In our series of blog posts about book clubs, we looked at all the practical and methodological aspects of setting up and managing book clubs. You can check out all the posts here. Book clubs and reading circles work well in many environments, just think about friendly book club meeting in cafés or homes or school book clubs meeting in classrooms, or libraries. This type of book club is usually most suitable for small groups who can meet regularly.
If you are interested in why you should set up a book club and how you can do it, check out these two blog posts:
But what about situations when book club members cannot physically meet for some reason? Just think about book clubs with a large number of members, book clubs with worldwide audiences and book clubs which cannot meet because of the holidays or the current restrictions due to COVID-19.
The solution is easy: you can set up an online book club in many different ways. Let’s see how.
Here are some general tips:
Whichever online solution you choose, make it a bit different from your regular English lesson. Give your Book Club members enough time to read a book and guide them through the discussions with a variety of questions and tasks. We believe that less really is more: in a book club situation, it’s much better to read and get to know a book in detail than reading a lot of books superficially. Engage students in fun book-related activities and make sure that they dive deep into their chosen book.
1 Small groups: meet on an online platform
If you are running a small book club with a maximum of 10-15 members, you can easily arrange weekly, biweekly or monthly meetings on a platform you are familiar with (e.g., Zoom, Google Meets, MS Teams, Skype).
Mediating a real-time video discussion is easiest with a small number of members if you want all of them to actively participate.
2 Larger groups: solution for meeting on an online platform
With a little twist, you can even organize a larger book club meeting online with, for example, a whole class. To do this, you will need to plan ahead, choosing 5-6 members to do some research and prepare some questions and discussion points.
You can find information about different book club roles with role cards here:
For each book, select 5-6 members and ask them to follow the suggestions under their assigned roles.
During the book club meeting, revise the plot and the characters, and then ask students about their first impressions. After this introduction, you can invite the selected members to share their findings with the others based on their role card focus points. After this mini presentation/discussion session, let the other members ask questions and share their own impressions. You can give some guidance by offering 2-3 questions for everyone to think about.
3 Book Clubs on social media platforms
Another way of creating a book club is setting up a group on Facebook, Instagram or any other platform you have access to (for example Moodle, Google Classroom or Edmodo).
Keep an online Book Club real and alive by:
- asking engaging questions that stimulate and keep a conversation alive
- sharing interesting articles about the book
- adding milestones to the reading journey
- leaving video messages for the group at the beginning and end of a book month
- organizing a live chat with all the members
- creating a ‘treasure hunt’ where members are motivated to find information and post it for the others.
Make it work by:
- selecting a theme for the book club
- having a plan for the first six months (pre-selected books) and updating it afterwards
- giving guidance about approaching the book by asking questions on the platform
- giving yourself time by reaching the minimum number of members you would like to work with
And, always pay attention to privacy questions. Make the book club a private group or invitation only so that you can make sure only your students join it and see the posts.
Get inspired by famous online book clubs:
- Our Shared Shelf on GoodReads, main organizer: Emma Watson
- Poppy Loves Book Club on Instagram:
- Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club on Instagram:
- Caitríona Balfe Book Club:
What tasks can you give to students in online book clubs?
- Write a 3-sentence review of the book and share it in the comments.
- Choose your favourite quotes and share them with the other members.
- Create a 2-minute video review of the book and share it on the platform.
- Use the role cards (Book Club roles and role cards) to get students to do some research and guided reading. They can share their findings on the platform.
- Ask students to find various adaptations of the book and compare them with the original text.
- Get them to keep a vocabulary/language journal in a handwritten or digital format. Read more about journals here: https://www.helblinglanguages.com/int/en/blog/keeping-a-reading-journal
Which book club solution might work out for you? What books would you like to start with? We’d love to hear about your experiences!