Once a month, an industrious group of tween and teen readers visit The Bookworm of Edwards for an after-hours book club for kids. They discuss two novels, eat snacks and giggle madly. Last weekend, they also got a chance to Skype with one of their favorite writers.
Maile Meloy, author of “The Apothecary” and its sequel “The Apprentices,” scheduled a virtual visit when she learned the book club chose her titles to read in July. As thematically difficult novels, her books intrigued the kids, as well as the grown-ups who led the discussion.
“We loved hearing about how Maile came up with the story, and how long it took her to write the books,” said Franny Gustafson, book club founder and children’s department manager at The Bookworm. “The kids thought it was especially cool to learn that an author is a real person, just like them.”
Meloy, who has written six books for adults and children, had to wrap up the online call on time so she could take her grandparents out for dinner. How normal.
Personal life aside, Meloy’s books introduced club members to espionage, evil, the Cold War and international intrigue. A hint of magic kept the story line modern and fun, and the international aspect made it fast-paced. With strong female and male characters, her books appeal to — and challenge — any curious youngster.
“That’s our goal — to keep kids reading for fun, and to learn they can develop their own tastes outside of school,” Gustafson said.
Learning to talk books
Not only does the club introduce kids to new authors and books, it also provides a nurturing environment for kids to learn about sharing their opinions and listening to others. And the kids agree.
“The discussion is my favorite part because it’s nice to hear other people’s perspective of the books,” said Camille Johnson, a club participant. Her mother, Susanne Johnson, added, “Camille now approaches books with a different perspective. Rather than taking books at face value, she considers stylistic elements, character development and the author’s impetus for the story.”
This club is not only helping Camille and the others develop reading and comprehension skills, it also brings the family and the community together.
“The Bookworm continues to provide an inspirational venue for the wide variety of reading abilities and interests,” Johnson said. She admits to reading the books with her daughter, and the Johnson family enjoys hearing about discussions after the meetings.
On average, a dozen or more readers convene each month, a number steady since the club’s founding in 2012, according to Gustafson. Interest grew rapidly, so once the age 8 to 12 book club was up and running successfully, she started another one for teens.
Some favorites have included “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine and “Ungifted” by Gordon Korman.
But while the reading list demonstrates that parents and kids are not afraid of tackling sensitive and emotionally challenging issues, there is a lot of fun had at the club, too.
“Book club is not just something their parents make them attend,” Gustafson said. “They are genuinely excited to talk about books and interact with other kids.”
Meloy’s guest appearance on Sunday was icing on the cake for this group, which collectively has read more than 30 titles. Other authors who have interacted with the kids include Korman and Lindsay Eland, Frisco author of “Scones and Sensibility” and her forthcoming “A Summer of Sundays.” Eland also led a writing workshop focused on improving the kids writing skills and variability at the bookstore. “She inspired every kid in that room,” Gustafson said.
Johnson’s enthusiasm is shared by other parents. Gustafson has received many emails and comments from parents who are thrilled that The Bookworm offers their children this opportunity. She credits parental involvement for keeping the club running.
“The book club provides a safe and welcoming space for kids to chat with other booklovers and feed their love of reading,” Johnson said.
Leigh Horton is an intern at The Bookworm of Edwards and a student at the Colorado School of Mines.