By Sarah McDuling, Category Manager Kids & Young Adult Books, Booktopia


While navigating the new necessity to physically distance has had its challenges, many families have found new ways to continue staying connected with their loved ones. Friday nights switched from dinners out to video calls in, with bingo nights, book clubs and birthday parties going online.

Even though playdates and school may be on the cards again, there are a few online group activities that will be sticking around for the better. Reading books is one way to bring families together – and book clubs don’t need to be exclusively for mums and dads or face-to-face.

To help parents encourage their kids to engage in reading, Booktopia have teamed up with Messenger from Facebook and their app – Messenger Kids – to show parent’s how to set up and run a successful virtual kid’s book club.

Booktopia and Messenger aim to help families and friends say connected during this time. Whether

-you are looking for an activity for their family to do together while social distancing, a fun idea for a

-long-distance play date or simply a rainy-day activity, a virtual book club can be the solution for you!

Building a community for kids is just as important as it is for adults. Booktopia worked with Nitya Madhavan, Director of Product Marketing, Messenger Kids who understands the importance of nurturing kids’ connections with friends and family when being together is not always possible.

“A kids’ virtual book club is a wonderful solution to keep little minds busy and growing and a fun idea for kids to do together whether they are social distancing, on opposite sides of the country or world, or stuck inside on a rainy day”, says Nitya.

We are excited by this partnership opportunity for Messenger Kids to help facilitate this virtual book club for kids and help in still the joy of reading. We believe this will be an exciting and fresh way for families to connect and build community.”

Booktopia and Messenger’s Guide to setting up a virtual kids’ book club:

Whether your readers are bringing together their child and their group of friends for a weekly book club, or scheduling in a regular time for grandparents, aunts or uncles to read to their kids once a week, there are many fun tips and tricks to make the experience memorable and exciting.

Getting little readers on board

Messenger Kids is a new and free video chat and messaging app that helps kids connect with friends and family in a fun, parent-controlled space.

Parents can start by setting up a Messenger Kids account for their children between the ages of 6-12 years old by downloading the free app on their phone or tablet. From there, parents can start to build their child’s connections with family and friends by managing their contact list.

Booktopia’s top recommendations for every age group:

What Zola Did on Monday

Timmy the Ticked Off Pony and the Poo of Excitement

E-boy Book 1

The School for Good and Evil

Tips on the virtual book set up

The only limit is your imagination, and there are heaps of fun ways you can extend the book club to give it more of a party atmosphere. For example, you can encourage the kids to dress up as their favourite character from the book or have a snack that matches the theme of the book.

Here are some thought starters for inspiration:

  • Have some questions or activities ready in advance for the kids to engage with. Make sure everyone gets a turn to say something – we recommend having one question for each child.
  • Coordinate a time that works for everyone, for example, grandparents might want to read to their grandchildren in a calmer setting before bed, while a group of friends may want to catch up and read together with morning tea.

o  Keep the session snappy too – aim for 30 minutes!

  • Send a video recording to the group the day before to remind them about book club and share what they need to bring along, what to think about before joining the video and chat and encourage kids to send a gif or sticker to share their excitement!
  • Pick a theme depending on the book:
    • Snacks: Going to outer space? Try a mars bar slice.
  • Filters: Messenger Kids has a series of fun AR filters you can use when reading the book to immerse kids in the experience. Throw a lightning bolt when reading E-Boy or pop some virtual flowers in your hair when reading What Zola did on Monday
  • Setting: Select a setting that matches the book, move from the sofa to the garden for instance
  • Warm up the chat! The hardest part may be getting the discussion rolling. End the reading by having each of the kids give the book a score out of 10.
  • There are no wrong answers – be encouraging and initiate conversation. Reading is all about positive reinforcement and good experiences. This is not a test, it is a fun conversation to encourage more reading in your child’s every day.
  • Keep the up the encouragement! We want kids to enjoy reading so do not forget to send a thank you message once everyone leaves the call.
  • Have the kids share a GIF or sticker to rate the session and say a final goodbye to their friends!
  • Remind them they can check in with the group at any time – a fun follow up activity might be to dress up like your favourite character and send a photo to the group, or share a quick video acting out a favourite scene.

Foster their imagination: Some questions to prompt discussion

  • Who was your favourite character?
  • What was the best part?
  • Did you like how the story ended?
  • If you could change something about the story, what would it be?
  • Does this book remind you of any other stories you have read or seen on TV?
  • Which character would you be in the story?
  • What did you learn from the story?
  • Use a sticker/GIF to express how you felt about [insert topic – plot point, main character, etc.


To view on YouTube: