What's Up ...with BDS groups


Check out what BDS book groups are up to!

We love hearing from our groups. So if you've had a fun meeting, held a special activity or celebrated a milestone, let us know. We'll share your news and views.

Check out Facebook, too! www.facebook.com/bookdiscussionscheme

Author's home visit

Well loved Hawkes Bay novelist Charity Norman joined Napier 011 for their latest book group meeting.

"Charity was a fascinating, delightful guest and we all loved hearing about her writing journey and the history behind her books," writes Convenor Liz Read.

The group had read Norman's third novel The Son-in-Law in February. 

"Our discussion was greatly enriched by having the author of the book [we'd] read join us for our monthly get-together," says Liz. "Many group members have been reading other books of Charity’s flat-out since and we can’t wait until the release of her next novel!"

Norman moved to New Zealand in 2002. She and fellow writer Anna Mackenzie headlined a Book Night event run by BDS in Napier last year. That event was standing room only, with more than 100 people squeezed into Napier's Community Arts Centre to hear the two authors in conversation about their books, the writing process and how living in the Hawkes Bay influences them.

 

Author Charity Norman (seated in the brown chair) amidst members of Napier 011

 

Let them eat cake!

17th August 1993 is when the first Morrinsville book group (001) came into existence, so it's not surprising they celebrated their quarter of a century recently. Seven of the 10-strong group were able to attend celebrations. 

Convenor Kerry Mason sent in photos of the occasion and of the celebratory cake - quite a masterpiece! She writes that the cake was "amazing" but rather large, so the remainder has been frozen. 

"It’s fruit cake ...I think we’ll be eating it for the next four bookclub nights!" she writes.

Three of the group's original members had the honour of cutting it, as shown below.

The cake:

 

Four other members from the group's inaugural year attended the festivities, which were held at the Village Kitchen in Thames Street.

 "Here's to 25 more years of books wine and friendship!" says Kerry (pictured below on far right).

Morrinsville 001: (L to R) Phillipa Kilpatrick, Pauline Sexton, Kate Stevens, Alison Holloway, Jo Leask, Sandy Tritt, Kerry Mason. Absent: Maria Brown, Jean Cave and Rochelle Sinclair.

 

Thank you from the 'inside'

It's not unusual for Book Discussion Scheme to receive the occasional card or email of thanks from members who appreciate the service we provide or to share how much they are enjoying their book club. It was a surprise, however, to receive a handwritten letter from a prisoner.

"I just thought I would take a bit of time to thank you and the team for providing a great service to the men here," writes Andrew* from a men's Corrections Facility.

Andrew is in the high security Kauri Unit at Christchurch's Men's Prison, Paparua, and joined a monthly book group as a way to alleviate some of the "wearisome" and "unvaried" aspects of being in prison. The daytime group is run in conjunction with BDS and led by accredited volunteers.

"[T]he books and the team of visitors ... give up their time to come here to help guys open up their mind to release themselves from the emotional, mental internal prison we hold ourselves in while in this place," writes Andrew.

His group, CHCH 443, are nearing the completion of their first full (10-month) programme. The men are busy choosing their next list of titles from the BDS Catalogue. Andrew hopes the group will choose an "eclectic" mix of fiction and non-fiction.

He says he has been reading more fiction since joining the book group and having the encouragement of the volunteers and the prison's Librarian (the Corrections staff member who runs the in-prison library). While describing fiction as a form of escapism, he also acknowledges that it's a way to "open up my mind".

At the time of writing, Andrew was reading To Kill a Mocking Bird, which he remembers from high school.

Ironically, Andrew used to work in Sydenham and walked past the Book Discussion Scheme office every day. Now that he is aware of what we offer, he says he'll "gladly" tell people about us and suggest they join a book group.

Book Discussion Scheme resources prison-based book groups as part of its 'social agenda' policy. Subsidised book group programmes are offered in conjunction with the National Volunteer Coordinator, Community Partnerships, at the Department of Corrections Ara Poutama Aotearoa.

As at July 2018, 11 book groups meet at 9 Corrections Facilities throughout the country. They operate in both men's and women's prisons.


* Name changed

(generic photo image)

 

Potato Peel Society

A periennial question often asked by book and film buffs is: 'Is the book better than the movie?'.

When The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society hit the silver screen in Christchurch, book group CHCH 289 decided they'd find out - and asked fellow Rotarians and the BDS' Promotions staff member to come along too.

About 65 men and women from community organisation Rotary Club of Riccarton and BDS guest Megan Blakie filled the independent cinema on a Sunday in late May to watch the American produced movie. The book, written by Mary Ann Shaffer and popular with BDS groups, tells the story of a young post-WWII writer who travels to the island of Guernsey to learn about the German occupation and to meet locals who formed a book group during the war.

Convenor John MacKintosh said CHCH 289 read Guernsey five years ago. The 'mixed' (men and women) group was established 7 years ago and comes under the umbrella of the Rotary club. 

Overall, the film got the thumbs up - although John and others expressed a preference for the details of the book.

Rotarians start to fill up the theatre on a Sunday evening in May. Convenor John MacKintosh invited BDS staff member Megan Blakie to say a few words before the movie started. Photos taken by Ken Booth.

 

Banned books generate an evening's discussion

Auckland wordsmith and BDS book group member Megan Nicol Reed MC-ed a night of banned books

 

About thirty people were enveloped by the shelves of The Open Book second-hand bookshop in Ponsonby for an evening of banned books.

