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New Year, New Book: Starting Your Own Book Club

By: Andie Byron on February 16th, 2024

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New Year, New Book: Starting Your Own Book Club

In the Community  |  Quick Tips in Education

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”

—Walt Disney

The new year often brings with it any number of less-than-fun resolutions: eat less, exercise more, spend less, clean more… If you or your child are looking for an enjoyable resolution for 2024, reading more could certainly fit the bill. 

The benefits of reading have been well-documented. From reducing stress and boosting creativity to enhancing memory and increasing empathy, the effects of reading can benefit both children and adults alike. 

If you or your child have set the goal of reading more this year, one of the most fun ways to meet that goal is to start a book club!


Why Start a Book Club?

Starting a book club to support reading goals can help in a number of ways: 

It creates accountability. When reading for enjoyment, it can be easy to allow other things to get in the way. By tying the activity to a book club, there’s a “due date” for reading. Knowing that the group will want you to participate in the group discussion can add more importance to the activity and make it easier to prioritize. 

It fosters connection. Over the past few years, it’s become evident just how important it is to connect with others. A book club provides a great opportunity—and a regular schedule—for doing so. Depending on the makeup of the group, it can provide opportunities to catch up with old friends, family, or classmates, or may allow new friendships to form. 

It broadens horizons. Club members’ book choices—or even their interpretations of the books others choose—can provide new perspectives. Club members may find themselves reading a genre or author they hadn’t read before or exploring ideas they hadn’t previously considered.

It offers leadership opportunities. Starting a book club requires initiative, planning, reliability, organization, and more—all of which are valuable leadership skills. Both adults and children can benefit from practicing these skills in a fun way. 

Snacks! Many book club meetings include food and drink. Having a little something tasty at the meeting can provide a well-deserved reward for keeping up with reading goals.

Getting Started

Starting a book club can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but this blog provides guidance and resources that can help make it easier. The steps below are meant to be helpful guidelines that can be adapted to fit the goals and character of the group, as needed.


Step 1: Club Foundation

Every organization needs a foundation—a base to be built upon. As the creator of the club, you can decide to set the foundation yourself, or can allow the group to create it together. Here are some questions that can help guide decisions about the basis for the group:

Will the group be based on one particular genre/theme? Examples of genres include mystery, best-sellers, romance, biographies, fantasy, “chick lit,” adventure, horror, graphic novels, fairy tales, classics, etc. Themes can be almost limitless; examples include: individual authors, specific time periods, religion, summer reads, vampires, animal heroes, books set in school, “mom books,” books featuring machines, and much more. 

Will the group be based on people/relationships? If the group is based on a genre or theme, it may be helpful to prioritize finding people who are interested in those topics, regardless of how well you know them.  On the other hand, the relationships among the club members may be more important to you than the themes or genres of the books read. For example, you may want it to be a family book club, consisting of siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. A group like this provides a chance to take advantage of ideas from a variety of generations and to increase family connection. Another example is a group based on your circle of friends; while the ages of the members are likely to be similar, established friendships create a sense of trust in the group while allowing each person to bring unique life experiences to the table.

What is the ideal size of the club? If the club size is too small, one or two members absent from a meeting can make it feel less like a club and limit the discussion and interaction. Too many members can also affect the interaction, making it hard for all members to contribute. While some sources recommend as few as 5 to as many as 15 people, 8 seems to be the general consensus for a good number to aim for. 


Step 2: Club Venue

In the past, book clubs only had one way of occurring: in person. With today’s technology, book clubs can be fully virtual or even a combination of both virtual and in-person. Here are some questions that can help guide decisions about the venue for the group:

If the group is in-person (either fully or partially), where will it meet? The group can meet in the same spot each time, or can change location with each meeting. The gatherings can occur in someone’s home, in a neutral location like a library or coffee shop, or in a private group space like a church basement or school classroom. (If meeting in a public space, be sure to be aware of your group’s space needs and potential noise level, and how they may affect others in the space.) If there is a cost involved in using a public or private space, who covers the cost? Who is in charge of securing the space? 

One of the methods that works well is to create a plan where each member is responsible for deciding the location on a rotating basis. The member can decide to host in their home or at a public/private space of their choosing, and is responsible for securing the space. 

This is an example of what a rotating schedule might look like. Click here to download an editable version.


If the group is virtual, what technology will we use? There are many options available for online meetings. Google Meet, Zoom, and Skype are a few that function on a variety of devices (keep in mind that not all members have the same technology available to them.) You’ll want to do some research before choosing, as there can be limitations on time or participants with some of these options. You may want to wait until the group is assembled to decide on the technology; this way, you can gather information about what technologies group members are comfortable with. Once the decision is made, determine who is responsible for setting up the meeting and contacting members with access information. 

Can the group be both? If it’s decided that the group should be in-person, offering a virtual option can be a great way to accommodate members who may have an unexpected challenge arise. Whether someone is feeling under the weather, is having transportation issues, or is encountering another circumstance that makes an in-person meeting difficult, having the chance to participate virtually can help them stay engaged with the group.   

