Book Clubs

How Did Book Clubs Start?

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

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A book club is a reading group made up of several people. They can either meet in public, such as libraries, classrooms, coffee shops, or other rooms and buildings, or they can also meet in people’s homes. Together, the groups discuss a particular book they are reading, asking questions and sharing thoughts, opinions, and ideas about the selected book. Book clubs have always had a foundation based in contemporary politics, society, and religion. These clubs are also a great way to meet new people who share similar interests in books, genres, and reading material. 

The popularity of book clubs is due to the importance of engaging in conversation about books. These discussions heighten our perspectives and knowledge about a particular story or event. It also helps improve reading comprehension and other literary skills that allow us to effectively articulate and nurture the reflection of not only literature, but ourselves as well. Book clubs also inspire positive attitudes towards books, such as a love for reading and appreciating literature in its diverse art form. Book clubs for students encourage them to read in more extensive and intensive ways, as it exposes them to a multiplicity of perspectives. 

How Did Book Clubs Begin? 

The evolution of American book clubs began in the early 17th century, when religious renegade Anne Hutchinson organized a female discussion group pertaining to sermons, all while being on a ship that was heading to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634. In 1727, Benjamin Franklin was also a pioneer of today’s social gatherings of book clubs when he organized a ‘prominent Philadelphian literary society called the Junto, which was made up of 12 members. ‘The group met weekly to discuss moral, political, commercial and scientific topics of the day.’ For the next three centuries, prominent American figures have kept the tradition alive through constructing reading societies and study groups related to education in school, particularly in literacy.

In the past, the majority of book clubs have been organized and centered upon oppressed minorities and women. They provided a ‘self-culture’ for people, as well as a ‘mutual desire for self-cultivation through literature.’ Women’s groups have made book clubs an ideal place for consciousness-raising and collective engagement, in the aims for intellectual growth.   

Adolescent Book Group

Volunteers at the Adolescent Book Group Program here at Words Alive focuses on facilitating monthly or bi-weekly book discussions, writing workshops, and other projects within classrooms to help improve students’ reading analysis, literacy, vocabulary, and critical thinking. The ABG program also provides opportunities for underserved teens to achieve academic and social success. Teens in book group discussions will gain college-ready skills that will enhance their critical-thinking, ability to express themselves, public and interpersonal communications, and overall confidence/self-esteem.