussions, suggest students rotate to fill a facilitator role. Everyone should come prepared with a topic for discussion or at least one open-ended question to share. For younger book club members, additional literature discussion roles may be a useful initial support.
  • Discussion Etiquette
    Make sure book club members are all on the same page when it comes to understanding what makes a good discussion. Model or talk about how to respond to ideas and share feelings, disagree constructively, and encourage others to participate. Students should see book club as an opportunity to share their personal responses to themes and issues in books. They should take notes when reading or mark specific passages to support the ideas they share.
  • Discussion Questions
    All the Read Across America recommended titles for 2021-22 include suggested discussion questions. Many of Read Across America titles also have links to discussion group guides or educator guides that include discussion questions. Here’s a basic list of questions to help jumpstart any book discussion.

Building Community Spirit

Meeting up to discuss a book is fun, but there are also additional components you can include in your book club to spark excitement and help students learn more about themselves and the important role that reading plays in their own lives.

Book clubs can:

  • Share their passion for reading with others by holding a book drive or raising funds to support the local library or literacy organization.
  • Bring the joys of reading to younger reading buddies, hosting read aloud parties that pair up club members to read with younger students.
  • Follow Read Across America Ambassador Marley Dias’s lead to “Read, Write, and Get It Done,” adding advocacy activities or taking action to help others that is inspired by the books they read.

Ideas and Questions to Kick-Off Book Discussion

When people talk about books together, their understanding of each other grows! It’s amazing how the different experiences people bring to a book can get you thinking about the book you read in new and interesting ways.

Ideas:

  • If you felt strongly about something, make a note of it and share parts of the book or specific passages that evoked your feelings.
  • If you didn’t understand something or have questions, write them down to discuss with others who have read the book.
  • Brainstorm issues and questions together and decide which will be the most interesting to discuss. Everyone should voice their opinion with respect and respect the opinions of others in return.
  • Talk about how you felt as you read and reflected on the book. Share from your own experiences and don’t speak for others.

Questions:

  • Who wrote the book? Do they share the same (racial, cultural, gender, ability) identity as the main character?
  • What themes did you find in this book?
  • What did you wonder about when reading this book?
  • If the book has illustrations, how do the words and illustrations work together? How do the illustrations deepen the meaning of the book?
  • Did this book make you think differently about anything? Did it introduce you to a new point of view, new ideas, or new information?
  • What similarities or differences between the characters and yourself did you notice? Did you agree with what the characters are doing or saying? How did you feel about what was said or done?
  • What characters could you relate to? What perspectives could you relate to? What perspectives were new to you? What did you learn or have questions about? Do you have a new perspective because of reading this book?
  • What did you notice about how characters were portrayed?  Was there any group or perspective missing?
  • Are there characters or things that happened in the book that you will keep thinking about? What information or ideas do you think will stick with you? Why?
  • Did this book inspire you in any way? How?
Celebrate a nation of diverse readers with our recommended books, authors, and teaching resources.
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Are you a teacher, librarian, educator, author, or devoted book worm? Join the Read Across America Facebook group to share resources, ideas, experiences as we celebrate a nation of diverse readers.
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