Organize a book club

What is a UAW Women’s book club?

Of course you’ve heard of book clubs where people come together to discuss books, but what exactly is a UAW Women’s book club? UAW Women book clubs are ones where groups read books that empower and educate union women. The books recommended for our book clubs will be ones that strengthen our leadership skills and expand women’s roles within the UAW.

Why organize a book club?

Book clubs can teach valuable skills for union leaders such as learning how to articulate an opinion and present an argument. They also provide a great social outlet for union sisters and help to build a supportive community of friends. Book discussions can help people broach difficult topics that might be challenging to discuss directly but can be explored in the context of a story. Finally, book clubs can be a lot of fun!

How do I get started?

There are a number of questions to consider as you start organizing your book club and here are a few to keep in mind:

  1. What do you want your group to look like? Do you want to form a women’s only group? Or do you want to encourage our union brothers to participate as well?  
  2. How large do you want your group to be? We recommend four to six pairs as eight to ten people is sufficient for holding a stimulating discussion yet not too large that some people won’t be able to contribute. In general, it’s a good idea to start smaller and add more pairs depending how the group dynamics are working.
  3. How will you recruit club participants? The easiest way to recruit members is to reach out to members of your local Women’s Committee or possibly by working through your Women’s Regional Advisory Council. Book clubs are a great tool for relationship building. It might be the perfect way to encourage inactive members to become engaged with their union. So invite your co-workers and the person you see reading on breaks and lunch.  Incorporating participants from outside your normal circles can be a terrific way to bring more diverse perspectives to the discussions which can often make them more enriching for everyone. To avoid having a book club centered around the initial organizer, ask a sister to help recruit new members. If each person brings two new pairs to the group everyone will have a greater opportunity to meet new people through the book club. This can also help participants feel that it’s more of a collective effort versus just one person’s project, which can encourage greater accountability and engagement among the club members.
  4. Once the core group is established, how often should you meet? Many book clubs choose to meet once a month; others more frequently – your group will have to decide what makes sense for you. Regardless of your schedule, it’s often helpful to set-up a shared online calendar to help with coordination. You might want to rotate refreshment responsibilities or have everyone bring something to pass.
  5. How should you select books for your group? Book clubs have many different approaches on how to select their books. In some groups, members will take turns choosing the book for that month. In others, the next month’s host will bring several proposed books to a meeting for the participants to examine. The group can then vote on which book to read for the following month or select a book based on group consensus. Another approach is to give the participants a copy of the reading list (you will find a link to one in “Resources) and have each one select the book that most interests them.
  6. What type of format is best for your meetings? Just like selecting books to read, there is not one right answer for how best to run your book club meetings. In general, most groups like to start their meetings with a socializing period where the participants have a chance to hang out on their own before getting down to business. Once the discussion starts, it’s often helpful to have a facilitator selected in advance to help manage the conversation and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard. Additionally, it’s highly recommended to prepare open-ended questions in advance about the reading to keep the discussion moving forward and also to probe any important themes or issues raised in the book that you’d like to explore with the group. Alternatively, that month’s facilitator could be responsible for preparing the questions for a specific book.
  7. Are you going to select a group coordinator or secretary? Book clubs may also find it helpful to select a group coordinator or secretary to send out reminders about upcoming meetings and maintain the calendar. While the initial organizer of the group often takes on this role by default, groups may opt to actively select a coordinator or divide up these responsibilities between multiple people. Additionally, in some groups, the coordinator or secretary will write a brief summary of the group’s thoughts on that month’s book. Over time, these summaries essentially become a club history that reflects the growth and increasing maturity of the participants.

How how do I help ensure that it will be successful for the long haul?

Spicing up your group meetings by incorporating book related activities along with your discussions is especially important for newly engaged members. An example of book-related activities ideas include volunteering together on an issue related to a book’s theme (for example, volunteer at a soup kitchen after reading a book that addresses poverty) or taking up a cause at your local. Use the internet as a resource for meeting planning. If you’re looking for discussion planning ideas, try searching online for ‘discussion questions’ for a specific book. UAW women can only thrive when we support and empower one another.