Starting a family book club

Reading together can foster literacy skills, as well as life skills such as empathy.

Right about now your family has binged every TV show, taken 10,000 walks, mastered chalk art, and quite possibly run out of things to talk about. Here’s something that can spark some new conversations: a family book club.

Reading together as a family nurtures all the usual literacy skills: comprehension, reasoning, language skills, etc. But a family book club can also foster self-expression, creative thinking, and empathy in kids. Plus, a recent study suggests that children from book-oriented homes develop higher reading, math, and technological skills that can benefit them later in life. “Home reading helps improve concentration, imagination, and confidence,” says Patricia Edwards, professor of language and literacy at Michigan State University. “And it relaxes the body and calms the mind.” (Get tips on raising a reader.)

Step one is to choose the book. Have each family member suggest four titles—from picture books, novels, even graphic novels—then vote as a group to select one per list. To ease kids into the club, start with favorite books that kids have already read; once they’re hooked, start selecting books new to everyone. And don’t underestimate those books for beginning readers. Though subtle, many picture books have character development, tension, and plot twists. Even nonreaders can join the family book club. “Choose a wordless picture book, or let them retell a story based on the illustrations,” Edwards says. (Get book ideas from Nat Geo Kids and Nat Geo Travel.)

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