The Auckland event, a collaboration between BDS and the central Auckland bookshop, was part of Book Night activities on 22 May.

Award winning authors Graeme Lay and Ted Dawe headlined the night, talking about the theme of censorship in New Zealand. Dawe has firsthand experienced of censorship: his young adult book Into the River was temporarily banned two years after it won a New Zealand Post Children's Book Award in 2013.

"When I'm writing, my final arbiter, my most important thing, is doing justice to the narrative. That's my main thing. If it involves using ... 48 f***s, that's what it involves," said a straight-shooting Dawe on the night.

AUT Librarian and social media expert Kim Tairi talked about the role of libraries in a democratic and open society. By providing safe and supportive settings for younger readers to tackle books with challenging content, libraries could help young readers understand their own experience, she explained.

"Librarians aren't neutral and libraries are not neutral places. We take stands on [against] censorship," she said.

BDS member and Herald journalist Megan Nicol Reed capably MC-ed the night, interspersing the formal talks with comments and book group anecdotes. BDS members from groups AUCK 216, 097, 071 and 339 also volunteered their time to help with set-up and refreshments and to welcome attendees.

"A great crowd, everyone spoke wonderfully, lots of questions!" summed up poet and short story writer Anna Livesey, who coordinated the speakers on behalf of Hayden Glass, shop proprietor.

"Thank you so much to the readers and speakers. Great job, e hoa ma!" she says.

 

Podcasts now available:

BDS Promotions person Megan Blakie answers 'What does society gain from book groups?' and other questions here.

Hear authors Ted Dawe & Graeme Lay, AUT Librarian Kim Tairi, and BDS member and legal scholar Melanie Brebner. Click their names to hear their podcasts.

Attendees of the Book Night event at Ponsonby's The Open Book    

 
   

 (L to R) Speakers included Kim Tairi, Ted Daw and Graeme Lay.

 All photos courtesy of Anna Livesey.

 

Off duty librarian wins with novel romance

Squeezing some Mills and Boon romance into her evening paid dividends for Book Night winner Wendy Horne.

"I read for escapism," says Wendy. "I was reading a trashy romance; I hope no-one will diss me for that!"

The Upper Hutt librarian won the 16-years and over prize draw of the nationwide reading event, which is run by Book Discussion Scheme. Wendy received $175 in book vouchers sponsored by business software company Chreos Business Solutions.

The mother of two boys is one of 2146 adults and children across the country, from Northland to Stewart Island, who participated in Book Night on 22 May. The prize draw was open to anyone who read for at least 15 minutes and registered on-line on the Book Night website.

"I like reading historical romance... usually Regency, early 1800s," says Wendy. "The ones I normally read have a little bit of sex in them - not 'he gives her a kiss' and that's the end of the chapter sort-of-thing! In the last couple of years I've read quite a bit of New Zealand historical fiction, too."

Wendy managed to fit in an hour and a half's reading at home, between a full day's work as the library's Digital Services and Training Coordinator and venturing out on the cold night to play indoor cricket.

"We had done all the dinner and stuff by about 6 o'clock and I had to go out by twenty to nine to play indoor cricket. It was absolutely pouring with rain and hailing. We just turned off the TV and I read," she says.

Book club organisation Book Discussion Scheme introduced Book Night three years ago as a way to promote reading and its benefits. It is loosely based on a similar event held in the UK.

"It's not what you read that counts but the fact that you are reading," says Barbara Brown, manager of the Scheme. "Whether its romance or rugby, paper books or e-books, the important thing is for people to enjoy what they read and to make reading a habit."

According to New Zealand Book Council statistics about 400,000 Kiwis a year don't read a book.

"That's something we'd like to help change," says Barbara. "We know from research that regular reading is a key way to improve children's abilities and develop empathy. Also, it's shown to reduce stress and to maintain brain function in older people."

More than 30 community activities were held at schools, libraries and other venues as part of Book Night. Upper Hutt Library ran a pyjama party, for families of young children, at its temporary premises in the CBD Towers on Main Street.

Wendy says her library colleagues are a bit jealous of her prize. However, rather than spend all her winnings on herself, she intends to gift half to her younger son's primary school.

"My son loves graphic novels. His school has a small library so I'd like them to buy some books," she says.

Other Book Night prize winners are Sean Wansbrough, principal of Mount Somers Springburn School in Mid Canterbury, and pre-schooler Jett Wait from Hamilton, who had help from his mum Lisa-Marie to register for the event.

First-prize sponsor Steven WIld, the CEO of Chreos Business Solutions, says: "Reading has become a really important part of my life and I see the benefit of the experience in my children and grandchildren.  While it isn't our core business, we have been really impressed with what BDS does to foster reading and community, and once again we have been privileged to partner with BDS in this event."

 

Book Night winner Wendy Horne (centre), from Upper Hutt, receives $175 book vouchers from local BDS members Della Davis (L) and UPHU 007 convenor Sue Dunscombe (R) on behalf of Book Discussion Scheme and prize sponsor Chreos Business Solutions.  
Photo supplied by Upper Hutt Libraries

 

Principal wins for walking the talk of reading

Walking the talk earned a rural Mid Canterbury school principal, Sean Wansbrough, second prize in our nationwide reading event.

