Our Father-Son Book Club
If you were to walk around the gymnasium at our school and look around, it might
dawn on you that you are seeing something that is all too rare in our society. All
over the large area, father figures and their boys are enjoying quality time together.
In one corner of the gym, fathers and sons are reading together about woodworking
and construction. In another corner, fathers and sons are working together on a
creative project involving hand tools and leather. You hear loud pounding in another
part of the room and turn to see fathers and sons working on a wood project from
Lowe's. You duck as a paper airplane flies over your head. Fathers and sons are
working together to construct the perfect flying machine. This is our book club―for
The idea for a book club where fathers and sons get together to read and react by
doing came from a popular children's author, Jon Scieszka. He has written several
cool "guy" books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs,
Squids Will Be Squids, and The Stinky Cheese Man.
Jon has a website― http://www.guysread.com―that
explores the many reasons boys and books can and should go together. One reason
he gives for boys' general lack of interest is that many of them never see their
father figure enjoying a good book. One idea he had to repair this was to start
a book club for guys.
When we sat down to plan our guys' book club and thought about our own community,
we knew our club had to follow a few rules in order to make it successful.
First of all, we wanted to call it a "father-son" book club instead of just a guys'
book club because we wanted to stress father involvement with this activity. We
didn't just want to have a bunch of boys showing up, but rather we wanted to build
a bridge between fathers and the school.
Second, we knew that if we wanted a large number of fathers showing up, we couldn't
schedule book clubs more than once a month. Too many men have to take off early
from work to get to the book club. In the end we decided to hold the book club once
every nine weeks.
Finally, because we knew guys pretty well (being guys ourselves), we knew we didn't
want the typical book club, where we all read the same book and discussed it. That
would be too much like school. We decided to choose a theme for each book club.
We'd lay out over 200 books to choose from, with different reading levels and topics
related to the theme. And we'd have activities and give opportunities for boys and
their fathers to put what they learned from reading into practice.
The Nuts and Bolts of the Process
In the beginning, in order to get the word out to parents, we sent a flyer home
with all the boys in the school. Now, to remind the fathers and sons of each meeting,
we use the regular school announcements, websites, parent letters, etc.
We recognize that not all kids can bring a father. So we tell kids to bring an important
adult male in their life. If they do not have someone that can come with them to
a particular club meeting, we pair them with a volunteer.
We get all the books we use at the club from three local libraries. The fathers
and sons read the books at the meeting and leave them there. However, we provide
index cards that they can write information down on if they like a book. The index
card then serves them as a reminder of the book in case they want to check it out
of the library.
Before scheduling our meetings, we clear the use of the gym with the administration.
We also check the schedules of other organized activities that the boys in our school
take part in. That helps to avoid scheduling conflicts.
We do not have a separate meeting with the fathers before the club starts. We just
explain the schedule for the evening to everyone present at the beginning of each
meeting. At one of our meetings, we passed out a written order of events, and that
seemed to be helpful.
Two Years and Counting
This is our second year leading the book club. Each time we've averaged around 70
fathers and sons. We've done themes on the following:
- Sports. A local tae kwon do group performed.
- Vehicles. We had a remote-controlled car
race and life-sized video racing game.
- Outdoors. We met at a local state park
to do fishing and learn about hunting gear.
Sometimes we get support from groups in the community. For our outdoor club meeting
at the state park last May, the PTO provided hot dogs, chips, and drinks for supper.
And sometimes our support comes from other groups. The National Writing Project
contributed a small amount of grant money to our most recent club meeting, which
focused on reading and following directions. We included a writing element in this
club meeting by writing thank-you notes to our presenters in order to qualify for
the funds. The funds from the writing project helped to purchase the leather for
the students to do a leather project.
The theme of vehicles has been our most popular thus far. We have also had requests
to repeat our outdoor theme again this spring. As far as the books themselves go,
nonfiction, informational books seem to be the most popular (especially cross-section-type
We asked what Jesse, a fifth grader, liked best about the book club. He said, "I
liked the activities we did, especially the remote-controlled car race." Jesse's
dad said that "any opportunity I get to spend extra time with my son is a bonus!"
Actually, that seems to be the sentiment of most of the fathers we've talked to.
They just love doing something together with their boys, even if it involves books.
And in the end, it's our opinion that building these relationships is a very important
part of a young man's life.
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