Throughout recent years I have had the pleasure of participating in multiple book clubs. Varying greatly from each other in size, style, organization and location. Book clubs can offer so many enriching benefits, not only from the literature discussion, but through the bonds built among participating members. On the flip side of that coin, they can also be difficult to maintain given the many unique personalities and schedules to account for. The possibilities at times can seem endless, or non-exsistent, but I assure you where there is a will, there is a way, and the benefits are reward enough for your time and effort.
Getting starting can often feel overwhelming. You need to put yourself out there, whether via e-mail to local groups you participate in, via the Internet to those you come in contact with in the blog-o-sphere, or by hitting up a few close friends. In each of these instances I have witnessed wonderfully successful book clubs begin, and I will tell you a bit about each scenario as it has played out in my life.
My daughter and I have participated in a Mother/Daughter book club for over 4 years now. The woman who began it simply sent an e-mail out to the local homeschool group looking for girls close to her daughter’s age that wanted to join a book club. It started with a number near 10 or more, and has developed into an intimate group of 6 girls and 4 mothers.
What began as a rigid plan of the first Sunday in each month at a set time, has blossomed into a group of friends who can pull out their calendars and pick the best date for all of them. With the age being about 8 years old when we began, some were independent readers, and others were being read to. Each mother/daughter team takes a turn hosting in their home where they have chosen the book, they lead the discussion as well as provide the activity/craft and snacks. Often the activity/craft and snacks are related to the book in some way, like for One Hundred Dresses, we made paper dolls (although not 100 of them) where the girls could design their own dresses.
The second adult book club I participated in was run similarly, but started as en e-mail (sent out to her homeschool group) from a woman who read a book she was totally passionate about and wanted to share with others. It was meant as a one time deal but turned into a group of 5-7 of us gathering at yet a different coffee shop to discuss our books. This offered a great commonality in that we all were homeschooling mothers. Not only did we spend time with the book, but much time was spent “catching up,” discussing our current parental concerns, and just offering support to each other.
The struggle I have found with the adult book clubs is two-fold. First, scheduling is so hard as we all had children to account for and all their varying ages/activities to take care of before we could free ourselves to gather. The second is that often there were participants who would not step outside of their comfort zone and would just flat out choose not to read a book (and in my experience it would typically be one person who created a pattern of doing this). This creates hard feelings and frustration in others who have not only chosen that book, but for those who consistently read the books, even if they are outside their usual realm. I owe my first adult book club thanks for a book I talk about often, We Need to Talk About Kevin. I read this book “kicking and screaming” so to speak as it was a wordy book from the beginning, and then the subject matter was tough as well. I read it anyways and am so glad I did because even though it became a book that still sits in an unsettled place for me, it poses so much food for thought and discussion.
The final instance I would like to touch upon is online book clubs. I have participated in one myself and my son is currently participating in one. Through an online group I participated in a study where a member there facilitated by setting up a break down of chapters to read each week, posing questions for each section, and then providing a link up each week where you linked your blog post about that section. You could then read what others had to say and share via comments made on any given blog.
My son’s online club uses hosting software so that at a set time every month the participants can log in to the classroom to hear and see the facilitator. The facilitator has provided a list ahead of time of supplies needed for any activities they will do. Through a question list, and external videos added in, a discussion of the book is done, as well as a given experiment/activity/craft relating to something in the book. The participants can type questions/comments in the chat box for all participating to see and answer to.
If you are looking to start a book club, here are a few bullet points to keep in mind:
1. Come up with a clear plan of what you are looking for in a book club, from the dynamic of people, to the time/setting, as well as the type of books you are looking to include/or not.
2. Put yourself out there. Either via the Internet, your church, friends, bulletin board (say in your local library, book store, other shops) or other groups you come in contact with.
3. Be willing to stick with it an encourage other to as well. Either by really considering and trying to include others’ needs/suggestions, or talking about the merit in reading something they may not be as comfortable with, etc. Commitment on all parties is a large part of having a successful book club. People need to both read the book, and show up to the gathering.
4. Remember that your gatherings are not only for the book, but to develop relationships with the people you are gathering with. There can be a time for book discussion, as well as friendly chatter between you. Oh, and having food doesn’t hurt to break the ice either! 🙂