How many of you sit through hours of your kiddo’s practices playing on your cellphone? Or maybe reading the newspaper? Or perhaps reading a book? Or let’s be honest… chatting it up with the other team parents? Why not make the time more productive by having a team parent book club? We all claim we want to read more, so let’s take advantage of this downtime to do something productive… and likely knock something off our New Year’s Resolution list.
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How to Start a Team Parent Book Club
No book club is successful if there aren’t engaging people involved. Therefore, your first task will be to invite people to join. This could be as easy as sending an email to the team’s parents or as involved as making up a flyer with info on when and where the group will meet. Remember to start with a larger group than you think you will need. Inevitably, a few will drop throughout the course of the season and you want to be able to have robust discussions to keep everyone interested.
The best way to kick-off a team parent book club is with an introductory meeting. At this meeting you should discuss the following:
- Best times to meet – Obviously you will be meeting while practice is going on but maybe one day is better than another. For example, if your team practices on Mondays and Wednesdays maybe Wednesday is better for everyone.
- Meeting Location – while it might seem obvious that you would meet at the facility where practice is being held, you might be surprised how distracting that can be. If the facility has a lounge or team room, that is the perfect location. However, make sure to clear this with the facility manager first. Some groups also like to choose an off-site location such as a local library. (Most libraries will welcome reading groups at no change.)
- Meeting Frequency – Some book clubs meet monthly while others meet biweekly. Whichever you chose, make sure the time between meetings gives everyone ample time to read the book. Also take into consideration how long it will take each participant to procure the book. If requesting the book through the library, it could take a week or so. If ordering the book online, even Amazon Prime Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial it could take up to 3 days when ordering a hard copy depending on when the order is placed.
- Whole book or parts – Similar to the meeting frequency discussion is whether you are going to break down the book into smaller parts or discuss the book all at one time. If you break the book down, you could easily meet weekly. If you read the whole book, you would meet monthly.
- Meeting Length – Since most practices are two hours, the best length for a team parent book club is to begin 10 minutes after practice starts and end 10 minutes before practice ends. This gives everyone time to take care of team business without cutting into book club time.
- Decide Leaders – This might be a weird decision since you have been in charge up to this point but let me tell you, being a book club leader is HARD WORK. Maybe you will lead the first book then rotate leaders thereafter. This is a decision which can be made at your initial meeting so everyone understands when they will be leading so they can be prepared.
- To Feed or not to Feed – It’s always nice to have a few munchies while participating in your discussion. However, it must be made clear this is not a five-course meal. This is just something like a veggie tray with dip and some crackers or a dessert or two. The key is minimal set up and minimal clean-up. Make sure food is even allowed at the facility you are meeting at before bringing in food.
- Best Communication Methods – some groups can manage perfectly with just a group text or email while others succeed best by using a private Facebook group.
- Reading Likes and Dislikes – This is a big one and can be a make-or-break facet of any book club. Not everyone likes every genre but if you can come to some consensus of favorite genres you have jumped a giant hurdle.
Choosing Books to Discuss
As I said before, book choice can make or break a book club. Here are some items to take into consideration when choosing a book:
- Length of book as well as the length of time the group will have to complete their reading. You don’t want to give your group two weeks to read Moby Dick or The Art of War. These books are better suited for a monthly club. However, a quick read like Emma can easily be accomplished in two weeks.
- Availability at the library or online, also is it available in the formats your group likes such as hard copy, Kindle, audiobook, etc. If your library has access to the free Hoopla online library, you might check availability on there as well.
- It falls within one of the genres your group prefers.
- Publication date – remember that most newer books are more expensive online. If you have a money conscious group (which most sports parents are) you might want to look at an older book. Amazon even offers many free Kindle books you could consider. This is especially true for the Classics.