The head of Mt Somers Springburn primary attended his school's Book Night activity to encourage pupils and their families in their reading, but it was his own time spent reading that resulted in the win. Sean was awarded a parcel of books and a tote bag, valued at $122.

"We had a whole lot of computers set up for the kids to register and I was helping them and ...I must have thrown in my name in as well," says Sean, who qualified for the Book Night draw by reading for at least a quarter of an hour.

Local BDS book group members Janice Sewell and Raewyn Millar delivered Sean's prize on behalf of BDS in  mid-June.

"I used to be a voracious reader," says Sean. "I used to be into eclectic novels. Mostly I read non-fiction at the moment; that's probably where my bent is."

About a dozen families and a few grandparents ventured out on the wet May evening to attend school activities coordinated by year 3 and 4 teacher Valerie Ashton. A swap-a-book table was set up and the sale of hot chocolates raised about $80 towards the school library fund.

"It was a good night," says Sean. "We got books from the school library and brought them into our multipurpose room. People were in there, with the heaters on. It was nice to see families spending time reading together and children celebrating reading."

The school's library is very small but is an important asset for the school, which is more than a half hour's drive to the nearest public library in Ashburton.

This is the second year that the primary school has participated in our annual all-age reading event, which is designed to promote the benefits of reading. Sean is a keen advocate of the pastime and the school's homework policy reflects this. Pupils' homework requirements have been reduced in an effort to increase the time available for them to spend reading.

"What we pretty much say to parents is if your kids read for 15 minutes a day they will learn to read almost in spite of what we do here at school," says Sean.

"I'm not saying they'll become the best reader in the world but they will be competent readers if they just spend that bit of time each night reading," he says.

Mt. Somers Springburn School is a year 1-8 rural school set in the foothills of Mid Canterbury at the mouth of the Ashburton Gorge.

Book group members Raewyn Millar (L) and Janice Sewell (far right) deliver a prize to Book Night runner-up Sean Wansbrough, principal of Mt Somers Springfield School. On Sean's immediate left is teacher Valerie Ashton, who organised activities at the school as part of the nationwide reading event run by BDS in May.

Families enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of Book Night at the school.

Photos courtesy of Mt Somers Springburn School

 

Old MacDonald leads to pre-schooler's win

An interest in farm equipment and animals helped Waikato pre-schooler Jett Wait win first prize in Book Night, our annual nationwide reading event for all ages.

The 3-year old from Pirongia, located about half an hour south of Hamilton, won the under-16 years category and received $75 in book vouchers. Jett's mother, Lisa-Marie, nominated Pirongia Playcentre to receive the other part of the prize: $100 in book vouchers. Jett attends the playcentre three days a week.

"I showed Jett [on the Book Night website] that kids around New Zealand were reading books and I said 'go and choose your favourite book'," says Lisa-Marie, a part-time social worker at Hamilton hospital.

"He chose Old MacDonald Had a Farm so we read that together," she says.

Te Awamutu BDS member Margaret Mansell, convenor of TEAWA 006, agreed to represent BDS and prize sponsor Chreos Business Solutions and travel across to Pirongia to award the prizes.

More than 2100 readers of all ages, from Northland to Stewart Island, joined in the May event, run by BDS. 

Jett's one-year old brother Rocco joined him in the event, leaving little time for mum to do much reading of her own.

"We've got heaps of books; we really love reading...but, as I was saying to my husband on the night, I haven't finished a book in such a long time," says Lisa Marie.

"For me, reading's relaxation. For the boys, it's education; it's around word identification, identifying things in the pictures and building their interest. Their books centre round diggers and tractors and farms!" she says.

BDS adopted the Book Night concept from the UK three years and uses it as a platform to promote reading and its benefits. More than 30 schools, libraries and other organisations ran associated activities this year.

"Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child's future success, so I'm thrilled that Jett and his brother are being encouraged in the habit," says the manager of Book Discussion Scheme, Barbara Brown.

"We know from research that regular reading is a key way to improve children's abilities. It's also been shown to reduce stress and to maintain brain function in older people," she says.

Super hero reader:
Book Night under-16 years winner Jett Wait (centre), from Pirongia, holds on to the $75 book voucher prize he received from local book-group member Margaret Mansell (pictured right) on behalf of Book Discussion Scheme and prize sponsor Chreos Business Solutions. With them is Pirongia Playschool representative Mikki McLeod (far left) and Jett's mum Lisa-Marie; the centre was nominated to receive $100 in vouchers.

Photo courtesy of Lisa-Marie Wait.

 

Leading Reading - student book groups

NZATE_thumb.jpg

BDS offers high schools a student book-group programme for the first part of the academic year. Fifteen student groups are operating this year, including an all-boys group at Sancta Maria College in Auckland. The NZ Association for the Teaching of English (NZATE) published an article about the college's groups in their new e-zine. "Leading Reading" is in two sections below.

capture1            nzate2

 

Book Groups support Book Night

About 300 BDS members recorded their participation in Book Night in May. Here's what some of you got up to.

 "Lighting up our lives with books" - Tracey Friend sent in this pic of her Dannevirke group.

 Te_Awamutu.jpg

Two groups in Te Awamutu joined together at The Station 32 resaurant and had "a wonderful night of sharing and fellowship" (sent in by Margaret Paine of Te Awamutu 005).

Whakatane 002 say 'Yes to reading!!'

Christchurch 446's Vicki Clark sent this in, saying "Enjoying our monthly book group meeting, lots of laughs and good reads!"

