“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books.”
As your group grows older and starts reading more on their own, choosing books that nobody has read can be challenging. My girls were nine and ten when we began meeting. Only one of them was in a home where reading was cultivated, so we started with the Nancy Drew series.
As your group ages more of the girls will be reading on their own. You will need to work harder to find books that are new to all of them. The good news is that even the girls who are avid readers will likely be reading popular literature written for young adults. Don’t be afraid to reach backwards to classics that they may not have read. My girls loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Little Women. Also, either read the book yourself before introducing it to your club or ask a trusted friend who has read it about the book.If not, you may step into a trap.
For instance, I once chose I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (sounds safe, right?). I had not yet read it. I assumed it would be fine for my girls because it is so highly lauded. How could it go wrong? Well, this is how. The book includes a graphic depiction of child molestation. Had the girls been reading privately at home, they could have handled it, but reading it aloud was embarrassing for all of us, not to mention completely inappropriate. I was horrified, and simply chose to let the girls read that section silently at the table until everyone finished it. Had I read the book ahead of time, I would not have chosen it for our format. Obviously, I should have done my homework.
Keep in mind that no matter how carefully you plan, you may end up with two or three weeks left and, uh oh, you have finished the book. Do your best to estimate how many chapters you will read per week. If you come up short, you can always supplement the year by reading a play aloud. The girls love to take on roles and plays are short.
This project costs a little money, but only a little. If you plan ahead, you can keep the book expenses to a minimum. Always put out a call for donations of the books that you are reading. Simply spread the word through friends and social media. You will be amazed at how generous people will be with their books. Once, a local bookstore donated all the copies we needed (thank you Bayou Booksellers!). As hostess, you can cover the cost of the books that do not get donated, and used books from an online vendor are very inexpensive. Copies of one book for your entire club could cost less than lunch in a fancy restaurant. That's relatively low for several weeks of reading.
If covering expenses is challenging, let the girls hold an easy fundraiser. Our group once raised enough money for our books from a one day lemonade stand. Besides raising money for books, it was a fun project. If you make too much money, just let the girls choose a charity to which they can donate the excess dollars. My group chose an after school reading program for young children. See? You will be teaching them about more than just books!
Unless you choose to give holiday gifts to the girls, your only other expense will be the tea, sugar and milk. Putting tea in a couple of tea pots instead of letting each girl choose a tea bag is more efficient, cheaper and more graceful. Flowers and pretty greenery can be found in your yard or in a friend’s yard. If flowers are not in season, use a bowl of fruit. If you become creative the book club will cost you almost nothing but your time and, if done well, you will receive much more than you give.