Book Club Themes for 2015

HEL_BookClubBook clubs are unquestionably great ideas. You can get together with others who share at least one interest with you, read and talk about books, set reading challenges, organize parties and broaden your cultural horizons. On this blog we have talked about how you can set up a book club, how you can deal with tricky book club situations, and we have a series of book club games.

It seems that the act of reading is getting more and more attention in social media communities and websites. Reading may be a solitary activity, but we all love talking about what we are reading or have just read. Telling stories is a cultural privilege that has evolved over thousands of years, and our need for narrative is as strong now as in the past. Just look at the number of film adaptations based on classics, young adult novels and contemporary novels. At the Golden Globe Awards this year four films based on true stories earned best picture nominations. We like telling, retelling and being retold stories in various forms.

There is a growing number of online reading clubs. A couple of weeks ago, Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, started a Facebook reading community called ‘A Year of Books’ as part of his New Year’s Resolution to read a book every two weeks. The idea is encouraging for all of us, but online reading groups have existed for a long time, think, for example, of the Guardian, the New York Times or Mashable, all of which have been running online reading groups packed with book lists and discussion forums for years. It is a great idea for English teachers to join one of these reading groups both for interest and to get ideas on running your own book club. Plus they can help non-native speakers maintain their advanced level of language.

Book Club Themes

What about good old, traditional book clubs? No need to worry, there are several examples of real-life, independent book clubs. Let us share our two favourite examples with you.

1 The Slow Reading Club is based in Wellington, New Zealand. The members of this club meet once a week in a café, switch their mobile phones off, and read in silence for an hour. I have read about the same idea realized in a school setting: teachers get together in the library or an empty classroom after teaching hours, and sit and read together, sharing a quiet half an hour once a week. A welcome oasis of calm and regeneration in a usually hectic schedule.

2 A local teachers’ English language book club. A friend told me about their book club: about 5-6 teachers and some friends from a secondary school get together and read graded readers together. They have a language teacher who coordinates their reading list and meetings, but they hold the discussions together. They do some simple tasks, get together in a café or in one of the club member’s kitchen or living room, drink tea and chat about the books. They share a common objective: improving their language skills in a relaxed environment, without joining a language course.

Why should you consider running a book club when it is so easy to set up an online reading community?

  • You meet real people, and have real talk.
  • It encourages a culture of sharing (sometimes differing) opinions.
  • It offers space and time for real-life discussions.
  • There is no issue with monitoring members comments.
  • You improve  your speaking and listening skills.

Of course having a real book club does not mean that you cannot create an online group to support your club. Here are some tips:

  • Make it a closed group  so that only members of the club can join, post and comment.
  • Create a book club calendar online, make it accessible for all the members.
  • Keep an online club diary and share it with others.

Setting up a book club

Setting up a book club is very easy, especially if you work in a school or a library. Set yourself a setup period and a deadline to be up and running, for example International Book Giving Day on February 14th.

1 Decide if you want to run a Book Club with your students or your colleagues.

2 Create a profile for your Book Club. Is it going to be for language learners? How often are you going to meet? There are several things to consider. Visit our post, Setting up a Book Club and just follow the steps.

3 Where are you going to meet? For student-driven book clubs it is best to meet in a classroom, a school library or a school lounge. For a teachers’ book club, you can go to the local library, the school library, a café, the school staff room, an empty classroom, a bookshop.

4 Get your first set of books. You can create a reading list once you are sure of the number of members and the profile of the book club. Get together, set objectives, define your own rules, and make your first order. It is always a good idea to read the same edition of a book in a club as it is easier to refer to the pages during discussions.

5 Get your Book Club Starter Kit, create an online community page for your book club, and place your meeting calendar in a visible spot in the school, the classroom or the staff room.

Reading challenges and other inspirational activities

Although challenges and objectives can make you or your book club members feel under pressure, we definitely recommend setting goals. It is important to set realistic deadlines and never mention any kind of punishment if the members do not read everything for the meetings. Here are some reading challenges you can try.

1 Read all the books from a Top 10/20/50 book list. Here are some great book lists.

2 Read all the books written by a classic author.

3 Read five (or any number) of books about a popular theme (e.g. dystopia, love, adventure, friendship).

Twelve Years a Slave COVER4 Read all the books which were adapted into Oscar-winning films. Create a list for your students and for yourself. Here are some lists.

5 If you are reading with language learners, read a selection of different books: a short story, a novel, an original story, a graphic story, a poem, a theatre play. Ask book club members to write down their own reading goals, they can call them ‘Reading Resolutions’, ‘Reading Challenges’ or ‘Reading Goals’.

Do share your Book Club stories, experiences and ideas with us!

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