How to Prepare for Book Discussions or Tips for Reading Required Books
#1 Read your book carefully and take notes as you read. You may write in your own personal book or use sticky notes if you prefer. Taking notes in a spiral is also a good idea. Establish your own method that works best for you, and, hopefully, this will become a lifelong habit.
#2 Determine WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, AND HOW as you read. You will be able to train your mind to think of these things as you write down your thoughts or take notes. Look for the plot, characters, problems, resolution/s, symbolism, setting, interesting or puzzling facts, new terminology, etc. If you are having difficulty in reading your book, purchase an audio tape (if available) and read along with the narrator.
#3 Select a passage (half to full page) that you found particularly striking, significant, interesting, puzzling, or humorous – photocopy, write it down in your spiral, or be prepared to read it to the others in your discussion session. Also be prepared to talk about your insights into this passage – why it was interesting to you, how it impacted you, or why it was thought-provoking or confusing.
#4 Write down two questions about the book that you would like to ask during the discussion. This can be anything that puzzles you or interests you. You might ask if others had the same thoughts.
#5 Has your book been made into a movie? If so, try to watch the movie during the summer and be able to compare the two. Which one did you think was better, the book or the movie? Why? When you are watching the movie, use the same criteria for reviewing the movie as mentioned above such as WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, OR HOW.
#6 For fiction books: Select one character which evoked the strongest response in you. Was this character easy to sympathize, empathize or identify with, easy to admire or react to? Did you like or dislike him/her? Why? How do you think the author came up with the title to his/her book? What is the significance of this title or is it significant? Think about any connections there might be between this book and your life or that of someone else. What were your thoughts as you read? If you could ask the author one question, what would it be? Go to the author’s website for insight and more information.
#7 For nonfiction books: It is imperative that you take notes in a nonfiction book. This helps in remembering the details. Often there are so many facts and details that you might need to stop after reading a chapter and go do something else for a while. It is okay to read a nonfiction book in snippets especially if it is filled with details such as in a “how to” or “self-help” book. Which chapter/s did you find most significant and why? What do you know now that you didn’t know before? Is there one fact that stands out more than any other? Be prepared to share that with your discussion group. Do you think the author could have presented his/her facts in a different way? Did he/she leave out things that you feel might be important or could he/she have explained things in a better way? Was it illustrated and if so did you like the pictures? Did the illustrations help you to visualize what the author was trying to express? Is there any question that you would like to ask the author if he/she were in a discussion group with you? Go to the author’s website for insight and more information.
Recommendations for Home Library
- Webster’s Tenth or Eleventh Editions
- American Heritage
- Dorling Kindersley Visual Dictionary
- Scholastic Children’s Dictionary
Encyclopedias and Thesaurus
- Roget’s 21st Edition in dictionary format
- Encyclopedias – Print or CD ROM Formats: World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, Compton’s and Encarta
- World Almanac
- Time Almanac
- Texas Almanac
- Information Please
- Rand McNally
- Dorling Kindersley
- National Geographic
- The Holy Bible
- The Encyclopedia of Catholic History by Matthew Bunson
- The Encyclopedia of Saints by Matthew Bunson
Other Helpful Resources
Useful Reference Links
- Scholastic Rhyming Book
- Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations – Latest Edition
- Cambridge Dictionaries Online
- Encyberpedia Dictionary and Glossary
- Merriam Webster Dictionary
- Dictionaries and Translators
- Little Explorers Picture Dictionary with Links
- American Sign Language Dictionary
Useful Newspaper and Periodical Links
Useful Almanacs, Handbooks and Calendars
- Just for Fun – The Completely Unofficial Stars Wars Encyclopedia
Useful Biographical Resources
- 50 States, Their Capitals and Other Useful Information
- Nobel Prize Internet Archive
- Who’s Alive and Who’s Dead
- NASA Astronaut Biographies
- American Presidents: Life Portraits
Useful Geographical Resources
- House Directory – U.S. House of Representatives
- National Geographic Map Machine