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Nuts, Bolts and Joys of Book Club

May 9, 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

Rainbow
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 comments!)

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

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