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With all our independent study lately, the big kid has been looking for ways to dig through a book as a group when he doesn't have access to the reading circles that are often found in a classroom. We read one-on-one, but a ton of learning and connection comes from reading with your peers. A kids book club was needed to help him solidify what he was reading and and really get engaged!
With spring break coming up, I know a lot of parents are thinking about how they cankeep education going when kids are at home. Moms and dads always want to make learning fun, and this is a great way to give the kids exciting time with their peers AND instill a love of books. Plus, the timing couldn't be better. Now is the perfect opportunity to kick off a kids book club that can last from spring to summer – and beyond.
If you've been following our blog for awhile, you've heard me talk up Amazon FreeTime as a learning tool. This subscription feeds a massive, constantly-updated library of kids books right to your tablet. The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition even includes a kid-proof case and a 2-year worry-free guarantee (our toddler is showing off one that he vigorously chucked against the wall after this photo was taken, so I can attest to the fact that Amazon customer service fulfills warranty claims with a simple phone call or chat message on their site). These are actually on sale right now for less than $100 each, and that comes with a full year of the FreeTime Unlimited subscription that usually costs $2.99 per month for Prime members.
In my post about educational tablets, I shared how we customize smart filters and educational goals and time limits. Subscription content makes it so that newly-released books automatically pop up in the app, but you can even limit that so your kids are only able to engage with titles that you've manually approved. You can customize basically every aspect of what your child sees when they open up their tablet.
With initial settings in place, your kids book club can take off in any direction you choose. Gather some friends who also have an Amazon FreeTime Unlimited subscription, and get going. With a massive database of reading material at their fingertips, kids book club isn't limited by book availability at the local library. Best of all, members don't even have to be in the same time zone. They can be anywhere in the whole world!
A Tablet-Based Kids Book Club
Figure out Communication
The group can form and communicate through parents (there are lots of Facebook groups with moms and dads who would be thrilled to help facilitate) or with the kids managing it directly. Since you already have a tablet to read the books, I suggest using a child-safe chat app like Monster Messenger where kids can dialogue about the book. Setup a group where they can all leave messages for each other to interact with on their own schedule. You could also go old-school and encourage them to write letters to each other about their chosen titles (like a pen pal situation merging reading, writing and comprehension) or arrange a time to chat weekly on the phone.
Pick a Book, Together
One of the things I love the most about Amazon FreeTime is how it easily guides kids through the book selection process. Parents can set preferences so that the homepage only displays titles appropriate for their child's age group, narrowing it down from a 1-year span to a window as broad as ages 2-13. Children in a kids book club should ideally be at similar reading levels so that nobody feels left behind or bored. Kids can browse a selection of books based on the latest-and-greatest that Amazon has released within their age group, and there's also a “characters” section where kids can pick from familiar faces and topics.
This is an awesome way to motivate kids and has proved wildly successful in our household. My oldest started enthusiastically reading when I showed him books featuring trains. For the middle kid, it was Mickey Mouse. For the 3-year-old, it's Batman. Every kid has a character or topic they love, so it's a good idea to use that to your advantage and make sure each group member's personal preferences are considered.
Make your Book Club Interactive
With a communication hub setup, parents can lead the discussion. Give kids talking points to dialogue about, questions to answer (it's fun to read everyone else's responses) or have them write letters to each other as if they were characters in their books. The Amazon Parent Dashboard includes expert-written Discussion Cards for popular books, so you can easily copy and paste those into your children's chat group to prompt conversation.
Bring it to Life
My favorite thing with kids book clubs when I was involved as a child was hands-on activities. Parents can take turns creating simple assignments based on the books that their kids are reading. If the kids are reading about SpongeBob Squarepants, you may assign some sea life activities. If they're in a superhero mode, perhaps they can craft their own paper plate Captain America shields. If planes are in their book, they can fold a few. Keep it short, sweet, and memorable to drive their learning home!
Have you read any great books as part of a kids book club?