- Some readers are more passive than others and won’t speak their opinions about which books they want to read. Consider using some kind of anonymous selection method such as a free Survey Monkey
Nothing can kill a book club like letting the conversation stray from the book into a gossip session at every meeting. Leaders must be strong enough to keep the group on point. However, they also need to be open to letting the discussion of the book lead to different constructive lines. This is a thin line leaders must navigate. It’s ok to say the main character reminds them of the club owner. It’s not okay to spend 30 minutes discussion the club owner’s non-existent management skills… even if it is true.
Organization is Key
One of the best attributes of a book club leader is organization. Book club leaders are charged with sending out reminders, creating the discussion topics and questions and possibly coordinate who is bringing food, depending on the choices made at the initial meeting.
Prior to the meeting, post/email/text some of the discussion questions you will be using so the readers will have a chance to think about their answer instead of being blind-sided and unable to think of their answer on the fly. It will make the meeting go much more smoothly when you aren’t dragging answers from your participants. Some common discussion seed questions are:
- What did you like best about the book? Least? Why?
- Which character did you like best? Least? Why?
- If this book were made into a movie who would play the main characters? Why?
- What is your favorite quote from the book? Why?
- Which character in the book did you most identify with? Least? Why?
- If you could ask the main character one question what would it be?
- Did you like the author? Why? Would you read another book by the same author? Have you read other books by this author?
Creating Discussion Questions
Being a leader is no joke. You are not only expected to read the book (possibly multiple times to ascertain all the minute details), you are also expected to come up with discussion questions which will keep the group engaged (ie., NOT yes or no questions). While the questions above will likely be a part of every club meeting, each book will require a personal touch. If you are stumped just head to Google for help. There are hundreds of sites which will give you discussion prompts to keep your discussion moving along. The website ReadingGroupGuides.com has hundreds of discussion guides you can use.
End of Season Book Club Event
As with all good things which come to an end, once your season ends so does your book club. However, why not end it with a bang by having a celebration of the books you have read throughout the season? A great way to celebrate is a recap of the books you read with a superlative contest or discussion.
Again using Survey Monkey, you can create an online superlative poll then reveal the results at your year-end meeting followed by a discussion of the results.
Possible superlative categories:
- Best Book
- Best Male Character
- Best Female Character
- Best Quote
- Best Villain
- Most Likely to be Homecoming Queen / King
- Miss Congeniality
- Best Plot Twist
- Most Likely to Succeed
- Best Character Name
- Most Changed Since the Beginning of the Book
- Most Likely to Have the Best Instagram Page
- Best Athlete / Most Likely to be the Best Athlete
- Most Unique
- Cutest Couple
- Best Character to be Stranded on a Desert Island With
- Most Likely to Be a Teacher’s Pet
- Most Likely to be on a Reality TV Show
- Biggest Drama Queen / King
- Character You Most Want to be Your Best Friend
- Most Likely to Kiss & Tell
If you have any like-minded parents, practice time is a great time for a robust bible study. There are hundreds of bible study outlines online to facilitate this type of discussion.
Big Sports Club Variation
If your kiddo is part of a large club such as a volleyball club with multiple teams practicing at the same time, consider including parents from other teams. This not only increases membership, it also increases the perspectives presented which always leads to better discussion.
Most clubs have Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday practice schedules. It is a great idea to have two groups working on the same schedule so if practices get changed to a different night participants can go to the other group’s meeting and not miss out. On the other hand, each group could very easily have a different personality and study independently.
If you have a great deal of participation within your club on a specific night (ie. More than 15 participants), it makes perfect sense to break into smaller groups. A great way to split the group is to split it by genre. For example, one group could be a Classics group including genres such as Classics and Historical Romance while the other group is studying Modern literature such as Current Fiction, recent Biographies, and Current Romance.
Sound like fun? I mean seriously, what do you have to lose? You might as well give yourself an intellectual workout while your kiddo is getting a physical workout. Do you already have a team parent book club? Tweet us @TeamMom365 and let us know how it’s going and give us some of your best practices!
Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She is a team mom extraordinaire who has filled her time serving as secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist for her daughter’s travel sports team for over 15 years before becoming a team owner. You can follow her on Twitter at @TeamMom365.