“Readers Reflect,” is a post by a guest blogger reflecting on a formative book, character, or reading experience that has been particularly meaningful in their life as a reader. To submit your own “Readers Reflect” essay, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today we are honored to have a very close friend of the family write for us: Jan, grew up on a chile and cotton farm in southeast New Mexico. She attended Texas Tech University and New Mexico State and taught English as a Second Language and Spanish for 25 years.
My name is Jan and I am a reader! I belong to a Book Club. I organized the Club as a wedding present to a college friend of mine who moved to our fine city of El Paso, Texas, after (accidentally) meeting a future husband in my kitchen while she was visiting me from Washington, DC! She said the thing she was saddest about leaving in DC was her Book Club, and from there we went.
First of all, let me say that I am the Boss, (or as I prefer, Queen) of this Club, The First Monday Book Club, hence to be known as FMBC. I decided right away that having a format wherein the members choose the books would not do, mainly because of horror stories I had been told long ago about another book club, and so, along with the fun (and chore) of choosing the books, I would bear the responsibility of choosing books that maybe not everyone would love. Lucky for me, my Book Club likes this arrangement. I also organize the schedule, and send out the book information in a timely manner each year for the following Year’s books.
When I select our books for the year, I try to pick a variety that will be edifying, interesting, memorable, and fit into a rather loose set of criteria that I decided upon years ago.
- 4 or 5 fiction books
- 1 or 2 of those are being read widely currently
1 book by a first-time author
- 2 non-fiction books (usually a memoir or history of an event, sometimes a travel memoir)
- A book of short stories or possibly poetry
- A book that a man would enjoy reading (and a woman would probably not select)
- A book about a culture specifically not in the United States or known to our members
- A book about the Southwest or written by a local author
- Sometimes a classic children’s or young adult book
- No Oprah or other blatantly media-driven books
- No relationship, medical, or self-help books
- And I try to be careful to select books that will not be painful to any member due to a recent sad event or personal situation
Members of FMBC, in the beginning, were just women that had expressed an interest, and a member had invited them to come; however, over the past few years we have had to limit our membership to 18 due to the restrictions of our capability to feed and seat only so many in our homes. We read the book and go to the meeting and have a discussion. Sometimes we will have a list of suggested discussion questions to guide us, but here are no “papers” presented about the book; nobody is required to give a report. It is nice that we have a former high school English teacher and a former professional editor to contribute to the discussion. However, if you are just too busy to read the book, or started and didn’t finish the book, come anyway! One is not required to read the book in order to attend the meeting.
Together we have lived through divorces, sickness, suicide, grief, and family members afflicted, or addicted, or running for national office. (No, not the same ones!) In 16 years of FMBC, we have had two members die. We have celebrated new relationships, family weddings, babies and grandbabies born, retiring, getting new jobs, new homes, moving away and moving back. Our ages range between 45 and 70-something and we represent a pretty wide diversity of incomes and political viewpoints. Many of us did not know the others before FMBC.
The one thing that I haven’t done that I should’ve is to keep a running list of all the books that we have read. That list would have 128 book titles on it!
Here are the books we read this past year.
Swamplandia by Karen Russell
The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
The Lost German Slave Girl by John Barley
97 Orchard by Jane Zeigelman
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
The Call by Yannick Murphy
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White
A Bunch of Amateurs by Jack Hill
Belonging to a Book Club is a wonderful way of expanding your mind, making new friends, and getting to know others in a completely new way. If you don’t belong to a Book Club, start one! It’s easy, just invite a few friends over, talk it out, and have each one bring another friend to the first meeting. You might even make yourself the Queen!
Living in the Pacific Northwest, this time of year is always so exciting. We’re coming out of the winter months of rain and gloom and getting these pockets of 3-4 days of sunshine and warmth…vitamin D…clear skies…gorgeous…reminding us why we live here and teasing us with t-shirt weather days.