Special considerations: What about childcare, transportation, and kids’ groups? For adult groups that include parents, it’s important to consider childcare when choosing the venue and determining the overall “rules of the road” of the group. When the group is meeting, are members able to bring their children? Who will supervise the children while the group is meeting? For example, for a meeting held in someone’s home, their spouse may be willing to watch the children. However, if a babysitter must be engaged, who pays for the service? For a meeting in a public/private venue like a coffee shop or church, should club members arrange their own child care, or is there a way the group can work together to provide it? 


If you’re helping your child start their own book club, transportation is a key consideration. Children who live in the same neighborhood may easily be able to walk or ride their bikes to each other’s homes for the meetings. If children live farther apart or if public/private venues are chosen, parents will likely need to be involved in transporting their children to the meeting. One way to tackle transportation concerns for children’s groups is with a “Book Club Carpool:” each member’s parent takes a turn picking up all of the children and bringing them to (and taking them home from) the meeting. 

An additional consideration for kids’ groups is whether a parent must attend and supervise the meeting. Having an adult present can help the discussion include more creative questions and steer conversations away from inappropriate subjects. At the same time, the presence of a parent may inhibit discussion—especially with older children—and compromise their ability to practice leadership skills.  


Step 3: Members

The heart of a book club is, of course, its members. Now that you’re ready to begin inviting others to join, you may want to consider the following questions to help guide you:

Who will enjoy the books? If you’re creating a genre- or theme-based group, think about who may like the genre/theme. (Not everyone likes romances or horror stories, for example.) If it’s a people-based group, consider who would enjoy reading a variety of types of books. 

Who does well in a group? It’s important that members are willing to be engaged. Think not only about who would enjoy participating, but also about who has the time and ability to read on a regular basis and attend meetings. 

What ages will the group be appropriate for? While age may not be a big concern for all-adult groups, for groups that include children and young adults, it’s an important detail to consider. A child may have a different reading level than other members, even when the group is comprised solely of kids. Certain themes or topics can be inappropriate for younger ages. 

What information am I prepared to share? When inviting members to join the group, it can be helpful to share details or “rules of the road” ahead of time. These items in particular should be shared:

  • Any cost that may be incurred (venue, child care, food, etc.)
  • The chosen genre or theme
  • Participation expectations (responsibility for book choice and/or discussion questions, snacks, etc.)
  • Hosting expectations
  • Transportation details (primarily for children’s groups)

Are family members welcome? If you have members who have children, you have already started to think about child care. But what if a member wants their child to attend a meeting? Meeting themes or discussions may not be appropriate for children. What if a parent wants to attend a children’s group meeting? Their presence may inhibit discussion. As the group’s creator, you could make a decision about this question on your own, or could bring it up in early discussions with the group.


Step 4: Introductory Gathering

Depending on the makeup of the group, members may or may not already know each other. It’s helpful to set up a “getting to know you” meeting so that group members can meet each other, make decisions, and discuss any “rules of the road” they want to have in place. This first meeting can be virtual or in-person, but be sure to answer these important questions:

  • If the genre/theme has not been previously decided, what is the genre/theme, if any? Are there any topics that the group would like to declare off-limits?
  • How often would the group like to meet?
  • What are the preferences for venue? 
  • Who chooses the books? Will books be chosen from a curated list or can they come from any source?
  • Must a book be read before it can be chosen? For children’s groups, does a book have to be read and approved by a parent before it is selected?
  • Who prepares and leads the discussion? What does that include? Does the group want to identify any discussion points that will be included in every meeting?
  • When is the next meeting, and what book will be discussed? (As the organizer, it’s customary for you to choose the first book.)
  • For in-person meetings, does the group want to include snacks? (The most important question, obviously.) Who provides them?
  • For kids' groups, is a parent required to be present at each meeting? If so, who will that parent be? 

You may also want to consider whether club members can invite new participants to join the group as well as whether club meetings should focus primarily on the book or on camaraderie and refreshments. For in-person groups, it may be helpful to discuss potential issues like pets, allergies, handicapped accommodations, etc. 

Take notes! It’s important to keep track of any decisions the group makes and to make the details available to group members to refresh their memories. It’s especially important to note the next meeting date and time as well as the book to be read, as you’ll be sending that information out after the meeting. 

Gather contact details. You’ll want to know how to contact each of the members in case of a meeting change or other important news. You can gather this information via a pen-and-paper signup sheet, Google Sheet or Form, or any other method you and your members are comfortable with. We recommend gathering the following information: 

  • First and last name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Street address

You can also gather information such as spouse and/or children’s names, food allergies, favorite authors—anything that you feel will help you or your group members. Discuss which details group members are comfortable sharing with other participants, so that you can create a contact list to share out. 

Decide on a communication plan. The group will need a way to be able to communicate between meetings. Discuss with the group what method of contact works best. Methods can include email, group text, Google Group, Social Media Group, private message group, etc. 


Step 5: Communication

Share the notes. Within a day or two of the introductory gathering, share the meeting notes and contact list with the group. Make sure the next meeting’s host, date, time, location, book, and author are included in the information. 

