by Katie Wilson
There. I’ve admitted it. Despite my reluctance to be defined by one area of interest in my life, I am finally admitting that I am a “book club person.” Or “book clubber.” (No, sounds like someone who sneaks up behind baby seals with a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary as a weapon…) Or is it “book clubbie?” (Uh-uh…sounds too similar to “chubby” for my liking…) How about just a “person who enjoys reading the same book as other people with the intention of getting together at some point for a good time and some undefined amount of discussion of the book we all read.” A little unwieldy for quick conversations, perhaps, but allow me my delusion of being mysterious and difficult to dismiss with a pat phrase.
At the present time, I am actively involved in four different book groups. I am actually a bit surprised when I think about it. I’ve always enjoyed reading and talking about books, but four groups? That seems a bit excessive, even to me. However, each group is very different from the others, with its own purpose and personality, and I don’t often think about them as a unit. They are distinct and bring unique benefits into my life. I attend our Relief Society book group (formerly called the Relief Society “Enrichment” Book Group…oh well, we still find it “enriching”), my husband and I get together with a few other couples regularly for a “Book Chat,” and my kids and I are involved in two separate discussion groups.
Two of these groups are quite structured and formal, setting the reading list months in advance with assignments taken quite seriously (leading the discussion, providing the food, etc.). The other two are rather “loose,” shall we say? We get together when everyone’s schedules work out and pick the books rather haphazardly, and usually after a lively discussion (Typical dialogue at our couple’s book chat: “OK, we’ve done “Frankenstein,” “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Band of Brothers”… how about a “girl book” for a change?” “I will never read Jane Austen! Never! You can’t make me!”). The groups range from large and diverse (one kid’s group has two simultaneous discussions on different books to accommodate 15-20 kids, age 5-16, from seven different families) to small and intimate (our other “kids” group is just our family and one other family). The discussions range from very structured (in one group I teach a literary term or concept before our discussion and then we see how that book illustrates the concept) to informal (“What was your favorite part?” “Your favorite character?”). Two groups meet on a schedule (one monthly, one bi-monthly) and the other two groups meet when the stars align and schedules are tweaked to create space where none existed. But we tweak. We clear schedules. We make the effort because we truly enjoy each other’s company. And we love books. What better reasons can someone have for getting together?
So, if you are looking for a way to motivate your children (or yourself) to read more or to enjoy reading more, you might think about a book club. Dismiss from your mind tedious English 101 classes looking for the symbolic meaning of “the white whale.” Forget about grabbing the Cliff’s Notes of “The Grapes of Wrath” the day before an essay test. Leave forever behind posters and dioramas depicting “The Red Badge of Courage.” Think instead about immersing your kids (and yourself) in fabulous literature with no other purpose than to enjoy it. And to talk about it--not to examine it to death, but to share your excitement with others so that you can enjoy it even more. I think you might like it. I’ll admit it… I do.
A few books from my “R.S. Book Group”
West with the Night by Beryl Markham
In an Instant by Lee and Bob Woodruff
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
As I Have Loved You by Kitty de Ruyter Bon
Little Pink House by Jeff Benedict
The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason
A few books from my “Couple’s Book Chat”
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
The Virginian by Owen Wister
A few books from my “Kids Co-op Book Discussion”
Journey to the Center of the Earth by H.G. Wells
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
The Freedom Factor by Gerald Lund
George Washington’s Leadership Lessons by James Rees and Stephen Spignesi
The Robe by Lloyd Cassel Douglas
A few books from my “Just Two Families” book group
The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillippa Pearce
The Magic City by Edith Nesbit
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
I Am David by Anne Holm
Katie Wilson is the mother of four children and has been homeschooling for ten years. For a free audio download of Katie's talk "The Power of Family Reading" plus a copy of her extensive "Favorite Read-Aloud Books" list, please visit http://ldsehe.org/5-free-downloads. Katie will also be speaking at the 2010 LDSEHE Home Education Conference in Buena Vista, Virginia on May 27-28. For more details, please visit http://ldsehe.org/2010-overview.