Using Book Clubs As a Strategic Learning Tool

Some a course in miracles teachers. This doesn’t mean non-readers can’t gain from a book club – in fact I know of many people who, though involvement in a successful book club, increased their reading intake significantly – but that fact shouldn’t be overlooked.

The people who start book clubs are typically readers – and they don’t always understand people not being readers. Why am I making this point? Because you want people involved in the club who want to be there and you want clear expectations for everyone involved.

The “readers” will want to read more and perhaps meet more frequently. The “non-readers” will be more conservative in these things. All of this will be worked out easier with your purpose clearly stated. Then you can attract people based on that, not so much on the reading itself. (Notice I am talking about attracting not “strongly encouraging” or making it a job expectation that people participate. Encourage and influence based on benefits, not organizational hierarchy or peer pressure. Gaining participants that way won’t typically lead to a great result.

The Process

There are probably as many possible processes as there are people involved in creating book clubs. There are a number of good books about book clubs in general, and while they may not speak to organizational uses, there are good ideas in them for you to adapt. In my brief space, let me just make a few comments.

Have a process. While your process might shift and adjust over time, have a clear agenda and approach that you will use. This will make expectations clear and will keep the group on task.

Have a facilitator. Because the process here matters, and a free flowing conversation might flow into the weeds, have a facilitator. That role can remain with one person, or rotate. Some groups rotate the facilitator to the person who championed the book for the group to read, others rotate it regularly. It matters less how you pick the person than that you do pick the person.

Make it a conversation. Make sure the group and the facilitator are clear that this isn’t a book report or a quiz, checking up on whether people read the assignment (this assumption is one reason people don’t want to join in the first place.) Your process should facilitate a conversation about important topics, using the book as the jumping off point.

Connect it to real life. When you do this step and the next one, your book club becomes an intentional, strategic learning tool. Remember that the end it isn’t about the book, it is about what we can learn from the book. Make sure the conversation talks about how the principles, examples and ideas in the book connect to real life and work.

Help people apply what they learned. Here is the bottom line. I read a book, and hopefully enjoyed it. Then I went to a book club meeting and talked about the book. So what? What can I do differently or better because of what I learned? Make sure that this is always a part of the group conversation.

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