Book Club Time!

This week’s readings about book clubs and Socratic circles were a good primer for what’s to come in our book clubs next week. I have been part of a book club at EMU for several years, but we’ve moved past the typical book club kinds of questions into more of just a time for the handful of us to hang out with each other and talk about random stuff instead of the book we read. This week I’m getting my head back into the space of what a book club is and can be.

Let’s get the Prensky article out of the way since it doesn’t connect too much right now with the rest. The essay on getting rid of print books at colleges was alarming at first. I still don’t see it as very realistic at this time; think of how many books MLibrary has that would have to be digitized for this to work out! But there were some good points, like how texts could be connected across miles and decades, and how we could search any text to find a meaning. But it was definitely something that didn’t sit quite right at first pass.  I will be curious to see where we go in class thanks to this article, since we tend to go down unexpected trails.

The Socratic circle readings, by Tredway and Metzger, spoke to a different form of book club than I generally think of. It is more academic than a typical book club (not that book clubs can’t get into really deep topics and conversations, but it seems like the Socratic method is designed for that depth). I like that in both articles, the authors acknowledge that the instructor needs to step back in this sort of format so that the students are the ones having the discussion. There’s a pressure when the instructor is directly involved that is eased when her or she is just observing, only stepping in when needed most. It also makes me think of inquiry-based learning and the idea of “just in time” instruction, where the teacher only gives just enough information for the students to figure it out for themselves. I also liked that students had general guidelines to follow, but they were mostly able to decide where the discussion went. It’s all about engaging the students, and letting them lead is a good way to do this.

Lastly, we have the Dempsey and Hoffert readings. These are more in-line with what I think about when I think of book clubs. There were so many great ideas between the two articles about how to get people involved with book clubs! I’ve been to a themed book club before (shout-out to YASL and our awards book club!), and it is really cool to see where comparisons can be drawn in seemingly different works. I also love the idea of incorporating nonfiction, since my book club doesn’t do that and I would be curious to see what would happen if we did. I also like the ideas about digital book clubs so that readers can connect over distances. It seems like people use Goodreads or similar platforms along with Facebook to discuss books with people. I know that happens a little bit with me, even if it’s mostly just getting recommendations. But I like that reading is a community activity, whether online or in person.

As I said before, I think a Socratic circle might lend itself to deeper conversations than a book club. I also think that Socratic circle needs to have participants discussing one text to get as deep into the meaning as it can (though people will of course pull on prior experience when talking about a particular piece and that might mean referencing other texts). However, I don’t know if many people would elect to attend a Socratic circle instead of a book club. It seems a lot more formal than my notion of book club. However, I do think it’s a valuable tool in classrooms to get to the heart of a reading instead of skimming the surface as some students may tend to do.

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