Remember BOOK IT?

BOOK IT was (and still is, actually) a reading incentive program that many in my age group were enrolled into during grades K-6. You’d do some reading, chart it, and get star stickers to paste onto a large plastic pin. The best part, of course, was getting a gift certificate to Pizza Hut as a reward for fulfilling your reading quota. I was a faithful BOOK IT participant, and thanks to a large stash of classic children’s and young adult books that my parents generously supplied, I was hitting the ‘Hut for my delicious reward on a regular basis.

I often wish there was a BOOK IT program for adults. I’m thinking of something different from the “grown-up” reading groups sponsored by talk show hosts where everyone, regardless of their interests, gathers to read the same chick-lit fare. And I’m definitely thinking of something different from traditional academic reading groups where copious notes and discussion questions are the norm. Both kinds of groups are well-meaning and there’s a place for them, to be sure. But really, I’m thinking of something with no guilt, no pressure, and no real agenda other than sharing and having fun.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a colleague who, like me, has been out of coursework for a while. Our days consist of reading, writing, and working in our offices and homes, isolated from all human voices save for the ones we hear on TV during study breaks. We missed coursework, we decided, and the thing we missed about coursework was seeing other students and chatting, commiserating, and generally having a sense of community. In response to this urge for community, we decided to start Academic Book Club.

Academic Book Club works like this: you read an academic book. Any academic book. It doesn’t matter if other people read it too. What’s important is that you think it’s interesting and you have something brief to say about it. Then, at a designated time and place, you meet up with other members to share what you’ve read over pizza and beer. The point is to encourage each other to read, to find cool new material, and to have pleasant conversation.

The first meeting of the Academic Book Club happened about three weeks ago at a local pizza parlor near Michigan State University, where I’m a doctoral student. We had a great time sharing our current reading, chatting casually about our research, and catching up on each other’s lives. The response has been so positive that I’m now planning another meeting of “the ABC” for later this month and hoping that we get even more members to share their reading and their appetizers.

How about you? How do you stay connected socially and academically when you’re in an isolated stage of your studies? Do you think you might want to start an Academic Book Club where you are? Do you already have something like it?

[Image by Flickr user infowidget and used under Creative Commons license]


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