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Now that we’ve addressed the benefits of embracing a theme and choosing appropriate works, it’s time to tackle the reason we join book clubs in the first place: discussion. As an introvert, I am intimately aware of how I used to allow others to voice their opinions while keeping my own quiet. My “excuse” always was… “I already know what I think — I want to hear others’ ideas and thoughts.” While this is true on a certain level, I now realize that every member of a book club or classroom has a responsibility to participate and add to the discussion. Each and every individual’s voice is distinct and important and no one should be able to take a back seat — or dominate — any discussion.
The question is… how do we make this desire a reality? Too often, one or two voices are too present and drown out those who are too absent, turning what should be a lively discussion into a tiresome diatribe. A good friend of mine, with many years experience in the classroom, provided a wonderful solution to this all too common problem. She recommended that a book club start with a concrete, yet subjective question and ask every member to voice his/her opinion before starting the discussion. She has found that hearing every voice right from the start encourages the quieter members to speak out throughout the discussion and reminds the more vociferious members not to “hold court.”
The question should NOT, however, be: “So, did you like the book?” This question tends to lead to a negative, subjective discussion, because if one member did not care for the novel, the tenor can turn negative very quickly, and those who did enjoy aspects of the work may silence their dissenting opinion. (More on this common mistake in part 5).
A better question to begin with might be: Which character did you connect to the most (or least) and why? Another might be: Which part of the story was the most engaging? Or: What first impression turned out to be incorrect? Notice that each of these questions are subjective in that there really isn’t one right answer and the member must disclose something about themselves without getting too personal. Even quiet members will be encouraged to voice an opinion and hopefully then engage in the ensuing discussion.
As an introvert, this idea has worked for me and I hope it will help you to hear every voice in your own club!