We’ve all had those moments when we struggle to keep our groups focused or get them to open up. A few questions or activities without right or wrong answers, that don’t make teens feel like they’ve stepped back to English class, can go a long way.
For a traditional style book club where everyone reads the same thing start by picking a book that a lot of teens in your community have already read like The Hunger Games, Monster, or If I Stay. More teens will be able to participate and once you build a relationship with the group you can pick lesser known books together.
Even with a great book it’s not always easy to get the ball rolling, especially if the discussion guide jumps right into the serious issues of a book. Remove the pressure by trying some of these discussion prompts:
- Ask your group if they think people should judge the book by it’s cover. It’s an easy question and should get them talking.
- Pass out index cards to each participant. Have them write a question for the group about the book on their card and drop it in a bowl. Pick the questions out of the bowl and have the group discuss them one at a time
- Transformative works (fanfiction, fanart, etc) change the way teens are used to interacting with a text so use that to your benefit. Encourage teens to talk about what they think happens to the characters after the book ends or how things would seem to a character other than the protagonist.
- What kinds of social media accounts would the main characters have? What kind of things would they post? For example, Hermione would be heavy into the elf rights Tumblr world, while Ron’s Facebook feed would be quidditch fan posts and complaints about his brothers.
- Ask them how they would make a movie from the book. What would they leave out? What needs to be left in? Who would they have play the characters?
If you have a book club where reading is less regulated, either a read and share group or a genre based group, there are still ways to keep the focus where it belongs.
- Ask a few regular teens to be ready to tell everyone else why they should read that person’s favorite book.
- Bring a laptop and projector and share some favorite book related Tumblr and Instagram accounts to follow, asking the teens for suggestions of author accounts to check out.
- If you have computer access have teens create Reading Footprints and then talk about them with the group.
- Have your group help you plan displays by picking themes and suggesting appropriate titles. You might even do a display of just your club’s recommended reads.
- Pick an album your teens know well and have them suggest a book that goes with each song like this blogger did for 1989. You could also have them pair individual songs and books if they have different musical tastes.
Hopefully these suggestions will help break the ice and get the conversation started, or give you an easy way to re-focus a group.