A group of Year 6 girls from North Perth Primary School started a book club after being inspired by the boys. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
Harry Potter instead of Gone Girl. Apple juice instead of champagne. More and more children’s book clubs are springing up in an attempt to get kids into reading.
Oliver Diaz and his friends in Year 6 at North Perth Primary School hold their book club every few months.
Oliver’s mum Halesha Diaz said she came up with the idea based on her own book club and a desire to get her son reading more.
“Olly was a reluctant reader,” she said.
“He read the Harry Potters when he was younger, but it was really hard getting him into reading any other books,” she said.
“So I figured that getting his mates around, getting them all together, that could encourage him to read again, as well as giving him ideas of books the other kids have read that they really liked.”
Oliver Diaz and his friends hold a book club meeting every few months at one of their houses. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
The club was a creative success from the very beginning.
“On their first meeting, they brought books they really enjoyed to share, chose a book to read together and came up with a name for their club: Rookies and Bookies,” Ms Diaz said.
“When they have been at my house I have been amazed at how mature they have been when they discussed it, even if it is only for 20 minutes.”
Ms Diaz said the boys read a variety of books from Lion to the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. They are currently reading Wonder.
“It has certainly led to Olly reading more, and while he might not have loved them all, he has still read them,” she said.
“I know how social Olly is, he loves his mates and that makes all the difference to getting him reading.
“Also, when I was trying to find some different authors for him to try, he’d say ‘no, I don’t want to read that’, but when his mates suggest it, he would read it.”
Girls get in on the act
Soon enough, the idea caught on — with the Year 6 girls at school deciding they too would create a book club, after hearing the boys talk about how great it was.
The girls say their club motivates them to read books and genres they wouldn’t normally be drawn to. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
“We started the book club so we could all stay friends when we go to different high schools next year,” said Rose, who hosted the first book club meeting.
Her fellow members said the stories were crucial.
“Reading together encourages you to read more because you get to discuss it with your friends,” Cedar said.
“It opens up new categories and authors to read, and you would read something you wouldn’t normally,” Olivia said.
The girls said they liked reading Ruby Red Fort, Wonder, Famous 5 and anything by Tom Gates, Ronald Dahl and David Walliams. They also described Diary of a Wimpy Kid as a ‘gateway book’ that most kids enjoyed reading.
‘No such thing as a bad book’
Sarah Rakich runs kids’ book clubs at Beaufort St Books in Perth for children in four age groups aged from 6 to 13.
Ms Rakich said the book store successfully applied for a grant set up and funded by American crime author James Patterson, where bookshops with a dedicated children’s section could receive up to $5,000 to get kids reading.
Sarah Rakich says there are long waiting lists in place for some of her kids’ book clubs. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
“It’s been wonderful. We’ve been doing the book clubs for almost two years now,” she said.
“The 6 to 7-year-old group was a bit slow initially because of a lack of reading confidence, but I’ve always said to parents that it doesn’t have to be that the child finishes the book themselves, it can be that you can read to them.
“Its just about a love of stories and discussing stories, and you don’t have to have read the words to do that. Now that group is flourishing.”
Ms Rakich said the most popular age groups were the 8 to 9 and 10 to 11-year-olds, with long waiting lists in place.
Ms Rakich says children benefit from the social element of a book club. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
“The middle years — 8, 9 10, 11 — that’s what really excites me, because younger kids still love books because they are being read to at school, but as you start to move through primary school you can start to become less engaged in reading,” she said.
“I received some nice feedback from one of the parents who said it had been really great for his son … he really loved finding a group of kids that were like minded.
“And that’s when I realised the book clubs have had a broader, social impact — a lot of the kids didn’t know each other when they first started and now they are friends.”
Children were still choosing physical books over e-readers, and the Harry Potter series was still going strong, Ms Rakich said.
“I find the discussions can get quite philosophical, and that’s what I like, that it is not just about that reading comprehension of discussing the plot, it is about those deeper thoughts that they’ve had around the book,” she said.
“I really like a quote by fantasy author Neil Gaiman, who said that there is no such thing as a bad book for children … books that you don’t like can be a gateway to other books you might really like.”
Apple juice, not champagne, is served at the girls’ book club high tea. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)