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Starting & Continuing a Book Club

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.

A friend of mine is an avid reader as well, and we both longed for an adult book discussion. We decided that we would each invite a person or two, offering the option of them to extend the invite to another and see what developed. There turned out to be 6 of us who participated on and off for a year or more with our group usually being 3/4 each month. Given that all of us had young children, our schedules and home needs did not always align. We rotated choosing a book, sometimes in order, and sometimes based on one of us coming across one we really wanted to share and discuss.

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! 🙂

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  1. Which online book club does your son participate in? I’ve been thinking about something like this for my son.

    1. My son participates in one through Currclick.com called NHBA Club. That stands for National Homeschool Book Award Club. They meet one a month after reading half of the book(each book gets 2 months) to have a brief discussion, a little “lesson” with information about something from the book, and then some sort of hands on activity. This is NHBAs 2nd year of existence and all the books that are chosen for nomination have “homeschool” characters in them, either directly or implied.

      1. I ran across that a couple of days ago. From now through the summer, we will be too busy, but I will probably check that out for the fall. Thanks. It’s always nice to hear from someone who has participated, to see what it’s like.

  2. Great tips. I’ve been enjoying online book clubs for the last year or so and have run a few myself. I’m currently running one on Shepherding a Child’s Heart. This summer we’re doing Zan Tyler’s 7 Tools. Blog link ups, a closed Facebook group, and an email newsletter have all been factors in the success of the book club.

    1. Amanda I believe I may have seen your button somewhere for Zan Tyler’s 7 tools. Is that possible? Last year I participated in one that I really enjoyed but haven’t seen very many options for one that I would be interested in recently. I keep thinking maybe I should try starting an on-line book club. That would be new for me though and I worry about having the time to add it in!

  3. I’ve never been involved in a book club, but I’ve always been intrigued by the idea. When I find a great book, it just begs to be talked about! You’ve inspired me to look for a book club around here or maybe start my own.

    1. I encourage you to get out there and look! You could simply start with a book you read that, “begs to be talked about.” Send out e-mails to your local friends or groups with the title and description of the book and your desire to get together to discuss it and see if anyone bites. You could deem it a one time thing, and see how it goes!

  4. I actually started a girls book club for my daughter’s age group (11-14). It is a huge blessing to our family and the other families that participate! And yes, it is not just the book we focus on, rather fellowship and fun too! Last week we actually didn’t even talk about the book as my daughter left my military ID at home so I couldn’t get on post but she could….LOL. So she went to the meeting with the other families while I went home to get my ID. Regardless it was a fun time and not wasteful as the girls relationships just continue to grow 🙂 Thanks for the great article, I think this is something that is REALLY lacking in many homeschool communities.

  5. I organize a book study group through our church and this post hits so many issues I’ve faced! It is hard with fluctuating numbers and interests but so worth it when the members who are present can really bond. The idea of a homeschool girls book club is something I’ve tossed around and your bullet points are good ones to consider. Thanks!

    {Also, I noticed you’re from upstate NY. I’m in St. Lawrence county. You aren’t THIS upstate, right??}

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