Monday, August 08, 2011

What I learned from my young book club ...

When my niece started fifth grade, I decided to help in her class. It was a way to be there for her. She was always the awkward child, the one the other kids at school would always tease. I found that having Auntie B there gave her an ally. Soon the girls in her class would hang out with her at recess, and sit with her at lunch. As I sat listening to the students read stories they had written out loud to the class, the idea of organizing a book club came to me. The kids were so excited that every kid in the class joined.

Yes, that would be over twenty kids--boys and girls. Saying I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. We used to meet each month. It cost the kids $5 for a book, a project, and food. We'd do book themed projects for each book, afterward we'd eat, and then we'd sit in a circle on the floor to discuss the book. The first year we had simple discussions. Each kid would just talk about what their favorite part of the book was. As the years went by, fewer kids attended (all the boys dropped out), we stopped doing projects, and the discussion became more in depth.

What I've learned from my young readers, was invaluable. I learned that kids love to root for the underdog, especially if the characters are more like them. They hate when an author feels they have to explain too much and think kids won't understand tougher subjects. They don't care if the story is G or R rated as long as they can connect with the characters and get lost in the story. If they love a book and its a series, they will stay up for the midnight release and will make Auntie B do the same. If it comes out as a movie, they'll stay up for the midnight release, and yes that means Auntie B does, as well.

My niece, Kayla (aka Choir Girl) with Richelle Mead

I recently had a contest with the older teens in my book club as judges over on my blog It was a fantabulous opportunity to find out what a teen thought about writers' pitches and first 250 words. I was impressed how well they articulated their thoughts and how honest they were in their critiques. Go over and check it out. It was a lot of work, but we had tons of fun doing it.

I think I got more out of Auntie B's Book Club than the kids did. I was blessed for the opportunity and can't wait for my next venture with kids. This August I will be helping out with a local school's literary group for their tenth graders. I can't wait to see what books we'll read and find out what the kids think about each. If you write for children, and you have the time, you should try running your own book club or helping out at a nearby school. The lessons you'll learn will be invaluable to your writing career.

Have you ever been a part of a kids' book club or worked in the school with kids? What did you learn from the young minds you worked with? Do you have any funny stories to share?

That's it, until next time!

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