By November 10, 2009 3 Comments Read More →

Adventures in Reading

I facilitate three book groups, but I’m also a facilitator for hire, except I don’t charge for it. Occasionally I’m participating in as many as six or seven book groups in a month.

The groups are all different, but they share some similarities. They are all made up of women, they want to read a mix of contemporary fiction and nonfiction, and many of them have been friends for a long time.PD*20389592

Whenever I receive an invitation to visit an area book group, I ask a few questions about the participants. This helps me structure the discussion topics and supplementary material I want to share with the readers. The hostess always begins by telling me how proud she is of her group and their strong ties to each other, the interesting titles they share with each other, the number of years the readers have been gathering faithfully.

And then she lowers her voice conspiratorially to let me know that lately, the group doesn’t seem to be talking about the books much and some of the members are a little troubled by that fact. Some readers are not finishing the book, some readers aren’t even bothering to obtain a copy, and one or two readers have a tendency to steer conversation away from the book, although the hostess is certain they don’t mean to do so.

With these small warnings in my ears, I attend the meeting and find that most of the readers have finished the book, the one woman who hasn’t is almost finished. After introductions, I lay down the minor ground rules. With apologies to the reader who didn’t finish, I announce that anyone who wants to talk about the ending may do so. As we start the discussion, I find that I usually don’t have to do much steering to keep the conversation focused on the reading. After the meeting I’m told this is one of the best discussions the group has ever had.

This is the typical pattern of the book groups at which I’m a visiting guest. When I ponder what the hostess has told me about her group and what I observed, it’s easy to credit the readers with “company behavior.” Of course, they all want to put on a good face for a guest. These are intelligent, considerate, educated, civic-minded women. But they also need a break from their busy lives and that’s why they keep this monthly meeting in their calendars.

It’s the addition of a new person that refreshes the group and keeps them focused on the book. I always advocate for guest facilitators for book groups. The regular leaders deserve a break, and the guest leader will inject some fresh chatter into the conversation.

For those book groups that like each other too much to disband, and feel themselves sliding off the track just  a wee bit, invite a visitor to the group to lead the discussion. Consider asking at the local library or a local college for a guest facilitator. Don’t leave out members of neighboring book groups, either. Just bring in a new voice to lead discussion and the group will find its footing again.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

3 Comments on "Adventures in Reading"

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  1. tpilate@placerlibrary.org' Terri says:

    Kaite,

    Do you read all the books for every book club you facilitate? I know you probably do and I admire that. I facilitate one book group and used to attend another one as a participant. I am a slow reader and always have half a dozen books waiting to read that I’ve checked out from the library (they ususally all have holds so I need to read them within the 3 week loan period)…don’t get me started on the books I buy or received as gifts. In other words, I am perpetually behind on my reading. That’s why I had to ask…how do you keep up?!

  2. kaitestover@kclibrary.org' Kaite Stover says:

    Heh. Smoke and mirrors.

  3. kaitestover@kclibrary.org' Kaite Stover says:

    But, seriously, I have shelves of stuff to read just like everyone else. I make a priority list every week of reading that must be done. This helps keep me on track with book groups. I reserve Sundays for reading whatever I want. The NYTimes, paperback escapist stuff, whatever’s on the Kindle, thrillers. No required reading on Sundays.

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