March 13

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5 Reasons I Love My Middle Grade Book Club by Sandy Deyoe

  1. They help me find great stuff. You wouldn’t think I’d need to find more — I work in a public library — but there is SO much out there, and our lives are busy with other distractions like working, doing laundry, taking care of family members, watching Netflix.  I never know what we’re going to choose for next month’s read, but I trust the others in the group to suggest books that will make us laugh or cry or challenge us.  And there are so many great authors to discover, new things to learn, and even cover art to talk about…it’s a nerdy dream!
  2. My reading life is more varied. I’m always finding out about new (and old) books through group members.  Last year we decided to read old favorites over the summer—most of which I’d somehow never read–and we’ve tried novels in verse and other genres that I might not pile onto my own stack without some encouragement.   I even started listening to books on CD after one of my book club buddies talked about the great narrator on one of our picks.
  3. It keeps me thinking about how important diversity and other issues are, both for kids to experience in their reading lives and for adults to remember in their classroom, library and home bookshelf selections. Through books, we’ve discussed poverty, hunger, race, bullying, special needs, and more.  Reading together can be a bridge to talking about so much that can make our schools and our community more welcoming places for everyone, or even just one kid.   It’s wonderful to be able tell others about a great new book I’ve found, but getting someone else’s perspective can challenge my thinking about it, which is also great.
  4. It isn’t an organizational nightmare or “one more thing” I have to fit in. Our group meets once a month, usually on the first Wednesday.  Have we changed that up in the summer when the teachers are off?  Of course.  Do people come and go when their lives are just too complicated?    But we have enough people who come regularly and share the hosting (or find a coffee shop we can meet in) and more than enough ideas for what to read.  There’s no pressure unless you make it that way.
  5. It’s cheap entertainment.  Since I work in a library, I always check to see whether our library or nearby systems have books or books on CD that can be checked out for free, or ebooks or audiobooks that can be downloaded.  (Our library system has book club kits for kids with multiple copies, too. Woo hoo!) We also share copies if someone already owns it.  We do go out to dinner together once in a while, but even then, people sometimes have other plans afterwards and just get a soda.  For a hobby– and I say this as someone living with a fly fisherman– it’s pretty cheap entertainment and very rewarding.

In fact, being with my middle grade book club is a lot like being with you Nerdy Book Clubbers, only it’s in person, and sometimes there’s a glass of wine or some seven-layer dip to be had.  Life is so busy so often that it’s a gift to be able to take the time to read the book and spend a few hours together talking about it and the rest of our lives.

How did we get started?  It wasn’t that hard.  A teacher friend asked if I thought we could find a few people to share book ideas, and without any real work, we thought of five or six others who might enjoy getting together to talk about books.  We sent out an email and, somewhat miraculously, found a date we were all free.  Was I surprised to learn that other adults were looking for an excuse to discuss Raymie Nightingale and baton twirling, or Counting by 7s and obsessive gardening?  Well, not once I thought about it for more than a few seconds!

Ours is a mix of current and retired educators and people like me now.  For some, it’s a way to discover books that might work as read-alouds in class.  Others like finding new things to share with their grandkids.  I love it for all the reasons above, as well as for the new friends I’ve met and many recipes I’ve acquired.  Whatever our individual reasons, our shared love of reading has given us a way to make connections – maybe to a person, maybe to an idea or cause, maybe something to share with the kids at school, but ALL good.

Sandy Deyoe is a library worker, community volunteer, gardener, and nerdy reader. She lives in Iowa and blogs about books, libraries, and volunteering at liowabrary.wordpress.com.