Photo: Stratford School

When schools across the nation moved rapidly to a distance learning program due to the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order, the library team at Stratford School was determined to create a way to keep students engaged with their friends and interested in recreational reading.

To start, we hosted a spring break virtual book club using Zoom. To our surprise, we welcomed more than 60 eager readers to each of our virtual book club meetings. Book clubs, whether hosted in person or virtually, create a fun, safe, and engaging experience for children. It is a time for children to be with other book fans, talk about the plot, and imagine what might happen next in the story. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for children to see their friends and perhaps even meet new ones!

Starting your own virtual book club can be done in just a few easy steps.

1. Choose a book! Choose a book that is age-appropriate and fun, and that your club members agree upon. Many books are available online via eLibraries, or check your local library and explore its collection.
2. Invite friends to join the reading adventure! The ages of the children should be within a couple of years, and around a similar reading level.
3. Schedule club meetings! Once you have your group identified and a book selected, come up with a time to meet online in Zoom or Google. Plan to meet once a week for approximately four to six weeks.
4. Read. Discuss. Repeat each week!
5. At the end of the story, choose another book, and keep your book club going!

Keep virtual book club members engaged! A successful virtual book club has active members. Here are a few ways to keep your club members actively engaged and reading during the month.

  • Give each club member a chance to ask questions and be a meeting host.
  • Take advantage of online resources like reading guides, questions, and discussion helpers.
  • Make it fun by including games such as Roll & Retell (available on Pinterest).
  • Add an art component. For example, ask club members to create a picture featuring a scene or character, or make a prop, just as they imagine being described in the story. A virtual book club for kids can be a good time for parents to connect too, as they share the responsibilities and get their children involved.

Here’s our go-to list of books to get your book club started:

Grades Kinder to Second:

I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic. Book one in a series by Lauren Tarshish Illustrated by Scott Dawson This historical fiction series transports the reader into a first-person narrative account of a survivor of a terrifying event. While captivated by the account, the reader is also learning the history and often led to research more! The “I Survived” series covers a wide range of topics and time periods like Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the San Francisco earthquake, 9/11, and the Battle of Gettysburg. Even reluctant readers will like the suspenseful action that provides edge-of-your-seat moments. Resources here.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Because of Winn-Dixie is a Newbery Honor book about the summer Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a rescue dog. Every character is memorable with a story to tell, and somehow all these stories meld together into a satisfying ending with an uplifting message. This book deals with such important themes: grief, hope, acceptance, loss, and friendship. There are lessons about how one should try not to judge by appearances, the power of love, and friendship. Resources here.

Grades 3—5:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling. The Harry Potter books are perhaps some of the most re-read books in history. Readers often find new insight into the story each time it is read. Discussions could include themes such as social justice, loyalty, courage, family or friendship. The book club could end with a synchronized virtual viewing of the movie. Resources here.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Wonder is written in various viewpoints to allow the reader to know what each character is thinking. It is a story about August Pullman who was born with a facial difference that, up until the start of the book, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Wonder has a way of touching each reading differently. There are many online resources for this club from the publisher here.

Grades 6—8: 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. The first installment in a three-book series, this story is a modern Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The characters are twelve-year-old students who are locked in a library, and they must use clues to escape and to try to win the grand prize. With numerous references to classic works of literature, this book provides many areas of discussion. When the club ends, watch the Netflix movie together virtually! There are lots of online resources including discussion questions available here.

Eragon, Book One of The Inheritance Cycle Series by Christopher Paolini. This fantasy series was written by the author when he was fifteen years old. The story is a sweeping epic in which the forces of good fight against evil. This is a great book to read before The Lord of the Rings series. A mysterious blue stone appears out of nowhere, and Eragon wonders if it was sent by accident or is he meant to have it? When a dragon, Saphira, hatches from it, the beast and boy connect and face danger together. Resources and questions for the book are available here.