Book Club and Forum

By Britt Costa

Program Objectives
People Involved

Possible Topics


Book Club and Forum – Program Objectives

  • To provide young adults with resources pertaining to topics they deem relevant in their lives.
  • To provide young adults with a forum to discuss these topics among themselves, as well as with adults in the community who specialize in that area.
  • To provide young adults with literature (novels, in particular) that focuses directly on topics chosen by teens and a chance to discuss their ideas concerning that literature.
  • To provide young adults with the opportunity to interact with one another in a positive, safe, and fun manner.
  • To provide young adults with an opportunity to give back to their community and open their minds to the world around them.

People Involved

The primary people in the program are the young adults. The first step is to establish a Teen Advisory Board (TAB) (Kan 47). This board will consist of only young adults and would consult a librarian for advice or guidance and permission to use the library for events they decide to support. To get the Book Club and Forum going TAB would be asked to compile a list of topics and issues they feel are of major interest among their peers. TAB’s next job would be to compile a list of guests they feel would be appropriate to speak on the chosen topics (examples of these are provided in the following lesson plans). In addition, TAB would be responsible for coming up with community service projects that also deal with some of the chosen topics. Finally, in collaboration with a librarian, TAB would make up a list of books that could be read in conjunction with a particular topic or issue.


The Book Club and Forum’s main activities would occur on a monthly basis. Popularity and the amount of participating young adults could increase or decrease meetings respectively. The principal activities would be the Book Club Forum meetings and visits from speakers on selected topics. Secondary activities can consist of a wide variety of events TAB may want to sponsor depending on interests and funds. For instance, librarians will booktalk the various books available on a topic, community service projects will be offered whenever relevant and possible, TAB may suggest festivals, contests, movies, poetry readings and so on to correspond with the book of that month.

At the start of a month, a book will be promoted for the Young Adult Book Club Forum meeting to take place at the end of the month. Along side the book promotion, the accompanying activities to be done in correspondence with that book and/or topic will also be noted. In the month young people take to read the book or books, TAB will be busy scheduling speakers or whatever other activities are to take place. Each month a new topic and books will be offered.

Possible Topics, Related Books, and Activities

Topic: Grandparents

Related Reading: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, Granny the Pag by Nina Bawden.

Book Club Forum Discussion Topics:

  • Current relationships with grandparents
  • Childhood memories of time spent with grandparents
  • Why relating to older adults might be difficult
  • Challenges older adults face in our technologically advanced times

Possible Speakers:

Invite older adults who have lived through a war or an extraordinary experience pertaining to history to share their story with young adults.

Possible Activities:

  • Create family trees using the help of grandparents, and historical documents in the library, display in library.
  • Create grandparent timelines marking major events in their lives and connecting them to events in history, display in library and/or present to grandparents as a gift.
  • Storytelling contest: teens would "research" a day in the life of one of their grandparents as a teenager and write or recite the story.

Community Service Project Ideas:

Visits to local nursing homes, retired person’s community, or assisted living establishments to read to elderly or share experiences.

Topic: Alternative Lifestyles

*Note: This topic may be difficult to openly discuss in some communities, this would be taken into consideration at the time of program implementation.

Related Reading: Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden, Peter by Kate Walker, Deliver Us From Evie by M.E. Kerr

Book Club Forum Discussion Topics:

  • Why is it difficult for people to openly discuss alternative lifestyles?
  • Why is it difficult to lead an alternative lifestyle in America?
  • Should people living in alternative arrangements be denied certain rights and privileges?

Possible Films:

  • Boys Don’t Cry (brand new film starring teenagers)
  • Go Fish
  • Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks
  • As Good As It Gets starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt

Possible Activities:

Create an informative bulletin board dispelling stereotypes or promoting social harmony

Topic: Substance Abuse

Related Reading: Go Ask Alice edited by Dr. Beatrice Sparks, Smack by Melvin Burgess,

Book Club Forum Discussion Topics:

  • What are the clear dangers in getting turned on to drugs or alcohol?
  • What are the consequences of trying drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked or pressured into trying drugs or alcohol? How did you respond? Was there someone you could turn to for help? Were there any consequences?
  • What things can be done instead of experimenting with drugs and alcohol?
  • Who can you talk to about drugs and alcohol?

