Is it possible to create a book club for boys that they’ll actually participate in without complaint? One mom says yes!
For two years, I ran a book club for my oldest daughter’s girlfriends who were part of my homeschool support group. I chose recommended classics from the book lists at Ambleside Online and used Bloom’s Taxonomy to create discussion questions.
These were middle school girls and I kept the group to less than ten students. We had a wonderful time eating cookies, doing crafts related to the books, and talking. Lots and lots of talking.
But, then, the girls stopped participating because they couldn’t keep up with the reading for the book club and for their high school classes. I turned to my middle-school-aged son. I had so much fun with the girls, could I create a book club for boys?
Running a Book Club for Boys
Some Preliminary Considerations
I already knew that a book club for boys would be fundamentally different. I wanted my son to participate and he struggled with ADHD. He was a doer, not a thinker or talker. If I wanted him to participate, I had to limit the talking part. I also had to consider the reading level.
My son not only struggled with ADHD, but he also struggled with severe dyslexia. His friends read at a variety of levels also. So, I had to choose books that were available as audiobooks as well as in print.
Boy, this was shaping up to be quite challenging! But, I really wanted to encourage boys to enjoy good books.
What Do Boys Like?
As I thought about what books I would include and how I would structure the club meetings, I came up with a list of requirements for a book club for boys. They were:
Girls might be okay with reading character-driven books, but not boys. Boys like lots of action, danger, adventure, silliness, mystery, and gross content. They tend to prefer fantasy, science fiction, super hero, paranormal, survival stories and combinations of these types of books.
The action also has to start right away. I found that some of the typical classics took a long time to get to the real action, even if they were meant for boys. Perhaps in times past, boys had more patience. That meant that, if I was going to be successful with this, I might have to choose more recent books.
Boys tend to savor the immersive experience of books as males are generally more visual people. They don’t want to talk about it; they want to live it!
Boys also have a hard time putting their thoughts into words sometimes. I knew that I would have to be sensitive to this when I came up with questions. So, I planned to have fewer questions.
I felt it was important to talk about the books at least a little bit. I wanted to get their imaginations going as well as encourage them to think critically.
A Book Club for Boys Needs More Action
So with less talking, that meant I had to have more doing. I felt that a good club should be at least an hour long. If I kept the talking to about fifteen minutes, what was I going to do with the rest of the time?
I wanted them to really enjoy books, to suck the marrow out them, so to speak. I had to come up with activities that pulled from the stories.
Most boys are at least a little competitive, so contests and games made their appearance. They often do like to build things, too. You might even try some read-aloud activity ideas.
But, the fine motor demands of many crafts were out. While my son enjoyed crochet, sewing, weaving, sculpting, painting, and selected other crafts, many other boys saw these as “girl” hobbies.
Besides, what do any of those things have to do with an adventure novel? Better to try teaching knots, orienteering, fire-building, ship-in-a-bottle, carpentry, and other stuff like that.
Must Have Food
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I think that starts in childhood. Tea and cakes might not fit the bill. But, mini hot dogs, frozen pizza, chips and dip, or just a box of cookies will do. Food will keep the boys coming even if your activities totally bomb!
You can have fun with it, though. Try offering something related to the book. For example, if the book is about a space adventure, maybe you offer some astronaut ice cream alongside the chips and dip. That way, they can try it if they want to and there’s still something else they like.
The Book Club
In the end, the book club was an hour long and I pulled titles from currently popular ones and from some old classics. I encouraged the boys to choose young reader editions of the classics.
We met once a month. I asked the moms to help out with the snacks, so I had a sign-up sheet for that.
For the questions, I stuck to three main questions. And, for the rest of the time, about a half-hour, we learned a survival skill, masculine handicraft, and/or held a contest or game. We had a blast.
After about a year, my son didn’t want to do it anymore, so I stopped. It was a lot of fun, though.