10 steps to start a parent book study group

A still from Academy Award winning short film, 
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg. iPad app, book

I read parenting books. This is a short pile of a larger collection of teachings that inspire me.

As you can see by this scotch-taped copy of Children the Challenge, a book given to me by a dear friend in the early 80s and one I continue to read, I grapple with parent relating issues.

I struggle to adapt principles such as “stay out of fights, teach children about cooling off periods, pause and avoid that first impulse, do the unexpected, be unimpressed by fears, mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn, call out what is positive or going well (instead of what is wrong), and mind your own business.”

But now I know a secret that really helps. I don't just read books on my own anymore. I read books aloud with other parents. I listen to others' experiences and learn that their struggles are similar to mine. Reading together and then responding with personal experience to what we read helps transfer what I read to practice. 

My first book study group grew out of my classroom. I invited about 20 parents of the children in my class. We read together for 5 years. These parents remain close friends and continue to support each other. 

I read books with others in what I call a book study group. A book study group is different than book clubs I’ve been part.

How? There is no advanced preparation or work, which means all I need to do is show up. No reading ahead. No questions to form. No baking or buying a decadent dessert. No potluck. No house to clean for company. I simply bring myself, honesty, openness, and a willingness to listen from other parent's points of view. 

Here's the book study format I wish I’d known 35 years ago. 

Keep it Simple. 10 Steps to Starting a Book Study Group

1. Find a place to meet.
I prefer meeting outside the home. (Hooray! There’s no house to clean.) I'm part of three book study groups. We meet in neutral spaces. One is in a business office, another is in a non-profit building, and the other is in a food café’s community room that is closed off by a door.

2. Meet weekly at a set time.
I find that an hour and a half once a week works, as well as a communal agreement to a 6-week commitment.

3. Keep the group small (12-14 people).
Invite 18-20 to get that size. After the second meeting, no new people enter the group. 

4. Establish a timekeeper.
This person keeps time, telling us it's time to begin and it's time to end. 

5. Sit in a circle.
It’s so nice to see everyone’s face.

6. Start on time and stop on time.
No matter who is there, the timekeeper begins and ends on time. This is a terrific model of boundary practice.

7. Begin with 5 minutes of quiet.
Sit quietly breathing in and out for 5 minutes. I ring a bell that helps us put our attention to the sound and our breath. When 5 minutes are up, begin reading out loud.

8. Read aloud.
The person sitting next to the timekeeper begins and reads for a while. Then the next person reads. Every person has a chance to read. When a person reads, the others practice listening with an open mind and heart.

9. Share.
When the chapter is finished or after a half hour of reading, whichever comes first, each person shares thoughts, feelings, or experience about something that was read. I speak from my heart and personal experience rather than my intellect.  

10. End with an affirming thought or word or statement.

Pass a bowl of positive uplifting quotes. Everyone draws from the bowl. One by one go around the circle and read what is on your paper. The idea is to practice the principle or power thought for a week.

If you want, close with a poem or verse. 

The focus of book study is on self-discovery. I've figured out that the key to relating with love is becoming aware of my own thoughts and behaviors and figuring out what I can change in myself to affect change in my relationships. (Darn! I thought I could change my child.) 

Reading the lesson together and then listening to others share personal experience and feelings related to the reading fosters insight and understanding.

It starts by reading out loud. How simple and magical is that?

1. Sample Book Study Email Flyer I include in an email invite.

The Thursday study group begins _________ and will meet weekly until we finish reading the book. We’ll meet from 2 - 3:30 PM at _______________.

The book we’ll read is (title and author). Here's' the link ______________.

Bring your book to the study. If you don't have a book, come anyway. We’ll read together and then share about what we’ve read. No need to read ahead, but feel free if you wish to do that. We’ll start and end on time.

Let me know if you’re able to join us by THIS DATE.
(timekeeper’s name, email, and cell phone number)

2. I realize that learning to relate to my children (and all others) is a practice that begins with first looking at myself with a commitment to unravel and explore my behaviors and to basically observe myself. I write often about the books I read and study that help me look at the negative patterns and habits I do not want to pass on to my children. And, I created a website called Wonder Anew to process and learn from personal difficult experiences as a way to benefit ourselves and others, especially our children.