Practical Tips & Tools

3 Things to Consider Before Starting an Adult Learner Book Club

July 11, 2022

This article by New Readers Press sales representative Rebecca Eller-Molitas was originally published at

Book clubs can be a wonderful addition to your adult ed toolkit. They place an emphasis on reading, comprehension skills, and deeper content discussion, and they’re driven by participants rather than by teachers and textbooks.  

Learners feel empowered, and it helps them form lasting connections while creating a safe space to discuss issues they care about.  For non-native speakers, this can be especially powerful because it fosters a sense of belonging in an English-speaking adult community. 

Here are 3 things to consider before starting a book club for adult learners: 

Find Your Why: 

Educators start book clubs for lots of reasons.   

Your goals will have a tremendous impact on the planning process. Perhaps your primary goal is to build academic skills. Maybe you want to start a book club to combat the summer slide (or even the COVID-19 slide). Often organizations are motivated to start book clubs because they want to promote relationships and belonging within a community. Sometimes we start book clubs because we love reading and want to help others love it too. 

Whatever your goal—be sure you’re clear on it before going further. 

Find Your Who:  

To start a successful book club, we must know who our readers will be!   

Otherwise, good marketing is virtually impossible. Identify and commit. Will your group be open to students of all levels or is it targeted to a particular group? If your program operates within a community or technical college, will students need to be enrolled in another program or will your club stand alone? In family literacy, you may need to research childcare options for siblings outside your target age range—and don’t forget to do a careful exploration of any insurance requirements related to childcare. 

Find Your What: 

One of the most fun considerations is what you’ll read.   

Will your group be into articles, short stories, novels, nonfiction, graphic novels? The possibilities are endless. Remember that high-interest selections are extremely important if you’re serving a population who struggles with literacy. Do you plan to choose books or will you allow readers to choose materials? 

Don’t Forget About Accessibility! 

Do you need print, eBooks, large print, audiobooks, or some combination of these? We don’t always know who will choose to attend. I’ve frequently needed large print and audiobooks for visually impaired learners. The National Library Service for the Blind through the Library of Congress is a wonderful resource. 


Gemma Open Door for Literacy readers are original low-level novels for adults that would be great for an adult learner book club. You can get them from ProLiteracy’s publishing division New Readers Press