Sunday, September 20, 2009

National Reading Group Month

October is National Reading Group Month

October is National Reading Group Month, and the organization’s annual Signature Event will be held in Nashville this year. How I wish I could attend to hear well known authors speak and to see Nina Cardona from NPR’s All Things Considered as emcee. Books have always been a cornerstone in my life, and any reason to celebrate reading, even group reading, is fine with me.
While teaching in the Hazelwood School District years ago, I was lucky enough to have the St. Louis County Library system nearby. This included a bookmobile that came almost to my front doorstep. However, I was busy and did not know many people in the area so my group reading never developed.

Once I moved to Jasper County, group reading was not popular, and it took a while to find people interested in sharing reading. However, a tiny group of retired teachers and friends now make up my reading group. We agreed at the beginning to forego the lunch and house cleaning preparations necessary for a social gathering. We were totally interested in the books and decided to meet at a private and neutral site where books are the entire focus of a two-hour discussion. The group is of made of women in the same age group, of similar vocations, but members are of varied religious practices, divergent political allegiances, and the only true common denominator is the love of reading. Occasionally, we spring for a luncheon out during our summer recess or at Christmas. Our reading tastes are varied, but all have introduced the others to a new author or genre, forced the rest to broaden their reading tastes.

A St. Louis friend had a book club of five women who had been friends for over twenty years when they decided to read together. They were a very diverse group in disposition, education, and incomes. However, when they came together for a reading group, they did more than just read and discuss the book. Somehow they managed to add some other dimension to each month’s choice. When they read the Oprah book Choice, Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz, they went for an overnight trip on the Current River where they canoed and ate picnic lunches on the riverbanks. When the book choice was Bread Alone by Judith Hendricks, they met in one member’s kitchen, made a batch of bread and baked it while they discussed the novel, treating themselves to warm, homemade bread and butter after the meeting.

These were generous women and knowing a monthly trip to St. Louis was too much for me and another friend reader in Branson, they planned at least one meeting a year closer to our side of the state. The year we read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, we met in Rolla for antiquing and a wonderful trip to The Reader’s Corner, a used bookstore in downtown Rolla. Another year we met in Lebanon for a tearoom luncheon and outlet shopping. The book that trip was The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson, a novel about family relationships. The women were a lot of solace for me that year as my mother’s home at just been destroyed by fire.

While I won’t be attending the annual meeting of National Reading Group Organization nor any of their chapter events across the United States, I will be reading with my own local reading group for the winter. The joy of shared reading can be anyone’s pleasure. Find a friend or two and start a group, making up your own rules and directions, or get a church group to add a book list to its agenda. Visit your local library. If dressing and going out is not your thing, join a shared reading group online at home, such as sites like

For information on National Reading Groups or this years events, go to

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