Most of the five million Americans that the New York Times recently assessed as belonging to at least one book club are adults wishing to mix reading and socializing. Although book clubs are not as prevalent among children and teens, who must cope during the school year with classes, homework and extracurricular activities, and then with outdoor distractions in the summer, a number of bookstores across the country have launched book clubs for young people. customers – with varying degrees of success.
Some readers, according to Lisa Baudoin of Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Wis., need “a social aspect” to their reading, which book clubs provide. “This is especially important for children,” she added. The store hosts an in-store group for middle schoolers and teens, in which members read and then discuss galleys of their choice provided by the store. The store also partners with a school librarian who distributes six copies of a galley at the end of the school year to rising fourth graders and sets dates during the summer to meet to discuss it. There are eight children plus teachers and librarians in the group, called the Meadow View Book Club.
“It’s heavy for the boys,” Baudoin noted of the club members, attributing this to the personality and efforts of the librarian who runs the group. But, she wonders, “Why do we have them when they’re younger and lose them when they’re older?”
It’s a sentiment shared by Clarissa Murphy, bookseller at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., who told PW about a boys’ book club run for several years by one of her fellow booksellers and now in pause: its members were of various ages. eight to 12 years old. “Then they turned 13,” she said, “and they were interested in other things.”
By contrast, Holly Myers, a buyer at the Elliott Bay bookstore in Seattle, says the club she hosts for patrons in grades 6-12 has been doing well for two years, with no signs of waning interest in her members. However, its dozen members are mostly women; they meet monthly to discuss the book of their choice. Many of them also have their own blogs, where they post reviews of the books they read.
“They buy books, but we also give them galleys,” Myers said, explaining that members are encouraged to write reviews of books they read and then post them on Instagram. Each time they write a review, their name is placed in a hat, and during meetings, as each name is drawn, that person is allowed to select a galley from the pile. “So there’s an incentive to write reviews,” she said, “Afterwards, everyone is allowed to go down on what’s left, and I mean go down. The club refers to the ritual as ‘the bloodbath “. “
Page & Palette’s book club in Fairhope, Alabama, is also thriving. The club, which attracts eighth grade girls, is led by a retired English teacher and has met at the store for three years. The 15 members read and discuss the classics once a month; they get a 15% discount at the store.
“For the kids, it’s good to have someone who knows the issues in the stories,” said bookseller Stephanie Crowe, attributing the club’s success to its host, who was “an excellent teacher” and has ” great reputation”. “Prospective members can sign up in the store and often hear about the club by word of mouth.
“We’ve never tried to start a book club for boys,” Crowe said, speculating that girls are more interested in participating in book discussions, while boys are more interested in playing sports. But, she says, what ultimately matters is that they’re getting “more kids reading, period, in the age of the iPhone.”
Brenda Weaver, owner of Hearthside Books & Toys in Juneau, Alas, for two years, reports that her “Galley Rally” book club for teens is growing in popularity. The dozen teenage members can pick up up to three galleys of their choice once a month. After meeting to discuss their reads, Galley Rally members must write a review or recommendation, which the store then uses to promote those titles.
Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina has hosted a YA book club for the past year. While there are only 10-12 members who participate in monthly discussions, another 80 have signed up for a store newsletter for YA readers.
“Our book talks may be small and sweet,” said its moderator, bookseller Johanna Albrecht, “but they’re engaged. I appreciate the community she’s created. YA authors on tour promoting of their own books participate in group discussions and then tell members about their own work. For example, Alison Umminger, the author of American girls (Flatiron Books) recently participated in the panel discussion of Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon versus Homo Sapiens (Balzer + Bray) before chatting with them about his own debut novel.
“The most interested and engaged readers are teenagers. They’re looking for an outlet to discuss what they’re reading,” Albrecht said, noting that she welcomes teens as young as 15 to an in-store group open to all ages that focuses on science. -fiction and fantasy.
At Greenlight Books in Brooklyn, bookseller and book club host Grace Ecton notes that the store’s club for readers ages 9 to 12 has been running well for three years, with monthly meeting attendance ranging from five to 18 people, men and women, according to “who brings their friends”. The club takes a break in July, August and December. Ecton curates readings and members get 15% off books and free pizza during meetings.
“That’s how we get the kids in,” Ecton said with a laugh. “You feed them. But you don’t want to give them sugar.
Free pizza also seems to be the secret to the success of Arizona’s Changing Hands, which launched its Read Club for intermediate readers in 2008 and a few years later added a second children’s book club – this one for teenagers, called Turning Pages. The two groups meet once a month, with the 20 Read Club members meeting in either Phoenix or Tempe, while six to eight Turning Pages members meet in Tempe. Although Club Read is co-ed, Turning Pages currently happens to be all-female, despite having had male members before.
Turning Page members get 20% off hardcover books and 10% off paper, and Read Club members get points for buying books and attending author events and other in-store events, which they can redeem for free books and in-store gift cards. Pies donated by a local pizzeria support participants in their meetings.
“We try to make it as fun as possible for them,” said bookseller Brandi Stewart, noting other benefits: Club members receive front-row seats at appropriate author events and can also meet l author beforehand to have their books signed. Stewart also recalled that the Read Club had already received several kitchen copies of Story Thieves by James Riley, and Skyped with him months before the mid-level novel was released in January 2015.
Book clubs also participate in Changing Hands’ “Before It’s Trendy” program, where they join staff members in writing book reviews before publication. “They have the opportunity to read books before their peers and write clicks,” Stewart said, adding that reviews were also posted online.
Vroman’s Books in Pasadena, Calif., also hosts two book clubs: one for mid-level readers that has more than a dozen members, both men and women, who have met over the past two years; and a YA readers’ club with “six daughters, a mother and the moderator” who have come together over the past year, according to children’s book buyer Ashlee Null. Book club members get 20% off books they buy from Vroman, but no matter how they get copies, “we’re okay with that,” Null said.
Baudoin of Books & Company probably best summed up the reasoning behind those general booksellers who devote so much energy, resources and pizza to running in-store book clubs, saying, “It’s a wonderful way to do to read children, to get feedback on books, to bring families into the store and to maintain a strong connection with the school and the community.