Store hosts after-school book clubs

BookPeople offers children chance to read in groups

AUDREY HUDDLESTON, Evergreen reporter

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BookPeople of Moscow is working to create new programs for youth at the bookstore.

Eija Sumner, the children’s literature specialist, started three book clubs for children and teens in November. She will launch the fourth club, specifically for graphic novels, sometime in February. Graphic novels are generally aimed at kids in middle school or younger, and Sumner wanted to broaden the content included in the book clubs.

The Young Readers club focuses on children who are just starting to read chapter books independently. Another club, which Sumner refers to as Middle-Grade Readers, is for kids in upper elementary or middle school. The Teen Readers club is aimed at teenagers, and focuses on novels for young adults.

Sumner said the book clubs for younger kids are generally more popular than the one for teens.

For the younger children, Sumner said she sometimes does an activity, like coloring or a crossword puzzle, that relates to the book.

If there are people present who didn’t read the book, Sumner strives to make the conversation inclusive. She said she does this by asking general questions that relate to the book, but don’t necessarily require a person to have read the book to answer. However, she said it’s ideal if people read the book ahead of time.

Sumner said she selects books and authors she is passionate about when choosing what to share with the kids. Her favorite book she has selected thus far is “Bronze and Sunflower” by Cen Wenxuan, which she read with the Middle-Grade Readers. Another book she said she enjoys is the young adult novel “Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds, though she hasn’t chosen this for the book club.

Lately, Sumner said, she is giving the kids more ownership when it comes to choosing books. She said she does this by curating a collection of books for the kids to choose from.

“I make a pretty conscious effort to make sure we are reading authors from a variety of different backgrounds,” she said.

The children developed their own interests in the books, Sumner said, and seem proud of knowing about the novels they read.

“The kids are really funny. They get really into it,” Sumner said. “Sometimes we have customers who come through the store and they ask what we’re doing, and it’s really funny to see like a 10 year old do a book talk for an adult about something they read.”

Sumner said the Middle-Grade Readers keep a journal about the books they read. She described their entries as both funny and adorable.

“As a kid who was reading all the time, I always felt a little isolated by my book habit,” BookPeople owner Carol Price said. “I want readers to have the same opportunities for being in a group with other people who are as book-obsessed as they are. Adults enjoy book clubs; younger people ought to be able to experience that too.”

Price said she wants to develop a safe and comfortable space for these clubs, since she considers them so important.

Another way for kids to grow as readers is to join BookPeople’s Children’s and Teen Advisory Boards, Sumner said. She said the kids on the board read advanced copies of books that haven’t been published yet.

Price explained the board is made up of kids and teens who meet once a month to talk about what they are reading. She said the kids give her valuable feedback on what books they think the store should sell.

The store stocks all the books for the clubs, but participants have the option to check out the books at the library if they prefer. The program is free, unless a child chooses to purchase the book. According to their website, BookPeople offers a 15-percent discount on books purchased for book clubs.

Meetings for each club happen monthly from 4 – 5 p.m. at the store. Specific meeting dates can be found on their website.