You want your kids to keep reading this summer, but even if they love books, sometimes the pull of the pool and the seduction of s”mores take priority over stories. A kids” book club, complete with summertime activities, could be the answer to making reading every bit as engaging as late nights around the campfire. And you can easily start your very own.
Similar to an adult book club, select a book that you think would be interesting to your child and a small group of friends with similar reading interests. Send out an invitation to the group with the book selection, then coordinate book club meeting dates with those who can participate. You might choose to meet weekly or twice per month; ask the kids to read a couple chapters at a time and bring a treat to share that fits the book theme. If summer schedules are already full, choose to meet once at the end of the summer when everyone has finished the book, and celebrate with a themed gathering.
Here are a few book ideas to get you started, followed by related activities you could plan for book club meetings or an end-of-summer book party. Let kids offer ideas of what they want to do, also, to keep reading momentum going all summer long.
Read: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Yearling Books) by Chris Grabenstein. Kyle wins a spot to be one of the first kids in the town’s new library, which was designed by a famous game maker. But in order to exit the library the next morning, Kyle and the other winners must solve puzzles to find the hidden escape route.
When You Meet: Lead kids on a scavenger hunt at the library: find something about ancient Egypt, a mystery, something that makes you laugh, or authors mentioned in the book, such as Shel Silverstein or Lewis Carroll—or hunt at home. Check your local library for summer reading events and plan to meet up for a specific one.
Read: Little House in the Big Woods (HarperCollins) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The author recounts true experiences from her pioneer childhood in the woods of Wisconsin, starting in 1871—the first in the Little House series.
When You Meet: Camp out in the backyard; make an old-fashioned recipe using The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker; dress up like Laura Ingalls and perform skits; visit a living history museum (search “5 Great Living History Museums in Colorado” on coloradoparent.com); watch episodes of Little House on the Prairie—easy to check out at your local library.
Read: George’s Secret Key to the Universe (Doubleday) by Lucy and Stephen Hawking. George’s scientist neighbor Eric has the world’s most advanced computer that can send George and his friends off to any point in the universe—but it leads George and Eric into terrible danger. Interspersed through this fiction story are facts about the universe, and there are three more books in the series.
When You Meet: Take a trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, or the National Center for Atmospheric Research or Fiske Planetarium, both in Boulder. For a variety of ongoing star-gazing opportunities, check out the calendars of the Denver Astronomical Society (denverastro.org), the Estes Park Memorial Observatory (angelsabove.org/our-observatory) and Jefferson County Open Space (jeffco.us/open-space/events), which includes the historic Baehr Observatory at Pine Valley Ranch Park.
Read: No Summit Out of Sight (Simon & Schuster) by Jordan Romero with Linda LeBlanc. Jordan Romero recounts his true story about being the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest at age 13. At age 15, he became the youngest person to reach the summits of the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents.
When You Meet: Take your group for hikes on nearby trails. Combine hiking with geocaching (geocaching.com). Older students might try training and climbing one of Colorado’s fourteeners.
Read: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Dover) by L. Frank Baum. After a cyclone transports Dorothy to the Land of Oz, she seeks out the wizard to find her way home, meeting the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion along her journey.
When You Meet: Show the classic movie version on an outdoor screen using a projector; draw and decorate a giant map of Oz using details from the book; check local theaters for live performances of The Wizard of Oz; invent and draw your own character that could have lived in Oz and share your creations with the group.
Read: Jackie and Me by Dan Gutman (HarperCollins). With the help of old baseball cards, Joe has the ability to travel through time. When he has to write a report on an African American who’s made history, he travels to meet baseball legend Jackie Robinson. But he doesn’t plan on a trip that will temporarily change the color of his skin—and his view of history. It’s the second book of 11 in the Baseball Card Adventures series.
When You Meet: Attend a Colorado Rockies game for $4 Rockpile seats; watch a local league of older students play softball or baseball; organize an informal game at the park; watch a baseball movie such as The Sandlot, Field of Dreams, A League of Their Own, The Perfect Game or Angels in the Outfield.
Read: Artsy Fartsy (Bailiwick Press) by Karla Oceanak, illustrated by Kendra Spanjer. When 10-year-old Aldo’s grandmother gives him a sketchbook to record “artsy-fartsy ideas” during summer vacation, Aldo discovers he’s a good cartoonist. It’s the first in the Aldo Zelnick comic novel series, which incorporates an illustrated glossary of words used throughout the book, such as absurd, abominable and audacious. Other books in the series go through the alphabet, making kids laugh while teaching vocabulary.
When You Meet: Decorate the covers of blank journals to write in; draw cartoons/write letters and mail them to one another; create a comic book together; try doodle art; play Pictionary. The authors are local, so check online to see if they are speaking at libraries or nearby events (bailiwickpress.com).
Lydia Rueger is an Arvada-based freelance writer and editor and mom of two. Lici McCuistion is a field representative for Scholastic Book Fairs and an Arvada mom of two.
Summer Reading Programs
Make one of your book club activities a trip to register for summer reading programs at the library. The kids in the club can track hours together, encourage each other and create their own club incentives for reaching summer reading goals.
Check with local libraries for kick-off parties, registration dates and prizes and giveaways.
Anythink (Rangeview Libraries)
Arapahoe Library District
Aurora Public Library
Bemis (Littleton) Public Library
Boulder Public Library
Denver Public Library
Douglas County Libraries Englewood Public Library Jefferson County Public Library Lafayette Public Library Louisville Public Library Mamie Dowd Eisenhower Public Library (Broomfield) Westminster Public Library
Douglas County Libraries
Englewood Public Library
Jefferson County Public Library
Lafayette Public Library
Louisville Public Library
Mamie Dowd Eisenhower Public Library (Broomfield)
Westminster Public Library