Provide resources. If the group will be choosing books from a curated list, be sure to provide that list to members quickly. Even if group members aren’t selecting from a list, they may find book resources helpful. You can do some research and link to lists of well-respected authors, award winners, new releases, or society recommendations (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, for example).


Step 6: Prepare

As the first “official” gathering of the club approaches, get excited—and prepared!

Set up the venue. If using a public venue, be sure to confirm it one week before the meeting. Make sure to gather any items you are expected to bring, such as table cloths or cleaning supplies. If you’re required to set up and tear down the room, find volunteers to help. If the group will be gathering in your home, make sure to have enough appropriate seating for all members. If providing child care, finalize the details with the caregiver.

Prepare the discussion. When planning for your first discussion, be sure to take into account any rules the group has set regarding what should or shouldn’t be discussed. If you need help generating prompts for the discussion, you can check your author’s website; they may have suggested questions listed there. Other general websites also offer lists of discussion questions; bookclubs.com has a particularly extensive one. The Library Adventure has a list developed specifically for young readers. Be sure to choose questions that fit your group and that you are excited to ask. Write down your questions or enter them on your favorite electronic device, so you have them set and can bring them with you to the meeting. 


Step 7: First Meeting

It’s finally here: Your first official book club meeting! You’ve worked hard to get to this point. Here are a few tips to help ensure the first meeting goes well:

Send a reminder. As the next meeting approaches, send members a reminder. Be sure to list the meeting’s host, date, time, location, book, and author. If the meeting is virtual, be sure to include the meeting link as well as the access code and dial-in number, if applicable. 

Also communicate important notes, such as parking information, snack reminders, or special requests. You may also want to include a reminder about who will be selecting the next book, as they should have the information ready to share at the meeting. 

Remember the goal. Is the goal of the group to engage in rigorous academic discussion about the book? Or is it a more social group, focused on enjoying each other’s company? For kids’ groups, is the focus on engaging in self-reflection, debating the book’s theme or meaning, or improving reading skills? Your group can have any goal it chooses. However, you may need to be flexible, and the focus may change over time. 

HAVE FUN. You’re the organizer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the group you worked so hard to organize. Participate in the discussion, take pleasure in the company of the group, and enjoy the snacks! 

Gather feedback. Whether at the end of the meeting or afterwards, ask members for feedback about what went well or what changes may need to be considered. You can have a group discussion or ask members to contact you privately after the meeting has concluded. 

Communicate the next meeting’s details. After every meeting, details about the next meeting's host, date, time, location, book, and author should be sent to the club members. As the organizer, you can choose to make this your ongoing responsibility, or the next host can be in charge of the communication. 


Step 8: Keep It Going!

Getting a book club started may be the “hardest” part, but keeping it going takes effort, too. The following tips can help you make your club the best it can be, so members stay excited and engaged:

Include everyone in discussions. Some members may naturally be more comfortable speaking up in the group, while others may be more reticent. If you notice a group member who hasn’t contributed to the conversation, give them a chance to participate by specifically asking them a question.

Incorporate feedback. Be sure to listen to any feedback your members offer and make changes as needed and appropriate. People feel valued when they are listened to. 

Make group members feel invested. Involve group members as much as possible. Allowing them to choose books, venues, and discussion questions are key ways to do that. Encouraging the group to work together to make decisions provides additional opportunities to feel invested. 

Welcome new members. Group members may need to leave the group now and then. If your club has decided to invite a new member, make sure that they feel welcome. Give them the opportunity to introduce themselves at their first meeting, and have each member introduce themselves in turn. If the new member seems hesitant to participate in the discussion, encourage them. Set aside a time to talk with them and answer any questions they may have. 

Express appreciation. Encourage a culture of appreciation in your group. Thank members for their suggestions, their participation, their snacks—whatever their contribution is, even a small thanks can make them feel valued and committed to being a member of the club.

Adjust when needed. Your book club is likely to change over time. Members may come and go, the group may want to explore new genres/themes, or meetings may need to happen at different times. Be flexible and keep communication open so that all team members can adjust together. 

Send reminders. We’ve all got a lot going on in our lives these days, and it’s easy to lose track of a meeting. Sending reminders helps ensure that the meetings don’t get lost in the shuffle.  


The Hard Work is Worth It

Starting a book club can take time and effort, but it’s a great way to engage with others, stretch your horizons, and incorporate more regular reading into your life. Some book clubs can last for years and create new friendships or strengthen old ones. Some books clubs may only last a short time, as members have other demands on their time. Don’t take it personally. Your club will undoubtedly change over time, and that’s a good thing. 



Literary Genres (California Department of Education)

How to Start a Book Club (bookclub.com)

Hosting Your Own Book Club (House of Books & Friends)

The Ultimate List of Book Club Discussion Questions for Fiction and Non-Fiction (bookclub.com)

50 Great Book Club Discussion Questions for Any Book (bookriot.com)

The Best Book Club Questions to Spark Discussion (Oprah Daily)

25 Questions to Spark Book Discussions with Young Readers (The Library Adventure)