How Do You Get Kids to Read? Turns Out, a Book Club Can Actually Work.

“We parents felt like it was going to end any time. The kids were adamant they wanted to keep going—and that they never wanted to meet less often.”

In 2008, when Michelle McCann and four other moms’ kids were in first grade, they hatched a plan to make the kids into readers: a book group.

They thought it might last a year. But 11 years and more than 100 books later—despite facing all kinds of reasons to fall apart—the group (four boys and one girl) endured.

“We parents felt like it was going to end any time,” McCann, an author and editor of children’s books, says. “The kids were adamant they wanted to keep going—and that they never wanted to meet less often.”

McCann’s son, Ronan, 20, a math major at Colorado College, says the group’s first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was probably also the consensus favorite. He adds that having to read a book a month, then meet to discuss it, made him a better reader and English student than he would have been otherwise. The five kids went to different middle schools and high schools, and at each transition, their mothers asked if they wanted to end the group. The answer: a resounding “no!”

“If you’d told me I was going to be in a book group for that long, I would have said it would be boring and not fun at all,” Ronan says. “It was the opposite.”

Everybody took turns picking the books. The kids came to the group with discussion and trivia questions they shared over a meal.

Michelle McCann says the diverse subjects offered the mothers the opportunity to tackle topics with their children they would have otherwise struggled to broach.

“The books gave us a chance to talk about race and rape and drugs and all sorts of things,” she says. “There’s no way in hell I would have had a chance to talk to my son about those topics without the books. It just blows my mind.”

On July 16, Chronicle Books releases Reading Together, which the group wrote collectively to describe their experience and provide a guide for others.

“We had expectations of it being hard,” Michelle says of keeping the group together. “It was not hard.”