Begin the discussion no more than 5-10 minutes after scheduled time.
Take time to make introductions—you never know when you’ll have a new face and usually the only person in the room who knows everybody is you.
Icebreakers: Any one of the following should get the conversation started.
Interruptions — There will always be someone who breaks in while another person is speaking. Most interrupting during discussion is due to enthusiasm rather than rudeness. Control the interruptions by saying, “Hold that thought, Sheryl. We’ll want to hear it again once Angie has finished.”
Monopolizing Conversation — Cut in on a longwinded group member with, “That’s an interesting point you just made. Did anyone else get the same impression or a different one?” “You’ve made some interesting points, Terri. Let’s hear from another reader. Kimberlee? What did you think?”
Keeping the group on the topic of the book — Try not to let readers wander and bring them back if they do. Comments such as, “Let’s get back to the end of chapter 4. What did you think at this point?” “I have a question about the situation on page 125. What’s really happening here?”
Listen carefully to what is said by participants — Rephrase a reader’s comments or question to be sure you and others understand what was meant. This is an especially necessary technique when dealing with a verbose participant.
Allow everyone the chance to contribute to the discussion — Engage silent readers by posing open-ended questions directly. But don’t badger the participants who really don’t want to participate. They may not have finished the book and don’t want to admit it. Try asking, “What did you like/dislike about the book, David?”
Remind everyone of the next meeting time and title of next book — Always have extra copies of the book group flyer on hand.
Have copies of the next book available for readers — Make sure the next book in the series is always available at the meeting preceding its discussion.
Have copies of reviews, author information and/or readalike lists for group members — If time allows during the discussion, keep a running list of books readers recommend which are like the one just finished. At the end of the series, compile all the recommendations and hand it out to the participants. These book lists are also great sources for a revival series if a theme has been especially well received.
As the facilitator, think of yourself as a literary umpire. It’s your job to make sure everyone has the opportunity to respectfully share their opinions of the selection with the group. You do not have to agree or disagree with every statement made by a reader. Turn issues back to the group by asking, “Does everyone agree with David’s comment?”
10 questions which will help generate discussion:
Further questions for discussion
Talking about a book no one liked
Don’t be alarmed if all your readers come to the discussion announcing how much they hated the book, the characters, the writing, the subject, EVERYTHING. Books no one liked often provide the best discussion. Ask the following questions to get people talking about what they didn’t like about the book:
If the idea of acting as group facilitator isn’t one you cherish (and you still want a book group in your library), consider asking the group members to take turns. If the members balk at taking on the role, look around your community for “visiting” facilitators. Good people to ask would be teachers, local college faculty, bookstore workers, the people who regularly give programs to study clubs, other librarians, etc.
When you have to wing it as the facilitator
Read at least two reviews. Read some author background. Keep discussion focused on the group’s reactions and opinions. Ask the questions from the list printed above.
Compiled by Kaite Mediatore Stover , Head of Readers’ Services, Kansas City Public Library.