Sunday, February 5, 2012

Can book clubs for children work in the Caribbean?

It would be wonderful if your answer could be an instant, 'But we have one at my school and it's great!' So I'm hoping for responses like that. Have I checked schools here to see if there are any? No... you know... I didn't. So how to ask that without them thinking I'm accusing them of not having one, etc., etc? However it's an idea; so starting tomorrow I'll begin to check.

This relates to the concept introduced last week of a reading renaissance. I'm sure lots of adults have book clubs here. (Actually, I only know of two). I, myself, wasn't too keen on the idea, because I like to read my book, by myself, only discussing it now and then with a friend, in response to: "What are you reading?" or with my saying, "Oh, you must read..." I will concede that I tend to be a loner as a reader, snuggling up with my book, and travelling to a 'far country'/'another place in time'.

I knew that publishers like Scholastic have promoted book clubs in schools, even to the point of schools/the students committing to purchase a certain number of books for the term. When I first heard of this I thought what a wonderful idea for our schools, however, I can imagine the 'bawling about how we want children to buy more books again, and books expensive already'. Mind you, if they had book clubs that wouldn't mean that they would buy local books, or would they? And does that matter in this effort to bring about a reading renaissance?

I really became convinced that book clubs would indeed be good for children when I did a Children's Literature course with Dr. Jodi Grant at the University of the West Indies. I was very impressed with the different roles children could play in a book club and how these could help them to understand and enjoy books.

Government primary schools here all have sessions which are called, Drop Everything and Read. I've seen them in action and they work. They also have library studies. I need to see how those work, both in Preparatory and Primary Schools. Interesting ... by writing this I've discovered that there are a number of things about which I'm not absolutely certain. I could, of course, delete this so you wouldn't know what I didn't know. However, by leaving it here it forces me to discover the answers, sooner rather than later. So often we talk from a point of not knowing, simply because we do know, and therefore are assured that we know all of the territory.

And come to think of it, this fits in with my being on a panel discussing writing for children at Talking Trees, (lovely name, eh.) at the end of February, one of the literary festivals which sprang up when Calabash ended. So perhaps subconsciously the mind is saying ...'Find out, find out'. I do recall that I want to find out what the best selling children's books are, and I've actually set that in motion.

So please, if you know of book clubs operating in schools, share this information with us. Any success can lead to further success. In this time of multiple media competing for our children's attention, it may not be a matter of 'we cannot afford the books and the children not going be interested in book clubs anyway'; it might be that we cannot afford not to have them. Our children may need this human contact with books and with one another, as they try to understand our stories and other people's stories, to keep the 'human' in them and ultimately, in us.


  1. Montego Bay High School has a book club. I'm not sure it operates in the sense you are talking about, but they did buy a copy of Delroy in the Marog Kingdom and said they'd put in the library after members had read it. Your post reminds me that I need to pay them another visit. Thank you.

  2. A couple years ago I was a guest at the Bequia Book Club. This is sponsored and organized by the Bequie Book Shop. The meeting was attended by many children of varying ages. It appeared to be a vibrant club. Their meeting also had a social aspect to it. The club had a collection of books that members could borrow thus eliminating the need to purchase. It met on Saturday afternoon.

  3. Thanks to both of you, Helen and June, for your replies. I have not got very far with my 'little research' at all, but that's partly because I haven't been following up. Your comment, Helen, reminded me that there is a primary school I know of which has a Literature Club (it also has a Math Club), and June, your comment, which is very encouraging, reminded me that there is a book store that has a book club for adults, and did I hear that there was one for young adults? I must check. I love the idea of them being able to borrow which reduces the need to buy.