Auckland 346 sound like they had a great time with: "Pot luck dinner, wine, great conversation and then reading. Not bad for a Tuesday night."

This photo from Donna Maclean, of Christchurch 306, reflects the Auckland group's sentiments and perhaps encapsulates what reading for pleasure looks like for many book groups!!

 

Thank you to all the BDS members who joined in - as a group or with family - our biggest, annual BDS book event of the year. Thanks, too, for role-modelling reading for pleasure. We are glad you had an enjoyable time. 

 

 

Lights...camera and inaction!

A total of 14 schools, 7 public libraries, 3 community groups (including Book Discussion Scheme!) and 4 private individuals organised activities as part of Book Night. Here's a small selection of photos to show the diversity of activities...but all with the common theme of sitting (maybe quietly) and reading.

Lights! Camera! (in)Action (reading)?  

Bedtime Stories at Wanaka Library drew quite the crowd - some parents even turned up clad in their PJ’s. Librarian Eve Marshall-Lea said the night was wet and cold but the wintry conditions didn't deter the fun. About 100 people turned up. Wanaka radio host Jen Anderson and Wanaka Primary School librarian Melissa Ashby came and read some stories.

"We had a brilliant night," says Eve. "We had stories to start, for about 30 minutes, then the Wanaka Ukuleles came in to perform three songs.  A lit quiz followed the music then hot chocolate with marshmallows and a couple more stories."

Each child left with a Book Night certificate. A lucky few won spot prizes and a craft table offered some "fidget" time for kids who needed an activity requiring a bit more movement.  

 

Inglewood High School took lights to a whole new level, decking out the library. "We had a fabulous night reading under a library full of fairy lights and performing a story."

 

 

Readers at Nelson's Elma Turner Library unwound with hotties and blankets, hot drinks and snacks - and, of course, a book! Staff member Rosamund Feeney wrote in to say "a big thank-you to everyone who joined us at the library.... We had a great time getting to know you all".

An attendee, Ana, wrote on Facebook: "Our family of 4 [went] along to the Nelson Public Libraries book night ...and it was great! There was even pizza". Mmmm. 


  

Wellington's Seatoun Primary School supported Book Night (again) with a great turnout of families.


In the City of Literature, the city library had such a good response they are thinking of running similar activities on a more regular basis. DCC Libraries events coordinator Kay Mercer writes: 

"We absolutely LOVED our Book Night here – such a wonderful, warm atmosphere. And people asked if we could do them more often, so we're now thinking of a seasonal mini-book night every three months. You've certainly started something." ]

Members of Suitcase Theatre, which kept Dunedinites entertained on Book Night.

Ashburton's branch of the international community organisation Altrusa (which supports literacy projects) took turns "reading excerpts from our chosen book then ordered fish and chips" says Alice McLaren. BDS hopes no greasy fingerprints marked the pages!!


Many thanks to organisers and supporters of all Book Night events. Everyone made such an effort and looked to have a stellar time.

Author Charity Norman (who headlined the BDS-organised Book Night event in Napier last year) gets to sum up the Book Night  experience: "Thank you for reminding me of the joy of reading!"

 

 

Commemorative pin marks silver

A cupcake and specially made commemorative pin were given to members of group AUCK 058 to mark the 25th anniversary of their group.

All twelve current members of the West Auckland group, plus special guest Hillary Barnes, the group's founding convener, attended a lunch on 30 May. They held their regular monthly meeting first (of course!) before launching into their daytime celebrations.

"Pauline Hingston gave everyone a chocolate bar as well as a commemorative pin, beautifully made her husband Neil," says Jenny.

"As well as a tasty lunch and glass of wine, the group were given a delicious cupcake served on a silver plate by Jill Townsend."  

Jill and Pauline are both founding members of the group, which was originally formed by a number of women who played badminton together. 

Jenny sent in this photo of their time together.

Clockwise from rear: Jenny Bosley (standing), Pauline Hingston, Paddy Waymouth, Jill Townsend, Pat Rear, Lorraine Wilson, Sharon Armstrong, Frances Moulden, Janine Pyne, Flo Schubert, Sue Davison and Hillary Barnes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing Kirsty, our new staff member

 kirsty grant close up

When our new staff member isn't making sense of figures in a spreadsheet, she's following the markings on a music score.

Kirsty Grant, our Accounts Administrator, is part of a singing sextet called Honeycomb. The 4-woman, 2-man group primarily performs at house concerts and Kirsty sings alto. Before Honeycomb, Kirsty spent 15 years with the Hagley Singers.

"Singing's my thing," she says. "I like to sing the fast, fun stuff." 

With a background in political science and a career in the tourism industry, Kirsty is relishing a change in job to the non-profit sector.

"As soon as I saw [this job advertised], I knew it was mine!" says the mother of two adult children.  She'd just started looking when she spotted our advertisement.

Kirsty will be working 30 hours a week from Monday to Friday. Convenors' financial and enrolment questions can be directed her way. She will also provide financial reports for the BDS board.

"Numbers are quite satisfying," she says.

Book-wise, Kirsty says she enjoys fiction but something with an element of truth to it or that has great characters. Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See has been a favourite this year. She says it was an unlikely recommendation from her mum, but the novel 'drew' her in.

A copy of The Lost Wife was tucked under Kirsty's elbow after day one in the office. (Bedtime reading!) 

