Creative, Community-Minded Ideas for Your Book Group

An Exclusive by Reading Group Choices

Sometimes being in a reading group is about more than the monthly discussion. Sometimes, groups want to celebrate reading and literacy and share their love of books with others. Here are some neat, creative, community-minded ideas for your book group.

Good Books Good Works: Donating to organizations that help women and girls in need

Joyce Ortega partnered up with Beth Slye, who was already in two book groups, to use women's book groups to help women and girls. They started the site They want to get the word out about their site which encourages book groups to donate to an organization that helps women and girls in need. On their site, readers can find inspiring books to read and matching organizations to choose from, so it is easier for book group members to give. For example, after reading Cutting for Stone, a book group donated to the Fistula Foundation. Another group, instead of exchanging holiday gifts, gave to an organization trying to end sex trafficking. You can see many other donation ideas and book pairings on their site. 

Camel Book Drive: How about donating your reading group’s gently-used books to a camel-borne library in Kenya?

One of Reading Group Choices’ selected authors, Masha Hamilton (The Distance Between Us), has a new novel being released in April titled The Camel Bookmobile. The interesting novel deals with an American librarian that moves to Kenya to head up a camel bookmobile. Crazy idea?! No, there really is a camel bookmobile, and Masha has created a book drive for the real camel library. Please visit Camel Book Drive to learn more about it.

Book Club Works: Bring an independent activism and philanthropic component to the intellectual and social aspects of your book club.

Book Club Works gives book clubs and literacy activists a place to find each other, adopt each other, and make a difference. There are no rules or programs. The program is simply one book club finding one literacy worker and using their passion and knowledge of literature to get great books into needy hands. Please visit Book Club Works to find out how your book club can make a difference by sharing the joy of reading.

Bookstore Tourism: We all love field trips. What about one that specializes in reading and books? Yea!

The grassroots Bookstore Tourism movement celebrates reading and literacy by encouraging group "road trips" to cities and towns with great bookshops, literary sites and libraries. Larry Portzline, a writer in Harrisburg, PA, initiated the effort in 2003 after leading bookstore trips to other cities and recognizing its potential as a group travel niche.

How can reading groups get involved? Talk to your members and plan an excursion to the bookstores in another city -- or even around your own town! Find out what bookshops are there, including their specialties and exact locations, and come up with a game plan to hit them all. It may take a little research, but discovering new bookstores is worth it. Depending on the size of your group, you can load everyone into a couple of minivans, or, you can hire a tour bus for the day. Also, you can make it a members-only event or open it up to the community as an outreach activity or fundraiser.

Don't forget that many towns with great bookstores also offer tours of famous authors' homes. Others are renowned as the settings of well-known books. Be sure to include these literary sites in your Bookstore Tourism travels!

Reader’s Passport: Reading Groups Causing Reading.

In this new program sponsored by R.R. Bowker and local libraries, reading group members read and return books to libraries as usual, but by picking up a free reader's passport at the participating library, they get their "Passport" stamped. After receiving six stamps, they fill in their own name and address, then choose from a provided list of local non-profits. Libraries forward the completed reader's passports to participating authors and publishers, who send one free book to the reading group member and one free book to the non-profit. Suddenly a person "stuck" in a dialysis center, a homeless shelter, a domestic violence center, a chemotherapy clinic receives a gift at just the right time. Visit your local library to see if they are participating or email Readers Passport for more information.

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