Taken from ALIA Children's and Youth Services, Libraries for Lifelong Learning, (Qld)
Over 20 teacher librarians and librarians exchanged ideas about running Book Clubs for various clientele from children through to young people and adults. Attendees shared their experiences of Book Clubs for staff and students in schools, children and teenagers and adults at public libraries, and adults at bookshops and in individual groups. Concerns were expressed about:
-The amount of time it took to organise such a club
-Who should choose the titles to read
-The size of the group
-How many times and when to meet
-Numbers of the same title for the library to carry
-High demand on new titles
-Whether students particularly became bogged down in reading particular genres
-How to move them on from this
-Whether students should be encouraged to read more literary titles and
-discuss these in a scholarly fashion.
Good ideas that came out of the discussion included:
Types of clubs
Mother and daughter clubs and father and son clubs -e.g Boys, Blokes and Books
Online book clubs - works well for groups in close proximity as well as those separated by distance
-Attend literature festivals such as Somerset College Celebration of Literature and Voices on the Coast
-Food and drink - e.g.wine and cheese for adults, soft drink and popcorn for children
-Making up Club name e.g. FBI Fabulous Book Investigators gives participants sense of ownership
-Linking books and movies
-Choosing a book for another member widens experience of genres and interests Bookcrossing.com
-One person to nominate the book and lead the discussion each meeting widends experience of genres and interests
-Themes for the term or month or meeting
Links to websites with reading lists e.g. teenreads.com and information about how to organise a club
Cross -sector ideas
Have a definite structure for the meetings
Limit numbers otherwise too unwieldy
Organise material in the library in sections (e.g. fantasy, biography) as in a bookshop Public libraries run evenings once a year:
-Booksellers and club members come with titles to a wine and cheese evening.
-Club members choose titles for year.
-Libraries and club share cost of providing multiple copies of same title.
-These are restricted borrowing for club members only
-Stickers on library card and other privileges
-Book kits with material such as free bookmarks, copies of reviews, lists of websites
E-mail lists for contacts and publicity
Advertise in newsletters
The general consensus of the group was that a book club should be run for the enjoyment of the participants. Attempts to make the proceedings too formal or 'like school' were doomed to failure. The social aspect of the gatherings was seen to be as important as the discussion of the books.
Lynne Moller, from Coaldrakes, spoke to the group about some great titles that have been popular with the bookshop club members.
Consolation by Helen Garner
Saturday by Ian McEwan
The kite runner by Khaled Hosseini
The boy in the striped pyjamas by John Boyne
The curious incident of the dog in the night time by Mark Haddon
Kokoda by Peter Fitzsimons
How to read a book for discussion:
The best books are those that insinuate themselves into your experience: they reveal an important truth or provide a profound sense of kinship between reader and writer. Searching for, identifying, and discussing these truths deepen the reader's appreciation of the book.
Reading for a book discussion - whether you are the leader or simply a participant - differs from reading purely for pleasure. Asking questions, reading carefully, imagining yourself in the story, analyzing style and structure, and searching for personal meaning in a work of literature all enhance the work's value and the discussion potential for your group.
Make notes and mark pages as you go.
Ask questions of yourself and mark down pages you might want to refer back to. Making notes as you go slows down your reading but saves you the time of searching out important passages later.
Ask tough questions of yourself and the book.
Asking questions of yourself as you read means you don't know the answer yet, and sometimes you never will discover the answers. Don't be afraid to ask hard questions because often the author is presenting difficult issues for that very purpose. Look for questions that may lead to in-depth conversations with your group and make the book more meaningful.
Analyse the themes of the book.
Try to analyse the important themes of a book and to consider what premise the author started with. Imagine an author mulling over the beginnings of the story, asking himself, 'what if ...? ' questions.
Get to know the characters.
When you meet the characters in the book, place yourself at the scene. Think of them as you do the people around you. Think about their faults and their motives. What would it be like to interact with them? Are the tone and style of their dialogue authentic? Read portions aloud to get to know the voices of the characters.
Notice the structure of the book.
