The benefits of a good discussion group

  • Saturday, July 19, 2014

One of my duties at the Mount Pleasant Library is leading the Monday book discussion group. Before this, everything I knew about group interaction I learned and experienced in college and graduate school.

Group work is a big part of any course load, even if you take online courses. Some of these groups are even called “Literature Circles” with a nod, I think, toward libraries.

Leading a discussion group can be a stressful job. The first meeting I attended turned out to be easy because the discussion was very lively and I was just observing.

I soon learned that things don't always go so smoothly. Factors such as choosing the right book, asking the right questions, knowing your group and “hitting a nerve” with readers are important to a good discussion. In the ensuing months, our little book group has grown to about 15 people.

But why should you use valuable time to attend a book club or other group discussion? The benefits are many.

Group discussions are a great place to share ideas and learn more about a book. Most of the patrons I meet want to know if I've read a particular title because they want to talk about it.

Sometimes we have mini book discussions right at the reference desk.

Great novels evoke strong feelings and generate good questions. Group discussions can also improve communication skills.

This only applies if you participate, of course. I don't consider myself a strong debater, in fact, probably just the opposite. But in the group setting, the ideas come fast and furious. You have to be able to articulate and defend your positions, sometimes on the fly. Everyone is encouraged to speak at our meetings.

Leading up to the meeting, everyone has time to read, reflect and take notes. Yes, many of the participants take notes on what we read and bring them to the discussion.

This is a great way to evaluate evidence from the text and form coherent opinions.

Good group discussions spark reflection. If the characters and stories come alive, it can make us wonder how we would act in similar circumstances.

What really separates us from the dire situations that some of the characters are in? Sometimes we can have a real connection with the story. In one meeting, we talked about a novel dealing with forced sterilization in North Carolina during the 1960s.

As it turned out, one of the participants knew someone who was sterilized under this program.

One of the reasons that our group has grown is that we learn from each other. We take away new things to think about and new ways to look at our place in the world. It keeps life fresh and interesting.

If you can't make it on Mondays, we also have the Reel Club, which has a “read the book and watch the movie” theme.

And on the second Saturday of the month, we have a writers group, where aspiring scribes get together and provide encouragement and a critical eye for their colleagues.

Programs

Wii Wednesday

Wednesday, July 16 from 2-3:30 p.m.

Blast into fun with library Wii games.

Sciencetellers: Dragons and Dreams (grades K-5)

Thursday, July 17 at 4 p.m.*

Learn about the science of fire and ice through stories and experiments.

*Tickets will be given out 30 minutes before program.

STAR Therapy Dogs

Saturday, July 19 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Practice reading with a canine friend.

Saturday Matinée

Saturday, July 19 at 2:30 p.m.

“The Princess Diaries” (2001). Rated G; 114 minutes.

Monday Matinée

Monday, July 21 at 2:30 p.m.

“Planes” (2013). Rated PG; 92 minutes.

Mount Pleasant Cribbage Club (adults)

Tuesday, July 22 from 2-3:30 p.m.

Learn to play this classic game, or come for a challenging match.

“The Big Bang Theory” Marathon (ages 13 and older)

Watch nine episodes of Season 4. Popcorn provided.

Hampstead Stage: The Legend of King Arthur (grades K-5)

Thursday, July 24 at 4 p.m.*

Join King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and watch a valiant sword fight. *Tickets given out 30 minutes before program.

Book Pass for Teens (grades 6-12) Friday, July 25 at 2 p.m.

Mike Nelson is a reference librarian at the Mount Pleasant Regional Library, located at 1133 Mathis Ferry Road.

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