It also inspires things like spring cleaning, change, clearing out the old and bringing in the new, fresh flowers, and sunny windowsills. And….in our house, a new set of bedtime stories. Our little guy has wanted to read the same two stories at bedtime for the last oh…I don’t know, three months? No matter the variety we presented him, he wanted the same two and that’s the end of that. He’s strong willed and I have no idea where he gets that…couldn’t be his Texas mommy….no sir.
I’ve read all about how it is totally normal for kids to demand the same books over and over again, that’s one way they learn and you should just go with it, follow their lead. But I have to say I was ready for a change from the ones we’ve been reading.
So, with this beautiful over 70 degree day, bright and sunny, I was inspired to encourage my little one to pick some new stories. At quiet time, I lead him over to the bookcase and showed him a few different ones, we looked together at the selection and I think he was ready too. We moved from Star Wars and Monsters Inc, to Cars 2 and Fish is Fish. Fine by me! Cars 2 needs no explanation but Fish is Fish is a little lesser known book and just a wonderful little story about loving who you are while being brave enough to look around yourself. It’s great.
Here’s to spring, and new stories!
Share with us, what are your favorite stories for spring?
Little by little,
Saturday was a great day! The weather cooperated and the books were plentiful. We shared stories, found hidden gems and laughed a lot. Courtney would have turned 33 tomorrow, March 4th, and on Saturday we celebrated in her honor. We sorted and packed dozens of boxes for over 15 special education programs across the country…and even had some leftover for new schools who apply.
Thanks to everyone who makes it possible for us to do this, and in the process, keep Courtney’s spirit alive and her passion for helping children with special needs going. Happy Birthday Court.
Little by little,
This Saturday, March 2nd we will hold our annual Birthday Book Sort. We do book sorts about twice a year, once in the late summer and again in the spring, right around Courtney’s birthday. This year would have been her 33rd birthday.
Today, on a rare day off, Colin and I picked up TEN boxes of books from our friends at River City Books. As most working moms do, days off are spent running errands, we did lots of that today. With my co-pilot and Court’s Kids Vice President of Quality in tow, we went out for a marathon of running around ending with a visit to pick up books for our birthday sort. It was a great day, we even got a little unexpected sunshine…something we always seem to get when working on Court’s Kids events. If you are in the market for used books, you should visit these guys, they have been our biggest supporter from the start and we’re always thankful.
The garage/Court’s Kids worldwide headquarters is full of books to be sorted, ready and waiting for our group of friends and volunteers to join us on March 2nd. We will laugh, connect, remember our own literary experience, and pack books to go off to new little readers across the country. It will be a good time. Our goal will be to get at least 15 boxes packed up and ready to ship that day…I think we’ll be able to do more.
Little by Little,
Since we launched Court’s Kids in 2009, we have had the pleasure of meeting some truly amazing teachers who, every day, help little learners make great steps. Supporting these educators in their efforts is the heart of what we want to do. Last week we received these great pictures from our friends at the Northwest School for Innovative Learning in Washington. To say we are honored that they’ve named their new library after Courtney would be a giant understatement. We’re so proud of this group and what they have done and can’t wait to watch them grow. You’ll notice they still have some empty shelves, if you are interested in helping us provide more books to fill up those shelves contact us today. We’re committed to filling those shelves and helping support educators like this.
Little by little,
Happy New Year Court’s Kids friends!
We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and your 2013 is off to a great start. Ours has been really wonderful so far. We received so much love and support from donors over the holidays, raising over $1500! For those of you who are new to Court’s Kids, this is HUGE for us. We work really hard to keep our operating costs to a minimum, in fact we really run on volunteer hours and personal time of mine and my family. So, that means that pretty much every dollar goes to shipping books to our partner schools. And, considering the average box of books costs us about $35 to ship, this money will go a long way.
We’ve also gained new partner schools across the country, reaching as far as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. We now reach from our little garage in Oregon out to Washington, California, Utah, Arizona, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. When we started this, a few months after Courtney passed, I really only thought we could make a difference in OR & WA. I have to know she’s smiling on us now, especially when I open up our mailbox to wonderful, handmade thank you notes from our friends at partner schools.
Here’s to a new year full of love, laughter, happiness and helping each other.
Little by Little,