Sustaining a Book Club

In spring 2012, I started teen programming at my library. I had worked there for about 7-8 months when the teens decided (after a couple of meetings) they wanted a book club.

My first book club took place during my first summer reading program in June 2012. We were reading The Hunger Games and I had about seven teens show up. Since that first book club to the last one in May 2016, I’ve had a consistent group of 5-11 teens show up for book club. Even I am shocked at how I was able to keep it going.

So what was my secret? I am not sure. I know I tried to keep the books topical and the first group of books I picked were the first crop of young adult books that were turned into movies. The Hunger Games, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Scott Pilgrim, and Divergent. Initially, we would talk the book one week, watch the movie the next. I found this very useful for discussions.

After that initial run, I had teens pick their favorite books based on the cover, then based on my one sentence summaries, another round (or two) of “movies based on books,” non-fiction titles, and ending with a run of graphic novels.

Book club was a place the teens could go and know their voice and opinions would be heard. Discussion of the book at hand often morphed into what they found problematic about the young adult books at large. More often than not, my group of teens griped about how they never saw themselves in the books they read. Teens who were poor (but doing okay and not bitter about it), who were Ace or Aro, working in the fields, not having a car/house/cell phone/computer/internet, who didn’t take vacations, or go to boarding schools…it went on and on.

I feel that my book club was successful was because I let the teens be themselves. I didn’t have too many structured questions only general ones. I let them vent, complain; whatever they needed to get out their frustrations. While I am slowly moving into my new job, I will miss the book club days; especially the debates about superheros and Star Wars.

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