Possible Speakers and Films:

  • Local law enforcement officers can display illegal paraphernalia, discuss the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, and most importantly, give the details of the legal consequences for possession or abusing illegal substances.
  • Local nurse, doctor, or practitioner from a rehabilitation center can discuss the physical and emotional results from substance abuse.
  • Basketball Diaries starring Leonardo DiCaprio

Possible Activities:

  • Informative, preventative bulletin boards
  • Awareness night, gathering of local parents and teens to discuss and learn about substance abuse
  • Create an "Alternative Night", promoting getting together on a weekend night and watching a movie or going bowling as an alternative to try drugs or alcohol.
  • Make "Just Say No" bookmarks and pins
  • Poster Contest promoting a drug free community
  • Community Service Project Ideas
  • Young adults could put together a pamphlet and visit middle schools and educate them about the harms of substance abuse.

Topic: Buying a Car

Related Reading: Christine by Stephen King

Book Club Forum Discussion Topics:

  • What are the pros and cons of having a car as a teenager?
  • What would you do differently if you had a car?
  • If you could travel anywhere by car, where would you go and why?

Possible Speakers:

  • Local car salesman could give tips on how to shop for a new or used vehicle.
  • Local loan officer could discuss the financial aspects of what is needed to get a loan.
  • Local insurance agent could explain the details of auto insurance including what information is needed when inquiring about a quote and typical rates for teenage drivers in that area.

Possible Activities:

Raise money for activities with a town "Car Wash"

Topic: Rape/Sex

Related Reading: It Happened to Nancy edited by Beatrice Sparks, Happy Endings Are All Alike, by Sandra Scoppettone, The Facts Speak for Themselves by Brock Cole

Book Club Forum Discussion Topics:

  • Discuss the consequences of becoming sexually active at an early age.
  • Discuss alternative activities couples can engage in for fun.
  • Discuss what rape is and what can be done to try and avoid it.
  • Discuss options a teen has after he or she has been raped or if a girl becomes pregnant.
  • Discuss ways to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STD’s.

Possible Speakers:

  • Rape Hotline Volunteer can discuss what to do when you or a friend is raped.
  • A local nurse could discuss the physical aspects of sex and protection.

Possible Activities:

Create awareness posters

Topic: Family Issues, Siblings

Related Reading: When She Was Good by Norma Fox Mazer, Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson, Ash: A Novel by Lisa Rowe Fraustino

Book Club Forum Discussion Topics:

  • What is the best thing about being a brother or sister? What’s the worst?
  • What are the significant differences between older and younger siblings?
  • What things do you and your siblings do together?
  • What is the best/worst memory you have of you and your sibling?

Possible Speakers:

If possible, a psychologist could come in and talk about the significant differences in siblings due to birth order. (This is probably close to impossible to find, but would be very interesting.)

Possible Activities:

  • Sibling Appreciation Day, make signs, have a party, do something nice for each other.
  • Sibling Field Day, teams of siblings compete in whatever contests can be conjured up from beanbag tosses, to tug of war.

On a Final Note

The list of topics and corresponding activities for young people is never ending. Other topics of high interest to young adults that can easily be implemented in the library include career planning/summer jobs, teen pregnancy, terminal illness, technology and computers, and so on. The goal of the program is to expose young adults to the vast world of literature that relates to them and the things they find interesting. In addition, the activities are designed to bring young adults together so that they can recognize themselves as a unique community part of the larger community in which they live.

*Book Club & Forum is an excerpt of Britt Costa's Major Paper, "Young Adult Book Club & Forum


Brown, Marilyn and Anne Mertle. "Need a Program Idea? Try These…" Voice of Youth

Advocates. Vol. 1, no.1. April 1995: 10-12.

Caywood, Caroline A. Ed. Youth Participation in School and Public Libraries: It Works.

Chicago: American Library Association, Young Adult Library Services Association, 1995.

Kan, Katherine. Sizzling Summer Reading Programs for Young Adults. Chicago:

American Library Association, 1998.

Meyers, Elaine. "The Coolness Factor: Ten Libraries Listen to Youth." American

Libraries. November 1999: 42-45.

Wasman, Ann. Ed. Best Kept Secrets: Ideas for Promoting Your School Library Media

Program. Chicago: American Library Association, 1996.

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This page last updated May 10, 2001
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