Celebrating my book group’s 1st birthday

posted in: Michael Morpurgo | 15

Last weekend saw the first birthday of the book group I run for 8-12 year olds at the local public library. On Saturday we celebrated with lots of games – book spine poetry and book charades (where titles had to be those of books we had read or discussed during the past year in book group) causing the most laughter. There were also lots of bookish treats:





On Monday we had an amazing trip to a local arts festival where we saw Michael Morpurgo retell his book The Mozart Question, accompanied by a fabulous set of musicians who played music matching the storyline. The show was wonderful, powerful and moving and Michael very generously made time for the children in my book group to interview him over a slice or two of birthday cake – what better first birthday present could there be?

Members of the book group presented Michael with a copy of the anthology they’ve written this year, and which they have been selling to family and friends to raise money for Michael’s charity Farms For City Children. They had each practised their “author signature” and signed the anthology. It was a proud moment to see it in Michael’s hands!

Before the fun and games on Saturday we spend some time preparing for our interview with Michael by reading lots of past interviews with him, highlighting things we found interesting and making a note of questions that we couldn’t find answers for. I found this a really effective way of encouraging the group to think of questions more unusual than the ones that so often arise when authors do a Q&A with children, such as “Why did you become a writer?” or “What tips do you have for aspiring authors?”.

Looking back over the year, it’s a delight to see how the book group as grown. Initially it was a determined, constructive response to my eldest being bullied at school for being a bookworm, and out of that stressful situation something lovely has blossomed. I’ve been supported along the way by many people and I’m really grateful to them all, especially the authors and illustrators with whom the book group has tweeted and the library staff who have helped with book reservations.

15 Responses

  1. Ruth Waterton

    This is so inspiring. I remember about a year ago you were devastated to be losing your school librarian job, so it sounds as if you’ve taken your enthusiasm and expertise out into the community where it’s bearing fruit. I’d be very interested to know (apols if you have already blogged this somewhere, just point me to the link) – how did your arrangement with the library develop? Did you approach them with the proposal to run a book group, or was it the other way around? How did they respond? Does anyone help you, are there child protection issues to consider, where do the books come from?

    My parish church, which is right next door to the local library, has just opened a wonderful drop-in cafe, extremely child-friendly, and I’m wondering if there might be possibiities there, particularly for early years initiatives. As I work in the church school I’d be in a good position to get something going.
    Ruth Waterton recently posted..The Greeks Have a Word for it – OXI

    • Zoe

      Hi Ruth, I approached the library. At the time a member of staff was working there who I knew quite well and she was very happy for me to volunteer in this way. Unfortunately since they she’s taken early retirement in one of the cost cutting rounds. So yes, I approached them. The library service has a volunteer coordinator and they’ve done training with me on H&S, child protection etc. I have a separate library card for the bookgroup on which I order up the books we use (and sometimes the library helps me order up more books if needed). I run the group on my own (without a paid member of staff present in immediate space, though the library is all open plan and so there are librarians near-ish by. This post – 7 ways to run a book group – might give you more ideas http://www.playingbythebook.net/2015/01/22/7-ways-to-set-up-and-run-a-childrens-book-group/ Do email me if you’ve more questions zoe dot toft at kuvik dot net
      Zoe recently posted..Celebrating my book group’s 1st birthday

  2. alice

    What a lovely party idea. Your book group sounds lovely. Do you all read the same books like an adult book group does? I would love to read a list of the books you have covered if you have a link as my son is 9 and reads so much I struggle to keep him supplied in good books

    • Zoe

      We’ve done scifi, war stories, comics and graphic novels, poetry, funny books, animal stories, books in diary format, books in translation, books with film adaptations and wintry reads. I order up (from library stock) a selection of books I think work with the theme, but I don’t restrict kids to the ones I’ve selected. We do quite a bit of play around the kids developing their skills at choosing their own books – developing awareness of what they like, and how to make a decision about books to try.
      Zoe recently posted..Celebrating my book group’s 1st birthday

    • Zoe

      Thanks. Yes, it’s been a great way to respond to something negative.

  3. Chris Routh

    Congratulations on your first birthday! How lucky are your book club members?! We have been discussing the possibility of setting up something similar with our local library from September.

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