Kirsty was most recently employed in the coach charter business and, before that, with iconic NZ travel company Thomas Cook. She doesn't have any overseas plans at present but maintains a keen interest in world events.

"I like to know what's going on in the world," she says. 

 

 

Childhood biking misadventure didn’t deter a love of books

Book Night advocate Vicky Jones did not let a childhood biking misadventure deter her from developing a love of books.

Vicky, an avid book group member and former employee of Book Discussion Scheme, recalls a time in her life when access to books was difficult.

“My parents regarded reading and books as things ‘you got at school’; my home was not a home of reading,” says Vicky, who grew up in Christchurch as the fourth child in a family of five kids.

“I remember at primary school wanting to go to the public library and my mum wouldn’t take me; I got really grumpy and went off on my bike but I got lost in the rain,” she says.

To add injury to insult, the book-loving youngster then fell off her bike and injured her knee.     

“I just love reading; I really can’t explain why,” says Vicky, now a mum of two adult daughters. “Books make a difference; they open your eyes to the world.”

The former legal secretary and newly retired BDS employee plans to join in Book Night 2018 from her Riccarton home.  She remains a keen member of the neighbourhood book group she set up in 2009.

“I’m not sure what I’ll be reading yet for Book Night - I’ve just finished Life After Life by Kate Atkinson; I love a clever tale - but I’ll be following the comments people post on the website,” she says.

The nationwide reading event is on Tuesday 22 May. People of all ages can join in by reading a book or e-book for 15 minutes or more. Individuals and whanau can join in from home or wherever they happen to be on the night. Community events will be held in some locations. Details are on the website bds.org.nz/booknight

Participating readers are encouraged to head to the Book Night website and place a location star on the interactive map. Comments and selfies are also welcome. Each registration goes into a prize draw that includes $175 of book vouchers sponsored by business software company Chreos Business Solutions.

New this year is an under-16-years category, in which the $175 book voucher prize is shared between the winner and their nominated school.

Book Night advocate and Book Discussion Scheme book group convenor Vicky Jones enjoys reading despite a childhood with few books of her own.

 

 

 

It takes a Village to foster reading

Lilliput Libraries are a Dunedin phenomenon but the concept has spread to Canterbury, thanks to a BDS staff member and her local Presbyterian church.

Annie Boardman, who works part-time at BDS despatching book parcels to book groups, spearheaded the establishment of two swap-a-book containers at sites owned by The Village church in Christchurch. The tiny 'libraries' - one in Bryndwr and one soon to open in Papanui -  are stocked with donated books that can be exchanged by readers from the community. 

"We officially opened [the Bryndwr library] in November with a wee celebration with the children who attend our Kids Club," says Annie.  "We had a book worm cake."

Lilliput Libraries are the brainchild of Ruth Arnison. More than 140 of the libraries have been set up in suburbs in the wider Dunedin area. They are designed to encourage reading and are caretakered by individuals or groups. Books on offer cater for adults and children.

Unfortunately there was a glitch soon after the Bryndwr Lilliput Library was opened but it is now fully operational.

"We had an excellent 24 hours of borrowing before the library was vandalised," she says. "We now have a much more robust, reinforced library and, we hope, an indestructible plinth for it to rest on."

Annie is delighted with the first week of ‘business’, during which 63 children’s books and 17 adult books were borrowed.

BDS has helped support this initiative through donations of cancelled books from the Scheme.

"I acknowledge and thank you very much for the wonderful supply of books you have given us," she says.

The Papanui-based Lilliput Library is decorated and nearly ready to go; it awaits its concrete plinth, to avoid a repeat of what happened in Bryndwr. 

To see photos of The Village library on the official Lilliput Library website, see https://lilliputlibraries.wordpress.com/

 

Two young readers check out the contents of the Bryndwr Lilliput library.

The book worm cake made specially for the library's opening.

 

 

'All the Presidents' a fitting acknowledgement

Napier 021 remembered their former member Sean Hickling, who sadly passed away last year in his 41st year, by donating a book to Napier Boys' High School.

Convenor of the group, Shirley Simmons, sent in this scan of a photo of the handover. The book is All the Presidents and contains an inscription acknowledging Sean and the book group.  

She writes:

"Sean did not attend Napier Boys’ High School but sat his exams there as an adult correspondence student. History was his great love. His link to the school was also through our book club. We always have our meetings in the boardroom there.

She goes on to say: "The book will be well-used, as the Master who received it is travelling with a group of senior history students to the USA and they will be studying all the presidents before they leave."

Receiving the book is Sam Englebretsen, from the history department. He has been invited the NAP 021's next meeting, to speak about his recent trip to Namibia and South Africa. Members' husbands will also be attending. 

Napier Boys' High School history teacher, Sam Englebretsen.

 

A Capital Opera Cake

To celebrate its 21st birthday in February, book group Wellington 102 enjoyed a very special layer cake.

Called an "opera" cake, it featured miniature chocolate books made by a culinary student who is living with the convenor while studying. 

Convenor Megan Bibby wrote in with the story:

"It has been a long held tradition for us to have supper after our book discussion. Fortuitously, we currently have a student living with us for six months, studying at the Cordon Bleu Institute in Wellington. It was Panadda's idea to create a very special cake for us. Her wonderful creation ... includes a table with chocolate books (with writing inside!) and our group number on the cake too!"

"It was as delicious as it looked." 

