When the Family Reads Together

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By Kamyra Harding


I have a confession: I’m a reader. I’m never without reading material. I’ll sacrifice human interaction to hang with fictional friends. Not only do I need an intervention for that, but I’m also a book pusher. I actively try to hook friends and families on books. I populate our family Kindle account with oodles of options. Books magically appear in bedrooms and common areas of our home. But by far, my favorite reading activity is Family Summer Book Club.

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We’ve had family book club every summer for years. Each year it gets harder to get the crew motivated, but I won’t let it go. No matter how much they balk, we always have a good time discussing the e-book and going off topic (I try to be cool with that). One of last summer’s reads, Resistance: A Love Story by Nia Forrester, was a novella set in current times. It follows college students caught up in a Black Lives Matter march-turned-riot. For that one, our teen and young adults led the old folks in a great conversation regarding the book and youth activism. 

We’re not the only ones. Tiffany Cochran Edwards and her tween Emerson do a mother-daughter book club each summer with a topical book.  “It’s a great way to discuss current, age-appropriate for Emerson, issues and to spend device-free time together,” she says. They’re currently reading award-winning New York Times bestseller Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky by Kwame Mbalia.

This summer the Johnson family’s book club will focus on filling the gaps of what teen Alexandra and tween David don’t learn about their history and heritage in school or church. Mom Vanita says she loves “seeing how reading opens the minds of the young. My kids’ historical lens is shaped differently than my own, but it is so interesting to see how many of our fundamental beliefs are shared.”

It doesn’t have to be a serious or literary book. Family book clubs have no rules, except read something and have fun. 

Tips for Summer Book Clubs

  • Required school summer reading is fair game.
  • Any family member can nominate a book.
  • The whole family votes on which books to read.
  • Be realistic regarding the number of books you’ll get through and the length of each. 
  • Make discussions special. Combine it with something else your family enjoys. Go to a restaurant. Have a picnic. Dress in character.
  • Mixing reading levels is fine as long as the youngest can listen to audio versions of advanced level books, or an older person reads to a younger. Young readers love when older family members read their picks. Older siblings get a kick out of feeling nostalgic rereading kiddie books.
  • Naughty words and/or scenes are hits.
  • Take turns leading the discussions. Be flexible, but prepare questions in case there’s a conversation lull. Many books come with discussion guides.
  • Allow in-person or virtual guests.
  • Be open to unconventional genres and reading tools (like audiobooks or e-books).
  • Meet even if everyone hasn’t finished the book.
  • KEEP IT FUN!

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