Our Own Little Versions of the Nerdy Book Club
Nerdy Book Clubber is one more name I can give myself. I pride myself on being in book clubs. It’s where I can hang out with other people who love to read and talk about books and don’t look at me like I’m some weird abnormality. My current book club, which has been meeting for the last 7 years, is a mixture of women in all-different stages of life from new motherhood, to almost empty nesters, to grandparenthood. Through our monthly meetings, we’ve done much more than discover new books. We’ve watched our families grow. Infants who once lay in their mother’s arms during our discussions are now building forts and riding their bicycles. Boys and girls whose acceptance into colleges we celebrated are now working full time in jobs or grad school. Our book club has become much more than a place and time to discuss books, it’s become the foundation to deep, binding friendships. I’m so grateful for my book club group and am so glad that my mother introduced me to the life of book clubs at an early age.
It started before I even went to school with story time at the library. Every week, my mom would take my sister and me to our small town library where we’d listen to the children’s librarian read stories with her felt board right beside her, sing songs, and dance. Then I’d get free reign with the library stacks. I’d slowly peruse the shelves looking for the perfect book for that week. I also belonged to the Book of the Month Club. I couldn’t wait for that ubiquitous brown box to appear in the mail with 2 new Dr. Seuss books just for me. My book treasures perched haphazardly on the white lacquered bookshelf my grandfather built for me.
Book clubs, both formal and informal, continued to be a part of my life as I grew older. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I began a regular diet of Harlequin Romances in my teenage years, which gave me lots to talk about with my girlfriends. When our children were babies and we lived far apart, my dearest high school friend and I would buy 2 copies of books…one for our self and one for the other. We’d read the books and then discuss them long-distance over the phone or through letters. Bringing my children into the book club world seemed to be the next natural step.
When my oldest daughter was in seventh grade, a group of us began a mother-daughter book club. We’d meet once a month to discuss a book and eat some good food (food is an important part of a book club). After awhile, we began to notice a strange pattern; the books we chose usually dealt with missing, dysfunctional or deceased mothers. It was difficult to even find titles with happy well-adjusted mothers. We met for 5 years until the girls graduated from high school. When my younger daughter was in third grade, she couldn’t wait to have her own mother-daughter book club too. Another book club was formed in our home, one that happily lasted for 4 years. We formed strong friendships in these groups that still exist today.
I did not hesitate to say, YES!” when a parent at school asked me if I would be interested in helping her start a parent-child book club last year. She wanted a place for parents and kids to read books together just for fun…no comprehension questions to answer, no timers to set, no belabored reading aloud of books that were of no interest to the child. The rules were simple: anyone in 3rd or 4th grade could be in book club with their parent or another adult, read the book in any way that makes sense for your family (read together, parent reads entire book to the child, or parent and child read the book separately), and come to book club ready to discuss the book. Our monthly meetings were filled with lively discussion from both the adults and children. Kids began to engage me in conversation about our latest book club selection in the hallways and in the cafeteria. We soon began recommending books to each other when we’d pass going from one place to another in school. Our book club was such a success that the 4th graders wanted to continue into 5th grade. So, this year, our parent child book club is for students in grades 3, 4, and 5.
Parents have told me over and over how much they and their children appreciate and look forward to book club. Removing the pressure of “school reading” has brought the joy of reading back into their homes. Our first meeting this year began with squeals of happiness of reunited friends from last year’s club, hugs, and smiles. The “veterans” were anxious to show the others the ins and outs of book club. Parents eagerly took over running the meetings, letting me step aside and watch in amazement as conversations blossomed and took turns that I would not have anticipated. Kids and parents are making connections and new friendships are being formed. It is here that we all share something in common that spans grade levels, gender and generations. We are all readers who are proud and excited to be part of the Avery Elementary Parent Child Book Club. It’s our own little version of the Nerdy Book Club.
Julie Johnson is a third grade teacher at Avery Elementary in Hilliard, OH. You can find her blogging at www.raisingreadersandwriters.com and tweeting at @jreaderwriter.