Megan says the photo below, of most of the group and including Panadda (at centre, with arms folded), is the first ever taken of the group together.

Happy 21st Wellington 102.

 

Members (L to R): Pip Cresswell, Marilyn Wilde, Jenny Reid, Jan Webster, Panadda Vorasinsiri, Steph Van Dyk, Megan Biddy, Cheryl Pow and Donna Hickey. Absent: Jennie Kennerley and Lyn Phillips.

 

 

Living it, not just reading about it

An Auckland based BDS book group aren't just reading about overseas experiences, they're going to live one.

The 11-member group, comprising 4 men and 7 women, plan to spend 10 days together in Italy during next year’s New Zealand winter.

“The idea kind of evolved,” says Vicki Hirst, convenor of the group whose members - for the most part - live in Mt Eden and central Auckland. 

“Three of us have our big 6-0 birthdays in 2019,” she says, including herself in the reference. “I have to say we’re all foodies and we enjoy our wine! A couple of wine buffs in the group said ‘what about Italy?’ and we all said ‘yeah!’ ”

The trip will also celebrate the 15th anniversary of the book group.

Their plans to date are to spend ten days in a villa near a coastal village - probably Tuscany - where the group can savour local bread, wine and cheese and go biking and swimming. The departure date they’ve decided on is to allow everyone sufficient time to save up funds for the trip.

Vicki is a social work supervisor and has been coordinating the group for the past six years. In that time, the group have spent weekends away in the Bay of Islands and in Queenstown.

“Somebody’s parents had a bach in Kerikeri so we ended up organising a weekend away and thoroughly enjoyed it. We all pitched in and it was great,” says Vicki. “Within a couple of years, someone else said ‘we’ve got a friend with a place in Queenstown’. So we all ended up going there. Then we started talking about what we are going to do next.”

Auckland 166, as they are known, have always been a companionable group and taken an interest in each other’s children and their achievements. The group continue to hold their monthly evening meetings at each other’s homes, where they relax and chat as well as discuss that month’s book.

“It’s been such a delight to share not only our love of reading, conversation and learning but the ebb and flow of our lives over time,” says Vicki. “We’ve talked children’s graduations, engagements and weddings, the details of surgeries and ailments, house-warmings and the building of houses. We went to each other’s 50th birthday celebrations. We’ve grown our friendships through sharing those experiences.”

As the sole practitioner in her own business for the past 23 years, Vicki says the book group encourages her to socialise and to read at least one book a month for pleasure. An avid reader of work-related books, she used to struggle to find time to read for enjoyment – something that is no longer a problem. Some of her stand-out reads have been The Kite Runner and Bulibasha and her involvement has broadened her reading taste.

“The social worker in me still enjoys fully developed characters and stories and struggles of their families but there have also been other books from other genres that I’ve enjoyed,” she says.

Shared history and self-prescribed rituals help the book group to function smoothly and bind the members together. Vicki says she still follows the advice of her predecessor, Margie, the instigator of the group and its original convenor (and who unfortunately succumbed to cancer six years ago). One modus operandi is that life’s too short to read a bad book. Another is never to divulge who in the group has chosen a particular book the group is reading.

“I collate the book choices [for our booklist] but I never tell the members who has chosen which title. Every so often someone asks ‘who choose this book?’, but I don’t disclose. That way there’s no blame!” says Vicki. “Having said that, there’s only been two or three books overs the years that I’ve struggled with.”

The ratio of male to female readers has changed over the years. The group started with one lone male reader, but three husbands were enlisted as his reading ‘buddies’. Now the composition stands at four married couples plus three women.

“The boys have an occasional boys night because – I have to say – a lot of the women in the group are very confident and outspoken and the men tend to hold back at times. So we thought it would be good for the men to do their own thing now and then,” laughs Vicki.

Five of the current women members are medical GPs, something that could be very handy during their travels abroad in 2019.

See the story on  Stuff:  Click here to read the story

Auckland 166's Vicky Hirst and Nancy Wright look set for Tuscany. (Photo by Mandy Te, reporter with Stuff)

Members of Auckland 166 'in training' at their Christmas 2017 function for their Italian trip next year. Vicki is second from the left.

 

Sight impairment no reason to avoid book club

Having poor eyesight doesn’t mean you can’t be part of a book group, according to a Far North reader Jean Dowson.

Jean coordinates a Book Discussion Scheme book group that has been going for 22 years and has seen one long-term member, Jenny MacMurdie, transition to using audio books as a way to maintain her involvement.

“Jenny didn’t want to leave the group, because it’s a friendship group as much as anything else!” says Jean.

“She’s been an avid member of our book group for I can’t remember how long, so this has meant she could participate so much more.”

Each time a book parcel arrived from the BDS office, Jean let Jenny know what title the group was reading next. Jenny would then contact the Blind Foundation and receive an audio version to listen to, which would allow her to be familiar with the book by the next meeting of the group and join in discussions about it.

“I would highlight the books that she could get from the Blind Foundation and we put those titles as priorities on our group’s booklist,” explains Jean.

Her all-female book group has drawn its members from rural locations on the outskirts of Whangarei. They are all affiliated with the University of the Third Age and travel up to forty minutes to get together for their once-a-month, Thursday afternoon book discussions. Those who no longer drive, car-pool with the ‘younger’ retirees.

“We’re all widely scattered but people make the effort. We have a very, very tight friendship,” says Jean.

