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Learning Together: Setting Up a Reading Group

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 |
Learning Together: Setting Up A Reading Group

A reading group is a great way to read new books and learn about literature, without joining a formal class. Reading groups are also a fun way to meet new people who are interested in books. If there isn’t a reading group locally and at a convenient time, why not set up a new one?

When to Hold the Group

When the group is held will tend to make a difference in who attends. Groups during the day are likely to attract more retired people, or people who are at home with children. Groups in the evening are more likely to attract working people. Most groups are held monthly, which gives everyone chance to read the book.

Where to Hold the Group

Many reading groups are held in libraries, and it’s worth having a chat with the librarian to see if there is available space that can be used for free or at low cost. The librarian may also be able to suggest books for the group to read. Bookshops are another good option, and the books are already there.

A local pub could also work as a venue, especially on a quiet midweek night or lunchtime and the members of the group promise faithfully to buy at least one drink! If there are enough interested people, it might be possible to run a reading group at work in a meeting room or in the office canteen, during the lunch break. Some people run groups from their own homes.

How to Advertise the Group

The ideal group size is probably between six and ten, and sometimes just word of mouth around a group of friends is enough – but if not, try cards in newsagents, posters in the library and bookshops, and a piece in the parish magazine or local paper. Websites are now easy and low-cost to set up, and can be used to list the books for the next few months or year, and confirm meeting time – however, if it is a group run from someone’s home, it’s a good idea not to include home addresses and phone numbers. An email list allows people to carry on discussing the book after the meeting is over.

How to Get Hold of the Books

Make friends with your local second-hand book dealer – given enough notice, the shop is likely to be able to track down enough copies of the book for the group at a much lower cost than buying it new. New books can be ordered from local bookshops or online, but these are likely to cost more.

How to Choose the Books

The choice of books will depend on the aim of the group – are people more likely to enjoy serious or funny books, or does the group run on a theme – detective fiction, 19th century fiction, the books of Thomas Hardy, or romance? Members of the group could take it in turn to choose the books, or the leader of the group could choose the books and distribute a list for the next six months or year. Make sure that there is a broad selection of books on the list – something for all tastes.

The person who is leading the group needs to research the author and book, and also prepare a list of questions for discussion.

Help With Your Group

Authors’ and publishers’ websites are a good place to start for research. Newbooks magazine is designed for book groups. It includes articles about books, and interviews with authors and publishers. The magazine also offers a reading group starter pack, and free books in return for the cost of postage and packaging.

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