We have some good news. Book clubs are trending right now with more and more celebrity and community book clubs taking place online. It seems to be the spirit of our age: we are seeking connection and the chance to talk about good stories (which, in a way, helps to talk about ourselves). Book (and reading) clubs are also popular in films, just think about The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (2018), The Jane Austen Book Club ( 2007) or Dead Poets Society (1989). Why not start thinking about setting up your own English book club with your students? They have multiple social, psychological and pedagogical benefits. Let’s see some of them.
Book clubs build great communities: they can be large ones with hundreds of members or exclusive ones with only a few members. They do this by creating a sense of belonging and providing a space for shared experiences. You might join one because you are looking for people with similar interests in books, or you might want to discover new story worlds. Book clubs can have positive psychological benefits by building a member’s confidence to speak in front of others and or giving them a network to help get through difficult times.
From an educational perspective, book clubs are everything that should be fun about reading. There are no tests to take and the book club environment should be friendly and comfortable. In book clubs, the members decide their own rules. What’s more, they contribute to students’ language development. Let’s see how.
6 guaranteed benefits of book clubs
1 Vocabulary development
Each book is a door to a new world filled with new words and phrases. When students read, and then have the chance to discuss what they have read, vocabulary development happens on multiple levels: on the page and in the book club.
2 Reading comprehension and fluency
Students often need some help with reading comprehension, and the typical exam preparation reading tasks often fail to engage learners in enjoyable close reading. When they have a question about a passage, they can bring it to the book club and discuss it. You can read passages out loud and reflect on them. This also enforces collaborative learning, and stronger readers can support and/or mentor weaker ones.
3 Better speaking skills
We often read and love books, but never have the chance to talk about them or are shy about sharing our opinions. When we go to a book club meeting, we have the chance to listen to others and share our own ideas. Even if it takes some time for some students to ease into discussions, the book club leader’s questions and the opinions other members share will create a useful model for them to use when they feel confident enough to share their own ideas. Eventually, everyone will have something to say.
4 Research skills
When students prepare for a book club session, they often need to double check information about the historical or cultural background of the story. They might want to find out about the setting or era and remember that there have been some adaptations of the book.
5 The extra push
Sometimes it’s hard to finish a book, but when students prepare for a book club session, it’s more likely that they will actually finish the book they are reading.
6 Team spirit
Book clubs work well when members have functional roles. This way there’s always a discussion leader, who asks questions and invites others to share their ideas. The teacher can have this role at the beginning, but in general, students should cover all the roles. When students pick their roles for a session, encourage them to try new roles the next time. Two students can take the same role and help each other with the preparation.
Download our Book Club Role cards and badges to get started:
Role cards and badges
Red Role Cards - Levels 1-3
Blue Role Cards - Levels 4-5
Book club management
If you are interested in ideas on setting up a book club and dealing with tricky situations, check out our blog posts:
- Setting up a Book Club
- 10 ideas for the first Book Club session
- How to deal with tricky Book Club situations
- Book Clubs with a twist
- Conversation starters for reading lessons and book clubs
If you are interested in setting up a virtual book club, come back in February for some inspiration!