How to Start a Big-Hearted Family Book Club

Grownups have book clubs – why not families? At Doing Good Together we’ve pioneered what we call the Big-Hearted Family Book Club. Each book is paired with an act of service, which means children get to practice kindness and build empathy while also developing a passion for books, conversation, and generosity. Here, for the first time, we explain how parents and grandparents can start their own BHF Book Club at home.

Planning Your BHF Book Club

Depending on the children’s ages, involve them in deciding how often you meet and the book choice. Other tips for getting started:

  • The three books and accompanying service projects below will get you started — or come up with your own. Be sure both book and project focus on an issue your family cares about.
  • Get a copy of the book. Then make a list of the supplies you’ll need and pick them out together.
  • The evening of your book club, pop some popcorn or serve other crowd-pleasing treats. Then listen as one family member reads the book aloud. Or encourage older kids to take turns reading.
  • Use the questions below to begin a conversation. Keep follow-up questions open-ended, and let the kids take center stage.
  • If your children are older, you’ll want to choose our recommended chapter book. In this case, have everyone read it beforehand, and use your meeting for conversation and the service project.

BHF Book Club Selections

These picture books, geared to children age 5 and older, are especially conducive to provocative conversations and meaningful acts of service. The chapter book for older readers is listed at the end of each section.

The Journey

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

This gorgeous picture book encourages readers to explore the impossible decisions people must make when leaving their homes behind. (Because this book can be dark, parents will want to read it before being sharing it with especially sensitive children.)

Questions to get you thinking

  • Why is the family leaving their home? (Talk about what being a “refugee” means.)
  • How would you feel if you had to leave your home suddenly? What would you miss most?
  • When people must leave their home quickly, they have to leave things behind. What would you choose to take if you could bring only a few of your possessions?
  • How did you feel while we were reading the book? How do you think the mother and the children were feeling?
  • Look through the book again, focusing only on the illustrations. What do you notice?
  • Did you like the ending of the book? Why or why not?

Make a difference

Create school kits for children living in refugee camps. You can find instructions (and a video explaining who refugees are), at Doing Good Together. For a list of the supplies you’ll need and the address for mailing your completed kit(s), visit the Church World Service website.

Do more

  • If your family wants to keep helping refugees, consider the suggestions in this Doing Good Together newsletter.
  • Older children and adults can play the Against All Odds video game and learn first-hand the dangers and dilemmas faced by refugees.
  • Watch the 1986 animated film An American Tail, the story of Fievel, who flees his homeland for a new life in America.
  • Chapter book for families with older readers: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, the story of a young Sudanese refugee adjusting to life with his aunt in Minnesota.
Maddies Fridge

Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt

Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt

This is both a joyful story of friendship and an emotional tale of hidden need. Children will be inspired to learn more – and do more – about local issues of hunger after hearing Sofia’s desire to help her friend.

Questions to get you thinking

  • Why does Maddi ask Sofia not to tell anyone how empty her fridge is? How would you feel if you were in that situation?
  • Is it important to keep your promises? Is there ever a time when a promise is dangerous to keep?
  • How does Maddi react when Sofia, Louis and their mom bring over groceries?
  • Have you ever had to skip a snack or a meal because you forgot to bring one or because there wasn’t a snack at home to bring? How did your body feel?
  • The last page of this book concludes, “The more we talk about empty refrigerators, the fewer there will be.” Why is this true? How can you help spread the message?

Make a difference

Your family can make sandwiches to help people struggling with homelessness and food insecurity. Find a list of supplies, instructions and delivery information from The Sandwich Project.

Do more

  • Download the free Our Family Fights Hunger packet for more books and activities for battling food insecurity.
  • Subscribe to this free listing to find local opportunities to assist at local food shelves and homeless shelters.
  • If you have middle school children, read Joan Bauer’sAlmost Home, a nuanced look at families living in poverty.
Somebody Loves You

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli

A grumpy, lonely man discovers the importance of friendship when he receives an unexpected package from an admirer. This book offers a compelling message about the power of kindness.

Questions to get you thinking

  • In the beginning, why doesn’t Mr. Hatch smile?
  • Before Mr. Hatch receives his surprise, does he have any friends? Is he a helper?
  • When Mr. Hatch finds out that the chocolates were given to him by mistake, how do you think he felt? How would you feel?
  • There are two pictures of Mr. Hatch taking his lunch break. One is on the first page and one is near the end. Can you spot the difference between the two pictures? What happened to change the way people act in both pictures?
  • How do you think Mr. Hatch feels at the end of the book? What makes you think this?
  • What do you think this story tells us about how to make friends?

Make a difference

Create a Giving Plate with your family, and make a surprise delivery to a friend or neighbor in need of cheering up. Find a list of supplies, instructions and creative tips at Doing Good Together.

Do more