To help book groups identify titles that BDS and the Blind Foundation have in common, the catalogues of both organisations have been cross-referenced. About 40% of BDS titles are available as audio books, many of which are the Scheme’s more popular and recent titles.

These titles are identified in the printed version of the BDS Catalogue with an ear symbol. Groups can search the online catalogue, in the Books section of the BDS website, using the category ‘Blind Foundation book’.

An arrangement between the two organisations means Blind Foundation members do not pay a membership fee to be part of a BDS book group. 

“I think it’s wonderful you are now doing this,” says Jean. “We’re really, really impressed by your service.”

Unfortunately for Jean, Jenny has recently relocated to Auckland to be closer to family members. She hopes to connect with a new BDS book group there.

Convenor Jean Dowson (wearing a birthday rosette, not an electionering one!)

 


Members at a recent meeting:

 

 

 

Tongariro Prison updates us on prison group

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Seven prison facilities throughout the country use Book Discussion Scheme resources to run book groups for male and female prisoners.

Christchurch Women’s Prison was the first to establish a volunteer-led group in the middle of 2015. It continues to meet fortnightly, with an attendance of up to 6 female prisoners and two volunteers.

Earlier this year, Tongariro Prison, in the central North Island, started a men’s group in one of its units. BDS received this update from the prison’s Volunteer Co-ordinator & Education Tutor (who coincidentally is a BDS member) as to how the group is faring.

“These book groups are beginning to emerge in our nation's prisons and we are pleased that Tongariro is on the forefront of this initiative.

Group members all read a copy of the same book, then meet a month later to discuss issues the book explored, while having their discussion guided by notes that accompany the book. Fiction, non-fiction, New Zealand and foreign writers are all featured in the list of literature that will keep the group busy until the end of the year.

This …aims to broaden minds through reading and discussion, encourage critical thinking, create awareness of social issues and cultural diversity as well as encourage a sense of community and social cohesion. All fantastic goals for our paihere.

Also, in a prison setting, alleviating boredom and keeping the mind busy are satisfying bonuses for our men. Members of the book group are already reading confidently and this group aims to stimulate the minds of those who are not needing literacy assistance.

Enhancing discussion (especially in areas where there may be a wide variety of opinions) as a social skill is valuable preparation for our paihere before release into a community of mixed minds.”

 

Taupo Times community newspaper also published an article about the group in their 13 October edition.

 

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Editor’s note: We like the fact that ‘paihere’ can have a literary association; paihere pukapuka means book binding. 

 

 

Your feedback counts

 

Member's feedback about BDS books and discussion notes is vital. Book groups' comments - whether positive or 'constructive' - help the scheme to maintain a quality selection of titles and to produce discussion notes that are functional and of a high standard.

As most book groups will be well aware, the consignment note that accompanies each book parcel has a space at the bottom for comments. A large number of convenors take the opportunity to supply BDS with a couple of sentences that sum up their group's opinion of their latest book.

BDS manager Barbara Brown makes a point of reading these comments, to gauge whether members are responding well to a particular author, topic or genre. Typical or representative comments are added to the online and printed versions of the BDS Catalogue, to assist other groups with selecting their booklist.

"When reviews and comments about a book are pretty consistent, then that's a really good indication that it's being well received by groups - or widely panned!" says Barbara. "That helps me with decisions such as the level of book stock and what titles I might recommend to groups looking for a particular genre."

Annually, BDS groups have the opportunity to vote for their most popular title in the scheme. In the running for top spot this year (as at early August) are non-fiction titles A Long Way Home and The Spark.

However, Barbara explains that a consistent rating by groups is not the only criteria for assessing the 'success' of a book - or the whole collection.

"One book group's '10 out of 10' book choice can be another group's 'why is this book in the scheme?" she says. "The key is to offer a diverse collection of genres, authors, topics and writing styles so that our collection appeals to a wide range of readers."

She goes on to explain that differing opinions within a group can be advantageous, as it can fuel more animated discussion. The discussion notes provided by BDS also play a role in helping achieve this.

"Producing discussion notes that assist a wide range of book groups can be tricky," says Barbara. "Groups can respond quite differently, depending on whether they are more literary in their approach or meeting in a more social setting," says Barbara. 

As an example, she highlights The Color of Water, a non-fiction account of a Baptist minister in a mixed race marriage. The notes received disparate feedback from groups: a North Island group commented that the notes were 'particularly good' while a Canterbury group described them as 'pompous'.

Booknote organiser, Shelagh, says the quality of book notes has greatly improved in recent years because the production process has become a lot more rigorous. Added to that, comments from book groups about the booknotes help determine where further improvements may be required.

"Notes are well scrutinised and well proofread during their production," says Shelagh. 

There is also a greater emphasis on offering helpful discussion questions, she explains.

"Feedback is helpful, regardless of whether it's positive or not so," says Barbara. "The variety of points of view help make the scheme what it is - and we hope to continue generating great discussion for many years to come!"

BDS hopes to offer convenors the option of writing their groups' comments online, using mobile devices and computers, by early 2018.  

 

 

 

 

When is a question a ‘good’ question?

 When is a question a ‘good’ question?

New Zealand author Tina Shaw is one of 22 Book Discussion Scheme notewriters who are faced with crafting ‘good’ questions and informative material for discussion booklets for the 60-plus new titles that are incorporated into the scheme each year.  

