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Nuts, Bolts and Joys of Book Club

May 8, 2007

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.
Henry David Thoreau


THERE is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,

Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take        
Without oppress of toll;

How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul
— Emily Dickinson

After the rain,
It peeks out of the sky
with all its colors following
By Scarlet

Chers Amis,

How did the year go so fast? Last Friday was our final Book Club meeting for 2006/2007. This month the girls worked on a short unit on poetry, focusing on figurative language.  Each of them also wrote and illustrated at least two original poems and brought extra copies so they could make a compilation of all the club members’ entries.  This was the third year that Caddie and Scarlett have participated in this
wonderful  monthly girls book club. It has become the velvet base
rhythm of our curriculum and  one of their favorite things about
homeschooling. Mine too.  I’ve mentioned some of their activities and adventures
from month’s past in prior posts, but I’ve never delved into the nuts
and bolts of how the club operates. I thought I might share a bit about
what we’ve learned works – and doesn’t work.  This might be useful if
anyone is interested in starting their own group.  (Leslie, Priya,
Mary, Maria, Kristin et al – please feel free to chime in a la

Keep the group small, committed and active – We have eight girls in book club this year from five different families.   Too many more, and it is very difficult to manage – or find space for all the girls, moms and siblings! Make sure that everyone – mothers and daughters – are truly committed to actively participating each month.

Hold a planning get together. We look forward to the great mind meld in May at which we
select our eight books for the coming year and lay out all the logistics. We like having everything arranged  so we can factor our list into our book buying and start marking our calenders.  DON’T forget a calendar!!

Make a tentative schedule for the meetings.  We always meet on the first Friday of the month at 1:30.  Of course we are flexible, life happens, babies are born, Good Friday pops into the picture etc., but it is best to hammer out all the little logistical details first as best as possible for planning purposes.  We usually meet 8 times:  September, October, November, December, NO JANUARY, February, March, April and May.

Select books for the coming year.    Each mom brings a list of suggested titles that they present.  It is helpful if they can give a short synopsis/overview of the plot and/or why they think a given tome would work for the group. Even better, have them bring a copy of the book so others can flip through it while you talk.When everyone has offered their list, we determine if there were any books on multiple lists, if a possible book has been read by too many families, or if the book might not be better read at a later time depending on the make up of the group.

Have a clear idea of the goal for the year.  Do you want to
introduce literary elements such as plot, characters, conflict, setting
or concentrate on the stories themselves. Do you want to focus any
specific types of literature or find selections from a number of
genres?  Are there any restrictions on which books you choose based on
the make up of the group such as age or religion? We try to choose books from several different literary genres.  Here are some to consider: 

    Fiction: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction and Mystery

    NON-FICTION:  Historical, Biography, Science

    POETRY:  Author study, Specific type, Elements of poetry (figurative language)

    DRAMA:  A classic work

    PERIODS :  Ancient, Greek/Roman, Medieval, WW I/II, American, Contemporary

    UNIT STUDY:  Author study, Tall Tales, Fairy/Folk/Myths
Assign responsibilities for the whole year’s meetings if possible.  Each mom volunteers to host and  lead the meeting for at least one month for a book of their choice from the list depending on her interests and expertise.  This is a great time to learn more and be creative!  We can always change location/leader, but knowing in advance which books you will be leading is extremely helpful.  Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.   Simple but true.

Assign snacks/drinks responsibilities for the year –  This cuts down on confusion for the moms.  I am the drink lady.  Every month we have:  cheese and crackers, drinks, and fruit and dip. We  can be creative and bring a themed  drink or an extra  snack (like
chocolate crispy owl pellets)  but  having a specific thing to bring avoids that last minute confusion.

That is the planning stage, but how does the club work and what are some books that we have enjoyed? That will come in Part II – Nitty, Gritty Book Club. For now it’s time to make dinner -Thai green basil curry with shrimp.  Got to run!

— Marjorie

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2007 6:17 pm

    Thanks for posting. Since Matilda asked about it I’ve thinking about starting one also and this is a great overview of the planning.

  2. May 7, 2007 10:12 pm

    Thank you for this in-depth look into what appears to be a well-oiled machine!

  3. May 8, 2007 7:36 am

    Your book club sounds great… but do your kids really eat Thai green basil curry with shrimp???

  4. May 8, 2007 9:09 am

    Angel, yes and no. Caddie (as you might expect) is an omnivore and likes spice. She eats almost anything. I saute shrimp separately for Scarlett and Pippin with just olive oil, S&P and garlic to serve with white rice.

  5. May 9, 2007 6:57 am

    I’m printing this out for future reference. Thanks!

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