Reading and Discussion
Whether you want to start a reading group or a more intense Study Circle we have some helpful guidelines for you. Check back for more tips and discussion questions!
Study Circle Guidelines
The ideal Study Circle size is six to eight people.
Two hours is a good length for a meeting.
Meet once a week.
Be somewhat flexible about starting times, but always end on time.
Meet at a convenient and quiet location. Some Circles rotate meetings between members’ homes so that each person gets a chance to be the host.
A Study Circle should last for at least ten weeks. At the end of that period, people can decide on the Circle’s next step.
Everyone is equal. Have a coordinator instead of a leader. Even rotate the coordinator position to further emphasize equality in the group.
Be authentic in your discussion. Don’t censor yourself. Study Circles are a useful way of establishing deep connections with others in your community, this can only happen if everyone strives to be real.
Your group should set its own ground rules for respectful, productive discussion.
Keep a journal; make notes of things you want to bring up in the meeting or to jot down notes from meetings.
Take turns; go around the group and have everyone answer the same question. This allows everyone to have time to make their voice heard and encourages quieter group members to participate.
Spend the first few minutes of each meeting checking in with members so they can report on activities committed to at the previous meeting.
Encourage each member to do personal research on the topic and bring his or her findings to the meeting.
Starting a Reading Group
1. Find a group of people interested in reading and discussing the work of the visiting authors. Call or Email friends and family members, ask them to contact others, and go to your local libraries for sign up lists. Make sure all group members are able to get to your local libraries for the reading group meetings. The ideal group size is between 8 and 12 members; sticking to this guideline will ensure that every member has a chance to talk.
2. During your first meeting as a group, decide how often to meet and at what time. Once every two weeks to a month is ideal for meetings; it’s also ideal to meet at the same time of day so participants can plan their schedules around the meetings.
3. Establish a commitment from all group members: Participants should be dedicated to the idea of the reading group and to the works read and discussed.
Running a Reading Group
1. Once your group is established and your meeting schedule set, decide on ground rules. Decide how you will organize the group and how you’ll make book selections. Will you have a leader? Will you have one person in charge of ordering the books you’ll read? Will you have someone do Web research on the authors and issues addressed in the books? Will you have one person in charge of coordinating food for group meeting? These are just some of the questions to consider.
2. Once you know who your reading group’s participants are, where and when you’ll meet, and what group members’responsibilities are, you can decide how best to read and discuss. Do members want to read the whole book and then have a meeting? Or would reading and discussing a few chapters at each meeting work better for members? Do you want one group member to be responsible for Emailing or calling members with questions about the book prior to meetings? Perhaps you want to focus a reading group meeting on writing projects connected to the author visits. Keep your options open: A successful reading group is not only a congenial meeting of lovers of books but an opportunity to become a more active citizen of the world of literature.
3. Finally, have fun! You should not only learn from reading and discussing the books but also enjoy one another’s company. Learn more about your friends and neighbors. A reading group gives you insight into literature, but equally important are the insights you gain about group members.