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This month's feature Book Club goes to Kings Monkton Staff Book Club.
The staff of Kings Monkton School formed the Book Club to broaden their reading. Their "book chatter" has now spread further than the school library... They even have the purple top hat- what a fancy, unique way of selecting which books to read next!
When did your Book Club launch?
The KMS Staff Book Club officially launched in October 2018.
How did that come about?
It came about in response to a Learning and Teaching session I delivered on Reading for Pleasure. Primarily, we wanted to broaden our own reading so that we could make more informed choices when it came to classroom reading and recommending books to pupils. We also thought it would be a nice way to connect with colleagues outside our normal working routines.
Talk to me about how it’s developed over the years.
We're still in our first year but we have grown in number since our first meeting and are always open to new members. Our book club is very visible and we happily engage with our learners about what we’re reading which sometimes helps to inform the choices they make and the direction of their own reading journeys. Book chatter is not limited to our meetings and has become a big part of our daily routine, permeating classrooms, corridors, offices, the staffroom, canteen, and library- it's everywhere!
Describe your book club in three words.
Creative, enthusiastic, thoughtful.
How do you choose your books?
When somebody comes across a book they'd like to read with the group, we write it on a slip of paper, fold it and place in a purple top hat ( yes, really!).
Each time we meet, two titles are drawn from the hat. Members can read one or both of the chosen books but if they don’t appeal, there’s no obligation to read either. Everyone is welcome to attend the meetings regardless of whether or not they've finished the books and there is always plenty of sugar available to help keep everybody focused.
How often do you meet?
We meet a minimum of once per half term, sometimes twice if our schedules allow.
Where do you meet?
Our meetings take place in the school library, at the end of our school day.
What is the format of your meetings?
It's very relaxed. People are encouraged to bring a coffee and there's always the previously mentioned array of sugar on offer. When everyone has arrived, we decide which book to discuss first. Sometimes we'll follow a book club guide if there's one available but we try to keep it flexible as our working day is highly structured and it's nice to let the discussion evolve naturally.
What are you reading right now?
Do you have a favourite format of book (ebook, hardback, paperback, audio)?
Most of us prefer paperback although there's a lot to be said for audio and digital. Hardbacks are slightly less portable but they're often beautiful editions so there's room for every format.
What were your top 5 books of 2018?
Particular highlights of 2018 include The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley and Milkman by Anna Burns. Individual members have suggested some 2018 titles that they enjoyed, although we didn't read them as a group. Those were Circe by Madeleine Miller, Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James and Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.
What are your favourite books of 2019 so far?
Of the books we've read in 2019, favourites have been The Scar by China Mieville, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee, Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn and Wonder by R J Palacio. I’ve heard lots of positive comments about The Tattooist of Auschwitz and am looking forward to our next meeting when we’ll be discussing it in detail.
There are a few books published this year that individual members are really looking forward to reading, such as The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and of course, Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust: Volume Two.
Do you collectively have a favourite author/ genre?
We're open to all books and will try pretty much anything whether we're familiar with the author or not. We're not huge fans of metafiction- although the discussions that evolved from that particular experience were great fun. A lot of us struggle with self-help, ironically, but we did have a go!
Has there been a particular highlight of your time together?
Our first meeting sticks in my memory because nobody liked the book. In fact, people disliked it so passionately that discussions were springing up all over the building well in advance of the official meeting. It was a risky choice for our first read but I wouldn't change it because that shared experience became an excellent starting point for us.
Honestly though, every meeting is a highlight. We have a fabulous group of people, each with their own experiences and insight informing the way they engage with our chosen title. It's like hitting the pause button on the real world for a second. You sink into another reality where the only thing that really matters is the book.
If you were to give anyone out there some advice on setting up a book club what would it be?
Do it! My one regret is that I didn't set ours up sooner. Be creative with your selection process and try to be open to different styles, authors and genres. Make sure everyone knows their opinion is valid and carries equal weight, whether they’re a seasoned bookworm or a complete novice. Above all, keep pleasure at the heart of every meeting.
If you laugh as much as you learn, you’ve got it right!
You can follow the KMS Book Club and KMS on social media:
School website: www.kingsmonkton.org.uk
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