President Lincoln loved to read. Reading was his way out of a small cabin on a rural farm—through reading, he learned about life, citizenship, the importance of character and honesty, and his place in the larger world around him. It is from Lincoln’s beliefs that our reading club takes inspiration.
We invite you to join us as we discuss books about the world we share. Our hope is to provide relevant books that allow you to engage with our staff and your peers around topics that are important to you. Our promise is a safe space where you can think, discuss your ideas, challenge assumptions, and (hopefully) grow a little based on what we read.
For each club, we will select a book that relates to the world around us, addresses contemporary issues, or introduces us to new voices and experiences. Reading Club is geared toward students ages 8-12, however, we welcome all students who want to chat about the book! To register for Reading Club, please visit our Upcoming Events page; links are usually live 30 days before the Club.
A Note to Parents
All our books are vetted using industry-recognized sources, including Common Sense Media and the School Library Journal. When these are unavailable, staff complete due diligence research, often referencing the writings of school librarians and teachers. Further, staff who lead these programs either have teaching experience or have been trained to facilitate youth reading programs and discussions.
As a museum, we believe it is important to tackle both history and our lived experience, warts and all. We also believe, as educators, that children who engage others around challenging topics, learning to express their opinions respectfully, while hearing and considering the opinions of others, mature to be engaged citizens in a participatory democracy.
Given our desire to present the world as it is, you may notice that some of our books come with a “Parental Advisory.” For these books, please review the attached advisory and make sure you are comfortable with your child reading the book and participating in a dynamic conversation relating to it in a group setting, where things can be, even with the best of intentions and facilitation, somewhat unpredictable. If you are not comfortable with this, please do not register your child for that event or, depending on their age, consider enrolling them in the other group that month.
Preparing for Reading Club
To prepare for each session of Reading Club, we ask that you:
- Read the book.
- While you read, think about how the book makes you feel, how it may challenge your beliefs, and what you still want to know.
- Jot down a few questions you want to discuss when we meet.
If life got busy and you didn’t finish the book but were able to read most of it, you’re still welcome to participate, but [SPOILER ALERT]—you can’t be upset when (it’s never if, it’s when) we talk about the ending...because we will.
If you can’t think of any questions to ask, that’s okay, just make note of the things you think are important in the book or the topics you really want to spend some time talking about.
Our Expectations During Reading Club
This isn’t a class. We won’t ask you to sit quietly and listen, nor do we have a handbook of rules to follow. But we do have a few expectations while you’re in our space (whether face-to-face or virtual):
- Actively participate in the conversation.
- Respect the feelings and thoughts of all participants.
- It’s okay to disagree and have a different opinion. As a matter of fact, we expect it! When you disagree, we ask that you discuss it constructively, with an open mind. Bullying, abusive language, or arguing will not be tolerated.
- Try to build on each other’s thoughts and use the book to emphasize your points.
- Ask questions! Your questions can tackle points of confusion, things that bothered you, topics you want to discuss, ideas you want to know more about, or just a quote, section, or chapter that stuck with you.
- Don’t leave upset or frustrated. If a topic came up that you didn’t feel comfortable raising to the group, but want to discuss more before you go, stick around and we'll talk.
Reading Club Archive
June, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao
Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal, the One and Only Ivan was inspired by the true story of a gorilla who lived in a shopping mall. Together with his friends Bob the stray dog, Stella and Ruby the elephants, and Julia the thoughtful artist, Ivan finds a way for everyone to escape the mall and find their way home.
June, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
From the best-selling author of The Fault in Our Stars, Turtles All the Way Down tells the story of Aza, a teenage girl dealing with anxiety, the passing of her father, and a scandalous mystery she is eager to solve. Aza learns to trust herself and her friends in this exciting story that combines philosophy, microbiology, and Star Wars trivia.
July, Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds’s Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks is a collection of short stories all centered around a group of students of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences. Reynold’s teaches us to find the magic in the mundane and challenges us to look at our world in a new way in this heartwarming assortment of stories.
July, Dear Martin by Nic Stone
In Nic Stone’s debut novel, brilliant but conflicted Justyce McAllister is torn between identities. As he experiences first-hand intolerance and scorn from his peers, authorities, and at times his own family, he starts writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr., in an attempt to be more like the great Civil Rights leader.
August, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Twelve-year-old Jude loves romantic comedies, Whitney Houston, and the home she shares with her mother, father, and brother in Syria. However, escalating violence in her hometown forces mother and daughter to leave for the United States where Jude must learn to be brave and adjust a new kind of home.
October, Coraline by Neil Gaiman
December, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
February, Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
Eleven-year-old William “Scoob” Lamar is facing a boring Spring Break on lock down, grounded by his over-protective dad. Suddenly his grandmother (G’ma) arrives in her brand new RV with big plans for an impromptu road trip. Once they hit the road, Scoob realizes G’ma has bigger plans than just site seeing.
April, The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
Maria Luisa prefers to be called Malú. She also prefers to eat vegetarian, the sanctuary of her father’s record store, wearing band t-shirts, playing her music loud, and speaking her mind. As Malú adapts to a new school in a new city and searches for “her people,” she tries to follow the first and most important rule of punk: Be Yourself.
June, Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Summer is here, school is out, and it’s time for adventure! Summer Reading Club returns on Monday, June 14th to discuss Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly. Our story begins on the very first day of summer vacation and follows the interwoven journeys of four unique individuals as the universe brings them together after a prank goes terribly wrong. There are no coincidences in this epic tale that combines mythical creatures, psychics, and guinea pigs to explore the power of friendship, courage, being true to yourself, and that sometimes life calls on you, even when you don’t raise your hand.
July, A Wrinkle in Time the Graphic Novel by Madeleine L'engle
What exactly IS a tesseract? Summer Reading Club reconvenes on Monday, July 19th to discuss Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time the Graphic Novel. Meg Murray struggles to fit in and is grappling with the mysterious disappearance of her father. Meg, little brother Charles Wallace, and new friend Calvin are visited by three mysterious ladies one night who take them on an epic, inter-stellar journey through time and space to battle dark forces and save Meg’s father. Join us as we discuss the illustrated version of this 1963 Newbery Medal winner and learn about the special power within us all.
August, The Green Bicycle by Haifaa al-Mansour
How determined are you to get what you really want? In The Green Bicycle by Haifaa al Mansour, eleven-year-old Saudi Arabian girl, Wadjda, is driven to get her hands on a green bicycle. Eager for the independence and opportunity to race her friends, the bicycle represents so much more than transportation. Caught between what is expected of her and her own drive, Wadjda will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. Join Summer Reading Club on Monday, August 16 to discuss this story filled with positive messages on determination, friendship, and following your dreams.
If you have any questions or concerns about Reading Club, or just want to provide feedback, we’re always interested in hearing from our community. Please email the Education Department to share your thoughts.