Friday, June 17, 2011

How to Run a Tween Book Group, Part 2

This post is the second in my series on running a tween book group. If you missed part 1, check it out!

What do tweens want from a book group?

They want activities. I thought games or crafts might be too young, too kid-like, but I quickly discovered that this age group still enjoys a fun activity paired with a good book group discussion. Sometimes the activity can kick off the discussion, or if the discussion isn’t picking up steam, the activity can essentially take its place.

They want food. No brainer, right? I should note that I learned from a wise colleague never to offer food that can be used as projectile weapons, such as peanut M&Ms, in case an impromptu food fight breaks out. Smart!

They want book group to NOT be like school. Publishers often supply well-intentioned book discussion questions for their books, but I'm telling you right now, most of those questions are too formal, too intimidating for this age group in a non-school setting. The publisher's questions might be perfect for the classroom- I'm certainly not saying the tweens can't handle more involved questions!- but for a library book group, which is extremely extracurricular, I like to keep it light and inviting. So what do the tweens want to talk about?

They want to talk about the book's cover.
It's a seemingly simple topic that can be a great jumping-off point for discussing their expectations of the book based on the cover and the jacket copy. Here are a few questions along these lines...
  • When you first saw this book, what did you think it was going to be like?
  • After reading it, was it pretty much what you expected, or did it turn out to be something else entirely?
  • Why do you think the cover is designed this way, with this image?
  • If you were redesigning this book’s cover, what would you put on it?
They want to discuss genre. Try questions like...
  • What kind of book would you say this is?
  • Does it fall strictly into one genre, or does it cross over between more than one?
  • If you were recommending this book to a friend, what would you tell them to get them to read it?
  • Would this book appeal to someone who doesn't like this genre? Why or why not?
They want to relate the book to their own experiences. Ask them...
  • Has anything like [main character’s experience] ever happened to you?
  • What would you do if…?
  • Have you ever felt like…?
  • Did you ever know someone who...?
Next time: I'll wrap up this series on tween book groups with details of some activities to pair with book group discussions.


  1. I run a tween book group at the public library I work at and I could not have given better advice. It sounds exactly like my book club! It's validating to hear that other librarians have the same experience with the same age group.

  2. Oooh, I have another tween book discussion coming up next week... I will definitely be using your suggestions!!

  3. Thank you so much for the kind words, Alexa and Abby! I really appreciate the feedback.

  4. I absolutely agree that "If you feed them, they will come" and I really try to make my snacks thematic to the book whenever possible. My first question is always "why did I bring X as a snack?" and it's a great way to see how much of the book they've read and retained.

    I also love your sample questions. I never would've thought to ask so many things regarding the cover so I'll definitely incorporate those in!

  5. I never thought of doing themed snacks- I love it! How fun is that?!

    And the questions about the cover were definitely inspired by the book group kids themselves- I honestly wouldn't have thought to talk about the cover until they started doing it of their own accord. Kids are so smart!


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