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5 tips for starting your own backyard book club

5 tips for starting your own backyard book club

Apr 03 2017

If you're an avid reader, then you know better than anyone the thrill of diving into the latest best-seller or trusted classic. There are few things better than the smell of untouched pages and the excitement of uncovering an undiscovered world - except perhaps sharing the experience with friends. The discussion can start right in your own outdoor living space. 

A well-designed backyard with all the necessary comforts will make a superb hangout spot, whether it's for a family barbecue or a quiet afternoon alone. Many homeowners are even designing their backyards with peace and tranquility in mind, or as engaging and inspiring spaces to visit when needed. Either of these descriptions fit the bill perfectly for a book club. Here's what you need to know to get started:

BooksStarting your own backyard book club is easy

Book club basics

Book clubs have been around for almost as long as literature itself and have taken countless forms over the years. At its core, though, a book club is simply an organized group that meets at a scheduled time to discuss a novel they have all read. Book clubs are ubiquitous at libraries and schools around the world, but there are even more clubs hosted among friends, family members, co-workers and classmates.

If you're looking to start your own book club, or thinking of organizing one for kids and their friends and parents, there's no better time than now to start. Before the first meeting, make sure everything is in order to ensure it becomes part of you and your guests' regular routine.

Picking a theme

The beauty of the book club is its simplicity: Meetings can go in any direction you want them. Of course, it's helpful to establish a theme to tie it all together. 

  • Group themes: The American Library Association suggested beginning with an overarching theme for the club, which can help organize the group and make it easier to choose books. This can be general, like adults-only or kid-centered, or something like a father/son or mother/daughter club.
  • Genre: The club can also be genre-focused. Maybe you and your friends only want to read sci-fi novels or just stick to classic fiction.
  • Author or subject: Clubs that focus on female writers or writers of a certain ethnicity or background are also popular.

Choosing a meeting spot

Once you have a theme nailed down, you'll need somewhere to host these meetings. The backyard can make for a great meeting spot with a little preparation beforehand. You'll want some space in your yard where people can congregate - the ALA suggests book clubs be no larger than 15 people, so keep this in mind. Outdoor pergolas area ideal, especially if you have an outdoor living room beneath them. Also, members will probably want a relaxing place to sit. Tables with chairs or benches might fit the bill here, but there's nothing wrong with laying out blankets on your artificial grass if your guests approve. With the right outdoor lighting design or even torches to set the ambiance, evening discussions are possible {and convenient for those working 9-to-5 jobs).

Kids book clubs

Your backyard might be perfect for book club meetings, but it might be even better for kids-only clubs. Since youngsters already love to play out back anyway, there's really no better place to hold a regular, educational book club.

Kids book clubs can function similarly to their adults-only counterpart, but should include some extra features to enhance their educational value.

  • PBS suggested including a welcoming activity to kick off every book club meeting. This can help kids (and their parents, if they are joining) to get comfortable with the group and encourage discussion.
  • Look for ways to branch out beyond basic book discussion. There's always a craft or activity to suit any topic or story subject.
  • Give kids or parents ideas with how to stay engaged with the selected books between meetings. Some kids work well with a daily reading schedule, or might benefit from a short quiz on what they learned from each chapter.

Long-distance clubs

With the power of the internet, it's now possible to host book discussions from anywhere, and with anyone in the world. Imagine being able to discuss a book with your old friends or far-flung family members from the comfort of your backyard. It's entirely possible, and, as KQED contributor Jesse Sposato explained, can be extremely beneficial for those who feel out of touch with friends or homesick for family.  

Book clubs can be a fantastic way to discover new authors and exciting stories, but they are often as much a social function as an educational one. If you're ready to get your backyard in shape, talk to your friends about starting your own book club.

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