How to start a book club for grandchildren

If you’re a grandparent, you probably know the joy of reading aloud to your grandchildren. But don’t let the connection to the book lapse when they start reading on their own: Start your own book club.

Book discussions with grandkids are a great way to maintain regular connection and have interesting conversations that don’t involve questions about school. Additionally, these discussions can provide deep insights from younger perspectives. They also allow grandparents to share wisdom and experiences in ways that are relatable.

Grandparents and grandchildren can read the same book and choose a regular time to talk, whether it’s on the phone, by video call or in person. The book club can involve multiple grandchildren (if you have any) or just one. You can make the gathering special by cooking themed food if you are meeting in person, or by dressing or wearing a hat related to the theme of the book.

Nancy Lingle, the adult librarian at the Davidson, North Carolina, branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, did something similar when her son was a teenager.

“[My husband] and I let him pick the book and we would argue,” she says. “And since he was interested in the material, we were interested in the material. It was fascinating to see what he thought of the characters and the story.”

Librarians know that reading is a great way to engage a child. But Corey Farrenkopf, librarian at the Eastham Library in Eastham, Massachusetts, says the first step is to investigate what captures your youngest reader’s imagination.

“Children don’t have much agency,” he says. “They are required to read certain books in school, required to do certain tasks. And if you don’t want this to be a chore for them, give them the reins.”

Or, as Farrenkopf says, consider a book club as a way to enter your grandchild’s world rather than draw him into yours. And be prepared to admit that your grandchild’s world may be more sophisticated and move at a faster pace than your own childhood universe. The books you read as a child may be too slow for modern readers.

“You’re competing with social media and all that,” says Farrenkopf, who has taught middle and high schools. “You have to think about how dopamine receptors work in their brains. Video games, TV, and social media give you that instant hit of dopamine, while books are a slow trickle.”

That’s a good reason to start with something fast-paced, he says. “When you’re reading something exciting in every chapter, it’s like, Oh, what’s going to happen next?

Here are more tips on starting your own book club with a grandchild, followed by book suggestions.

  • Get out of traditional formats. Feel free to start with a graphic novel or comic book. A graphic novel can even get a child interested in a classic book; for example, there are graphic versions of Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol and Lucy Maud Montgomery Anne of Green Gables. Even traditional chapter books can have more illustrations and less emphasis on the text than in earlier times, says Nicole Dunn, a library associate at the Davidson branch. “Sometimes [adults] it avoids that, but it can be a great way to encourage kids to read and open up dialogue and conversation for kids who aren’t necessarily interested in the more text-based books,” Dunn says. .
  • Start with a world familiar to a child, such as superheroes. “You can find a story arc in the Avengers universe that you want to read and get a couple of copies of that,” says Farrenkopf. “You’ll probably be the cool grandpa if [say], ‘Let’s talk about Captain America and Iron Man.’ ” Look for books linked to movies or other media that children recognize.
  • Ask engaging questions. Missy Dillingham, manager of children’s services at the John B. Holt Brentwood Library in Brentwood, Tennessee, known for its fantastic children’s room, suggests something like this: What characters would you like to meet in real life? If you could give the book a different title, what would it be? Would this book make a good movie? Who would star in it? What is one thing you would ask the author if you knew him?
  • Beware of outdated notions. While it’s tempting to share some of your childhood favorites, beware of racism, sexism, or other outdated attitudes. When you come across something that makes you cringe, use it as a way to discuss how times have changed. Librarians say to remember that reading is a safe way to explore attitudes or cultures different from your own. Be open to what both of you may discover.
  • Use the books as inspiration. Did you read about sushi? You could plan a night out to try it out, Dunn suggests. Create bookmarks based on a book’s theme or characters. Bake or cook a dish described in a book. Explore a related historical site or ship. “It doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Dunn.
  • Don’t forget non-fiction. Take a look at science books or maybe some narrative nonfiction, says Farrenkopf. Or learn about a child’s favorite celebrity. A favorite: the “Who Was It?” series, which includes people from Catherine the Great to RuPaul.
  • If you’re not sure, ask. Librarians and booksellers can help you determine if a book is age-appropriate or may have emotional triggers. Learn how books are classified. For example, young adult (YA) books are defined as books with a main character between the ages of 13 and 18, says Farrenkopf. But some may have more mature or scary themes than others, so check to see if it’s okay for your particular grandchild. And grandparents should always check with their grandchild’s parents if they have questions about whether a book might be appropriate.

Ready to read? The following 10 book suggestions come from librarians and children, as well as Stefanie Corbin, owner of Footprints Cafe, a bookstore in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts that celebrates diversity.

Grade 3 to high school

A wrinkle in time Madeleine L’Engle. A girl gets help from magical strangers to save her father. Read the book, then watch the movie.

three keys by Kelly Yang. A book in a series about a motel-owning family under the cloud of changing immigration policies.

wishing tree by Catherine Applegate. A story about friendship and nature, told from the perspective of an oak tree.

Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford. A mysterious house, a smuggler’s missing map, a house full of strange guests – what could possibly go wrong?

new guy by Jerry Craft. Who has not felt like the new kid? This graphic novel is a conversation starter about diner life, friendship, and racial stereotypes.


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