How to Start a Reading Group

    How To Start a Reading Group
    Why Start a Reading Group
    How To Start a Reading Group
    10 Tips For Success
    Discussion Guides

    Finding interested participants Within Your Organization: Ask colleagues within your department, or from other departments throughout the company to participate.
    In Your Community: Ask family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, members of professional associations to which you belong, colleagues in other organizations in your field, members of your church or synagogue, or members of other types of groups to participate.

    Back to top

    The ideal number of participants
    The ideal size for a lively discussion is around six to ten people, assuming that it is a highly participative group. When deciding how many members to include in your group, however, you must take into account other factors, such as hectic schedules, unanticipated conflicts, or varying interest in topics chosen. Such factors will mean that, often, 3 or 4 people may be unable to attend a given meeting. Hence, the best strategy is to have enough people join the group so that at each meeting you are assured approximately 6 to 8 participants. Consider having a total membership of 10 to 12 to insure optimum attendance at every meeting. (Within a company, you may choose to make the group larger, or have more than one group. If you do choose to have more than one group, you might consider focusing each on a topic or topics of mutual concern, such as teams, customer service, leadership, performance, etc.).

    Back to top

    How often should you meet?
    For most groups, meeting more than once a month would be a struggle, and if you meet less, the group will never get any momentum going. If your group s purpose is professional or organization development, however, you might find that people are motivated to meet more often. It is a good idea to meet on some predictable day, such as the first Wednesday of every month.

    Back to top

    Where should you meet?
    If this is a group within one organization, you could choose a conference room within the company's offices. If it is a professional (and/or personal) development group not connected to any one organization or meeting outside the organization, you could rotate among members' homes or use library rooms, local community centers, conference rooms in offices, large bookstores, churches, synagogues, etc. Of course, online discussions are a possibility for all types of groups.

    Back to top

    How much will it cost?
    There are various costs associated with having a reading group, depending on how you choose to do things. Obviously, the books cost money (quantity discounts may be available from participating bookstores and members of the consortium).

    Also, if you are not connected to one organization and meet outside of work, and if you mail out reminders, there are the costs of printing and mailing. If you provide refreshments, there are more costs. An e-mail list or phone tree can be fairly simple to set up and easy to administer, thus saving on paper and mailing costs. And pot-luck dinners can be simple and cheap, plus may be a big help to busy members who find it difficult to find time to eat before the meeting.

    If your organization is not covering the costs, you could ask members for a one-time fee to cover six months of postage, snacks, etc. Or, ask each member to supply self-addressed-stamped envelopes.

    Back to top

    Members' responsibilities
    Of course, the most obvious responsibility of members is to read the book. Other ground rules should be discussed among the group at the first meeting. The discussion might include issues of punctuality. At what time will meetings begin and end? What are the expectations of group members regarding level and consistency of participation (what if members have to miss a session? what if they miss several in a row? what if someone only comes once in a while?) How will we deal with the cost issues? If outside of work, should members be allowed to bring their children? Are guests allowed?

    It is a good idea to discuss all of these issues at the first meeting of the group and to make decisions, as a group, about such things as location, food, cost-sharing, how books will be chosen, whether there will be one facilitator or if the role will rotate among members, as well as the issues mentioned above.

    Back to top

    The role of the facilitator
    The facilitator may be the same person each time, or members may choose a rotation system for the role, depending on the needs and wants of the group. The facilitator is responsible for:

    • Monitoring start and stop times
    • Encouraging dialogue from all participants
    • Reviewing the book carefully for specific discussion topics
    • Identifying the next facilitator if the group uses a rotation for the facilitator role Questions to ask at the first meeting
    • Where will we meet?
    • When will we meet?
    • How will we notify people of meeting locations, times, and reading selections?
    • What are the costs involved and how will we divide them up?
    • How will we choose books to read?
    • What are our basic ground rules?
    • Will we have a single facilitator or will the role rotate among members?
    • How will we purchase the books, individually or as a group?
    Back to top