One of the batches at the Young Readers' Club is reading Roald Dahl's Giraffe, Pelly & Me. Being a big fan of Roald Dahl, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it myself the first time. And now when I read it with my young reading companions, I am learning to see the same book from multiple angles. While there are readers who love this book the way I do, there are some who find problems with the logic. For instance, if you are familiar with this book, you would know that the Pelican character offers his beak for the little boy to climb into so that he can carry him up to a window at a higher floor. Readers had questions such as,
"Why would anyone want to get into a bird's beak? It is like getting into someone's mouth. Eeew!"
"How is it possible for a pelican to carry a little boy? Wouldn't he be heavy? Would the beak tear?"
One of the Roald Dahl fans in the group was quick to respond and evidently wanted the discussion to end, so that we could continue reading.
"Relax, it is story written for children. It is not real. It is fiction!"
Book clubs are a wonderful way to gain a comprehensive and well-rounded perspective of a book. They bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences to discuss and analyze the various aspects of a book.
Here are a few experiences we have had at the Young Readers' Club.
Diverse Interpretations: The reader's response about a children's story having leeway for any sort of imagination to work, set me thinking. All the more reason why facts need to be right, since it is a children's story. Different readers bring unique life experiences, cultural backgrounds, and personal beliefs to their reading. As they discuss the book, these diverse interpretations surface, allowing participants to explore multiple angles and meanings of the text.
Discussion of Themes and Motifs:
Book clubs delve into the themes, motifs, and symbolism within a book. Participants might notice connections and ideas that others missed, leading to a deeper understanding of the author's intentions and the underlying messages. The book Unteachables by Gordon Korman features a child with dyslexia. Through the book we get a glimpse of how unfair people can be towards him and how that makes him feel. While one reader felt that this was unfortunate and it is a lesson for all of us to be more sensitive, another reader took a step back and said this is a story- every character has a personality and accordingly a suitable role to play. "One mustn't get too attached or troubled by anyone character", is what he had to say!
Character Analysis: Through discussion, readers can dissect the characters' personalities, motivations, and development throughout the story. This can reveal nuances that one reader alone might not have noticed. Some readers tend to absorb the emotions of a character even more and are able to bring to light some perspectives that aren't easy to see. In the book Unplugged by Gordon Korman, I liked the protagonist the most as he is someone who shocks me and makes me wonder if someone could be such a brat! Another reader pointed out that that I might like this character because he is somewhat different and yet similar to protagonists in other books that I have read by the same author. Hearing that I was curious to know which character he liked. He chose someone for whom one would feel sorry for and yet at some level admire too. If that is piquing your curiosity, this is a book that shouldn't be missed!
Cultural and Historical Context:
Book clubs provide an opportunity to explore the cultural and historical context of a book. Members might share insights about the time period, societal norms, and events that influenced the author's writing. Books such as Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson, took us back in time to the 1930s, the great depression and the dust bowl in the U.S. Experiences such as this one tell us that every country has been through tough times before embarking on the road to progress.
Critical Analysis: Analyzing a book within a group setting encourages critical thinking. Readers can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the plot, writing style, pacing, and more, fostering a deeper appreciation for the craft of writing.
One of the readers did an extensive search on Dav Pilkey the author of the famous Captain Underpants Series. The group were startled to know about his history. Similarly another reader figured out the influences that shaped the book Good Night Mr.Tom by Michelle Morigun. Members may research the author's biography, literary influences, and other works, contributing additional context to the discussion.
Reader Empathy: Listening to others' interpretations and reactions can foster empathy and a deeper understanding of alternative perspectives, even if you don't agree with them.
In essence, book clubs create a dynamic and rich environment where readers can explore a book from multiple angles, gaining a deeper understanding of its content and context. The collective knowledge and perspectives of the group enrich the reading experience and allow participants to view the book from different lenses, leading to a more comprehensive appreciation of the work.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-12 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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