We have an innate hunger for STORY. What happens to this craving when reading is difficult, as it was for my daughter who has dyslexia, or as it was for me as a child, Most of the time, people like us give up and find something else to do to feel success like sports or the arts. My daughter believed she couldn’t. I decided I wouldn’t after I compared myself to those kids around me who read much faster.
With high school looming in my daughter’s future, we needed a solution that would allow her to read, comprehend, and interpret the classic novels on her high school reading list. After a great deal of thought, we discovered an answer that met her reading goals that satisfied my reluctant reader’s craving for stories. Whether a child’s avoidance of books is from diagnosed reading issues, or a habit of choosing to do other things instead, a literature club can meet your child’s hidden craving for story.
It’s been 12 years since that first literature club started. Since then, I’ve seen shy, avid readers transform into confident public speakers (discussions and project presentations draw them out of their shells). Kids who are more interested in sports and electronics than a really good story transform into kids that say, “Mom, if we have to drop an activity, please don’t let it be literature club.”
LITClub kids experience books in a unique way. A literature club is a monthly activity that places a high value on the social needs of children and their parents. This entices the kids to give reading a chance. Interacting with family and friends is important to children. Moms need the camaraderie, too. Hanging out with their friends and sharing a meal together make literature club acceptable, even in the beginning, to those who think their moms have lost their minds when they tell them they are joining a classical book club. In a short period of time, the experience changes their opinion about reading.
LITClub gives the kids something to look forward to. Sure, they had to read an old book before coming to the meeting. They also had to prepare a project. They make this sacrifice, concluding, “The work is a small sacrifice to spend an exciting evening with my friends.” Hanging out is enough motivation during the first two or three months to keep the kids coming back. After 2, 3, or 4 books, the kids get hooked on more than the social time. They find out that talking about the stories is a lot more interesting than they had imagined. They find themselves looking forward to what their friends have to say about the book, in comparison to their own thoughts. Most kids enjoy batting around thoughts, ideas, and opinions with each other. At first, the kids think that presenting a project to a group is either intimidating, or pointless. It doesn’t take them long to look forward to this part, too.
- LITClub kids become skilled in rhetorical conversations. When our kids reach adulthood, they will be in relationships with people who aren’t like them. They need to know how to talk with others in away that doesn’t cause a fight. Literature club provides a platform for the kids to express their thoughts about BIG ideas and practice their responses to people who might oppose them. In literature club, we do this through book conversations. In addition, at least once a year, the kids have an opportunity to participate in a formal round-table discussion. After reading Animal Farm, the kids were divided into two teams. One side argued for socialism, the other team for free market trade. In this way, the kids learned a lot about themselves and how different cultures set up their societies. They realized that they had strengths and weaknesses when put on the spot conversationally. In the end, practicing in a round-table forum, whether casually or formally, equips LITClub kids to talk to others about their faith and lifestyle in a respectful and effective way.
- LITClub provides a stage for kids to learn how to be friends with people that are similar to them, and different from them. They learn how to discuss their differences, instead of becoming enemies because they don’t know how to love others who aren’t like them.
- LITClub kids’ written and spoken communication skills are honed through project creation and presentation. Projects are geared to be fun and require thoughtfulness to complete. The Denver, Colorado middle school club read Death Be Not Proud. Lee, the facilitator, gave them this project: If you were given the news that in 6 months you will be leaving this earth and life as you know it, what kind of important-things-I-want-to-do-in-life list would you come up with? Kind of a bucket list, but preferably not ‘I’d make sure I go to NASCAR or visit Disney World’ (although maybe those could be at the bottom of your list).
- LITClub kids’ critical thinking skills are stirred up through planning and implementing cool projects that are less crafty, and more interactive, like pretending to be a news reporter and interviewing a character, or creating an original board game based on the plot of the story, with strategy based on symbols and motifs. Critical thinking is the ability to think in a circular fashion that spirals deep and wide, as opposed to a linear train of thought. Imagine an idea that is brought to light in a conversation, a newspaper, magazine, news program, or on the radio. Linear thinking hears it and jumps to the first conclusion that comes to mind, and either owns that conclusion, or accepts the commentator’s conclusions without question. Circular thinking, which we sometimes call rhetorical or Socratic conversation, is less quick to jump to conclusions. Circular thinking takes time to listen to the other side. It ponders the past, present, and future. It weighs the costs and outcomes before speaking.
- LITClub thinkers learn to ask questions.
- LITClub thinkers learn to respect for others.
- LITClub thinkers learn to listen.
- LITClub thinkers learn patience.
- In the end, LITClub thinkers desire to know and love others more than they want to prove a point. This opens up conversations, whereas linear conversations tend to end abruptly and, often, are never broached again.
It might seem that a reluctant book lover would turn up his nose to all of this. My daughter thought she wouldn’t make it through her reading list. I wondered if I would be up for the task. Some kids push against the idea of a LITClub because they are introverts. Regardless of a child’s reason for digging in his heels, hang tough. When it’s all said and done, he will be so grateful to you for the gift of literature club.
How do you transform reading into an experience?
Please share your ideas in the comment section so you help other mothers who are looking for ideas.
If you would like to share this amazing process with your children, check out The LITClub, Transforming Reading into an Experience.
Ali Dent is an author and story lover. She wrote The LITClub just before she began writing novels. You can find her at her author site: She grew up in Georgia and was educated at Berry College, where her heart for writing was trained and nurtured. She currently resides in Texas with her family.