Literature circles, Literary societies, Book clubs, Book discussion groups, Reading groups; whatever the current buzzword for these groups, they are essentially a group of people who meet regularly to discuss books they have been reading.
The concept of a reading group has been around for a long time and its origins can be traced back as early as the 1720s when access to books was limited and literacy was reserved for society’s upper classes. Reading was not an activity that the general public could indulge in.
The advent of the printing press meant better quality books were able to be mass produced, making books more affordable to the general public. Mandatory schooling and the emergence of free libraries also had tremendous effects on the rise of both reading as a pastime and increased literacy among society in general. As more literate people had greater access to material, book-based conversations eventually became more structured in the form of groups that would get together at houses of worship and household Parlours or Drawing rooms.
While evidence suggests men were the first to popularize the concept of a reading group, women slowly shifted their social activities from sewing circles and church groups to the formation of their own reading groups as a way to both socialize and have a voice among peers. This was particularly noticeable in the Victorian era when women, such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, were more readily published (albeit under pseudonyms).
Recent Census data supports the view that reading is a favourite activity for Australians with 61% of people aged over 15 years and 71% of children reading for pleasure as a daily activity. Talking about what we read is also a favourite pastime. It’s like gossiping about people who emerge from the pages to figure in our lives for the duration of the read and beyond! We book-gossip casually, informally, in pairs and in groups. We discuss books in our homes, on the streets, while on public transport, in book stores, schools, libraries and now, on the internet.
As we approach Library and Information Week (19-25 May 2014), Gawler Public Library celebrates the Book Club! We congratulate our Children’s Community Book Club, which is now in it’s 7th month. The library recently launched a Register of local Book Clubs and a range of Library Services for these Book Clubs. Next month, as part of the Library’s ‘Book Clubs for All’ program, will see the launch of its online Book Club, Gawler Public Library Book Chat. This Book Club will be available through the Library’s Facebook site to registered library members.
Keep in touch for more information on our ‘Book Clubs for All’ program.
Australian Bureau of Statistics http://www.abs.gov.au
Book Club for kids (Image): http://www.pinterest.com
Book Clubs (Image): http://www.libraries.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=47
Elegant Victorian Women Reading (Image): http://www.zazzle.com.au
Giving Readers a Voice: Book Discussion Groups by Anna Healy. Book Links: February/March 2002 (v.11, no.4)
Reading homework (Image): mrsvolland.weebly.com
Stanford Community Reading Project (Image): http://www.dickens.stanford.edu
The Impact of the Printing Press: http://courses.educ.ubc.ca/etec540/Sept04/arthurp/researchtopic/index.htm
The Reading Group Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Own Book Club by Rachel Jacobsohn