Starting a Catholic kids’ book club is a great way to help kids explore culture and ideas in light of their faith—plus, they love leading the conversation themselves. Here’s how to get started.
by Susan Windley-Daoust
Do you love books? Do you love finding God in books? Are your kids good readers? Then pull it all together by starting a Catholic book club for your kids!
For a minimal investment on your part, your will kids get all sorts of benefits:
- Reading with friends is fun, and amps up kids’ interest in reading.
- Your kids will learn to have a conversation about literature and ideas, a great skill they can take to other settings.
- They’ll learn more about their faith.
- They’ll learn how to “read” the culture through the eyes of faith.
- They’ll begin to “own” their faith.
What to read
A Catholic kids’ book club is not religious education class, and it’s not catechesis. Instead, it is an introduction to faith exploration and sharing with peers. So although the book selections could be explicitly religious (e.g., lives of the saints), they could also be good fiction or popular nonfiction books; you’re just aiming for selections that open up questions that can be examined in the light of faith,
To name just a few possibilities: Teens can read The Lord of the Rings, or A Man Called Thursday, or The Giver, or Till We Have Faces, or Triumph. Tweens can read the Narnia series, A Wrinkle in Time, or age-appropriate biographies of the saints. (Ignatius Press carries an extensive line of short novel-length fictionalized stories of the saints.) Upper elementary aged kids might enjoy Zita the Space Girl, the Little House on the Prairie series, or pretty much any of Kate DiCamello’s novels.
What to do
- Approach your parish youth minister or pastor and offer to lead such a group. Put an interest query in the parish bulletin. Ask a few kids you know if they would come. Set a date.
- Promise pizza, or some other kid-pleasing food. Or, fancy it up; some book clubs meet over gourmet snacks and tapas.
- Curate the selection process by coming to the first meeting with a few options for the kids to choose. Have the kids vote on their favorite. It would be great if the parish could pay for the books, but lots of titles are available for fairly cheap, and kids may have the titles already (or access to a library copy).
- Set a monthly (or bi-monthly) meeting.
- Send the kids a reminder email (or phone call) a week ahead of the meeting.
- Now it gets fun: Meeting day! Make it as awesome as an adult book club: snacks, drinks, really comfy chairs, cool music in the background.
- Most likely, the kids will need help getting the conversation started, so be prepared to play coach. Bring a series of starter questions and post them on a board. (You can find lists of discussion questions and topics for almost any popular book by searching online by the book title and the term “discussion questions.”)
- Then they talk! Remember that you are not there to teach them. If you take over, the whole thing becomes something else entirely. For kids, the fun is in getting to socialize. Your role is to be the coach, and to facilitate their conversation. Let them have fun, struggle with things, and go off track. But guide them back to one of the questions. And at the end, ask: Did reading this book tell you anything about God?
- Choose a new book for the next meeting, and do it all over again!
Although your parish would be a great place to have your book club, other options include your homeschooling co-op, your Catholic school, or even your own home.
Intrigued? Then watch for our occasional series, where we provide Five Opening Questions on a variety of teen/tween/upper-elementary kid-friendly books. Use them with your kids in family discussion…or let the kids in on the joy of reading a book together. We’ll be posting new book ideas monthly at our Catholic Kids Book Club page.