The Power of a Book Club

I recently finished the end of a seven-year era…. leading a book club for my daughters and their friends. I began this journey when my oldest daughter was in the 4th grade and have done so for my youngest daughter for the last 4 years. Leading and guiding all these different girls has come with many different feelings (sometimes several within a 25-minute period) …happiness, fun times, frustration, wonder, amazement, incredible gratitude and SO many more. I am very thankful that my schedule has allowed me to spend this time each week over these last 7 years with these classmates of my daughters’. There have been some years where my daughter and I were the only ones who did the assigned reading for the week, therefore, we were the only ones that were able to participate in the discussion. Then, there has been this year where every single girl has done her reading every week and some incredible discussions have taken place.

So, what makes a book club so wonderful? My most recent book club girls would say one reason is that it got them out of the cafeteria where they had to follow so many rules during their lunch time. I have many answers:

  1. It helps people be accountable to reading and finishing a book they might not normally read if they weren’t in the book club.
  2. You tend to read with more intent when you know you have to answer questions about it and pay attention to what the story is and not just what the words on the page are.
  3. It teaches the girls how to choose a book to read. This may sound crazy and I would have thought so, until I have watched girls over the years choosing the books we would read. Many are so overwhelmed by the choices in the big book closet our school provides, that they just choose the book their eyes first land on; while others that are familiar with going to book stores and perusing spend time looking and reading book jackets. Therefore, we have read some incredibly horrible books and some books that have gone toward shaping what these girls think.
  4. We began last year having the rule that if you pick the book, then you lead the discussion. Every participant has the opportunity to do this at least once. It has been so neat to see the girls that really go to great lengths to come up with really good questions for their group, the responsibility it has fostered, and the joy on their face when they realize they have done their job well.
  5. It allows the girls to have better reading comprehension and be able to express in words what they read and what they think about what they read.  This is such an important skill!

The Best Reason

Diverse-teen-girlsWhile the reasons listed above are strong enough to make my case, the biggest reason for me happened this year. My youngest daughter has friends that all look different from her and from each other. We were reading The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, which is a historical fiction book that takes place in the year after Central High School was integrated. When we got to the part of the book where we were discussing that the colored kids were not allowed to go to school with the white kids (even if they could pass as white), it brought a moment I will never forget. A sweet girl that is African-American and one of my daughter’s good friends said, “If I lived then, I wouldn’t be here in school with you and we wouldn’t be friends.” Another girl in the group (my daughter’s best friend) realized this would have applied to her as well. My daughter and another girl were appalled that their ancestors lived in a world where this was acceptable.

The stark reality of the world that was ours not that long ago was a strong force in that room on that day. All these girls had read this but not until we were discussing it did the reality of these words become more than just words on a page. It led to some great discussion about how what we look like should not determine what we are capable of or where we should be allowed to place ourselves.

I am SO very thankful for all these lessons learned by me and the opportunity to be part of these girls lives over the last 7 years. While I plan on taking a year or so off from leading an elementary book club, I’m sure my love of books and all these incredible reasons I have shared will lead me to a new group of girls.

Just imagine if every community and school had several book clubs like this and how it might help solve several problems we have in our world?