Sometimes an author uses the structure of the book to illustrate an important concept or to create a mood. Notice how the author structured the book. Are chapters prefaced by quotes? If so, how do they apply to the content of the chapters? How many narrators tell the story? Who are they? How does the sequence of events unfold to create the mood of the story? Is it written in flashbacks? Does the order the author chose make sense to you?
Make comparisons to other books and authors.
Compare the book to others by the same author, or to books by other authors that have a similar theme or style. Often, themes run through an author's works that are more fully realized by comparison. Comparing one author's work with another's can help you solidify your opinions, as well as define for you qualities you may otherwise miss.
Leading the discussion:
Research the author using resources such as current biography, contemporary authors, and something about the author. Find book reviews in Book review digest and Book review index. The Dictionary of Literary Biography gives biographical and critical material. These resources are probably available at your local library. The internet is another good source for reviews of the book, biographical information about the author, and questions for discussion
Come prepared with 10 to 15 open-ended questions.
Questions that can be answered yes or no tend to cut off discussion quickly.
Alternatively, ask each member of the group to come with one discussion question.
Readers will focus on different aspects of the book, and everyone will gain new insights as a result.
Questions should be used to guide the discussion and keep it on track, but be ready to let the discussion flow naturally. Often you'll find that the questions you have prepared will come up naturally as part of the discussion.
Remind participants that there are not necessarily any right answers to the questions posed.
Don't be afraid to criticize a book
but try to get beyond the 'I just didn't like it' statement. What was it about the book that made it unappealing? The style? The pacing? The characters? Has the author written other books that you liked better? Did it remind you of another book that you liked or disliked? Some of the best book discussions center on books that many group members disliked.
Try to keep a balance in the discussion between personal revelations and reactions and a response to the book itself.
Of course, every reader responds to a book in ways that are intimately tied to his or her background, upbringing, experiences, and view of the world. A book about a senseless murder will naturally strike a chord in a reader whose friend was killed. That's interesting, but what's more interesting is how the author chose to present the murder, or the author's attitude toward the murderer and victim. It's often too easy to let a group drown in reminiscences. If that's what the whole group wants to do, that's fine, but keep in mind that then it's not a book discussion.
For tips on starting a book club see reading group choices.
Sample questions for your discussion:
How does the title relate to the book?
How believable are the characters? Which character do you identify with? Is it possible to identify with any of these characters?
Is the protagonist sympathetic or unsympathetic? Why?
What themes - motherhood, self-discovery, wilderness, etc. - recur throughout the book? How does the author use these themes? Do they work?
Why do certain characters act the way they act? What motivates a character to do something that she would not normally do? Does she have an axe to grind, a political ideology, religious belief, psychological disorder? Is there anything that you would call 'out of character'? Does the character grow over the course of the story?
What types of symbolism are in this novel? What do these objects really represent? How do characters react to and with these symbolic objects?
Think about the broader social issues that this book is trying to address. For example, what does the author think about anarchy versus capitalism as a means of life? How is a particular culture or subculture portrayed? Favourably? Unfavourably?
Where could the story go from here? What is the future of these character's lives? What would our lives be like if we lived in this story? Could the civilization portrayed really exist? What if?
What does that character mean when he says _? How does the author use certain words and phrases differently than we would normally use them? Does the author make up new words? Why would he do that?
How does the arrangement of the book help or detract from the ideas in the novel? Does the arrangement contribute to themes or symbols? How is the book structured? Flashbacks? From one or multiple points of view? Why do you think the author chose to write the book this way?
Does this book fit into or fight against a literary genre? How does the author use [science fiction, humor, tragedy, romance] to effect in the novel? Does this book typify a regional (southern, western) novel? How?
How does this book relate to other books you have read? Would this book make a good movie? Is there a film adaptation of this book? How does the film compare to the book? What is brought out or played down in the film version?
Is the setting of the book important to the theme? Why? How realistic is the setting?
What did the author attempt to do in the book? Was it successful?
What is the author's worldview?
Were the plot and subplots believable? Were they interesting? What loose ends, if any, did the author leave?
What is the great strength - or most noticeable weakness - of the book?
Liz Blumson, secretary, ALIA CYS