“The main thing is that a question is open-ended,” explains Tina. “The idea is to spark some discussion and get people thinking about things. I try to draw our readers’ personal responses to a book and how they might have related to a book in a personal way.”

Tina enjoys doing research and includes in her discussion notes information that she anticipates will assist readers’ understanding and appreciation of the book.

“It’s an exploratory process,” says the former Creative New Zealand writer in residence and current convenor of a BDS book group in Taupo.

“I like to add extra material. I make intensive notes as I go through the book. I’m reading quite slowly, note-taking and more note-taking as I go,” she says.

“I’m thinking ‘if it was me sitting in a book group with these book notes, I’d like to know about such-and-such’. If it’s an area I don’t know anything about … well maybe New Zealand readers won’t know much either,” she explains.

In some instances this might mean Tina includes a broad overview of a topic relating to the book, such as outlining the political context of the time. In other cases she has given details about a specific reference in a book, such as explaining what haiku is (a form of poetry).  

Notewriters are contracted by BDS and are given the choice of which new title to the scheme they would like to write material for. Tina is a professional writer and manuscript assessor; other contractors include journalists and teachers.

The usual format for discussion notes includes an author bio, some background to the story or topic covered by the book, and up to a dozen questions for groups to choose from to jump-start discussion.

“I’ve done heaps and heaps of discussion notes. I allow 4 to 5 days, maybe a week, to write them,” says Tina.

“Once I've finished reading the book I like to jump straight into writing them ‘cos it’s fresh in my mind!” she says.

The completed notes are then submitted to BDS Booknotes Organiser, Shelagh, who oversees the process of note production. All notes are double-checked for accuracy (for example, that page references are correct) and for conformity to BDS style.

The next step is to print the discussion notes in-house. They are given a laminated cover, to ensure longevity and enable them to be cleaned. The whole process, from contracting a note-writer to having the completed discussion notes available to book groups can take up to 3 months.

As to what makes a ‘good’ book, Tina and her Taupo group prefer to get their literary teeth into something complex, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.

“We really love reading complex, sophisticated books - something that you can get really engrossed in and that makes you think. That’s the ideal combination.”

“Mind you, I also like reading crime novels,” she says, laughing.


Tina Shaw is one of 22 people contracted to BDS to write discussion notes for titles in the scheme.  A sample of one is shown above.

 

 

The life journey of a barcode

When a box of sparkling new books arrives at the Sydenham office of Book Discussion Scheme, not all staff view the arriving package with the full reverence it deserves!

One such person is our administrator Cherie Gordon, who, with a slight note of sarcasm in her voice (she deals with hundreds of incoming new books on a regular basis!) often quips: "Yippee, another lot to barcode". 

It's a 'cradle to grave' job for Cherie, as she is also responsible for repairing books that suffer wear and tear or a bit of maltreatment by 'recalcitrant' book group members! However, although she is a whizz with a glue brush and the book press, she is unable to work miracles on books that have come to grief at the hands of pets ...bottles of wine...or other such calamities!

In her heart of hearts, Cherie really does enjoy seeing the new titles - as well as replacement and additional copies of existing titles - delivered from our warehouse suppliers. 

So what exactly happens to a book to make it book-group ready? Here's a step by step illustrated explanation:

1. Barcode sticker

We have sheets of barcode stickers, each with unique numbers and black lines on them. Cherie selects the appropriate sticker and places it on the top right-handside of the back cover of each new book. 

A non-fiction book has a barcode starting with 'N'; fiction has a barcode starting with 'F'. The 6 figure code is unique to the book. The last 4 numbers are always 1796 and indicate that the books are from Book Discussion Scheme.

Common question:

Q. Why does the sticker cover up writing sometimes?

A. The placement of the sticker is consistent (ie. in the same place on each book in the scheme), to allow ease of scanning the books and to avoid confusion with the retail barcode preprinted on the books. Our despatch staff use a computerised inventory system to record the books that are going out to (and returning from) every book group. 

 

2. Cover me up, I'm naked!

Every book in the scheme is handled many, many times during its lifespan. To help keep the books robust and clean, every book is laminated in a special non-yellowing self-adhesive covering. Volunteers trim and cover every book. There are usually 3 separate pieces on each book; which makes the spine sturdy.    

When a book is ready to go out to book groups, it is scanned in as an item of  'stock'.


Ex-librarian Pat Norton volunteers some of her time during the week to cover incoming books to the Scheme. 

 

3. Voila! 

When you receive your parcel or bag of books, the consignment note (the printed sheet accompanying the books) lists all the barcodes of the books that have been scanned out to your group.

So barcodes make managing our book collection efficient and can help make your book-group life easier!

Q. Why do you recommend writing names by the barcodes?

A. We suggest writing the name of the recipient of a book by the barcode applicable to that book. That way, if there's any need to identify who had which book (or who still has an outstanding book), it's easy for you to do so. Our staff scan incoming books, so we know which books - if any - are still with your and your group.

 

One of our computerised barcode scanners, used for recording incoming and outgoing books.

 

 A sample of a consignment note that accompanies every book parcel. The barcodes of the books allocated to a group are listed on it.

 

Facts:

As at 6 April 2017, we have 927 titles in the scheme: 641 fiction and 286 non-fiction.

We stock a total of 44, 970 books in our Christchurch office.

 

 

 

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The Book Discussion 
Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations
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