LitClub: The Queen Bees
Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
100 BOOKS & COUNTING—These school teachers and staff members have found themselves changed by their reading. They've been together for 10 years as a book club...and even longer as friends and colleagues.
Queen Bees—a great name.
We chose it from our first book, The Secret Life of Bees. A contender was "June, July, August"—in honor of our three months off.
Right, you're all educators, but not all teachers.
Correct. And only a few of us are English teachers. Others areas are Spanish, Computers, Alternative Education, Health and Physical Education, Special Education, Art, Math, and Library. All of us proudly wear our Queen Bee T-shirts. (See photo.)
So how did you get started?
Three friends vacationed together on the Outer Banks. They each took bags of books to read on the beach—only to realize they liked the same kind of books. It was 2003, the same time Oprah’s Book Club was spawning book groups around the country. So they thought ... "Why not?"
Later, after putting out the word at school, they were surprised by the number of colleagues who wanted to be involved.
So how many Queen Bees?
We have 20 active members.
You say that your reading has changed all of you over the past 10 years.
When we first started, several of our members joined mostly for the social aspect—they wouldn’t have described themselves as readers. Now, our struggling readers listen to the audio versions. Our visually impaired member diligently reads the large text on her Kindle. Previously self-described nonreaders are now avid readers. And those of us who have always loved to read and talk books are reading books we might never have chosen for ourselves.
Well, tell us what you've read recently.
The past year has seen us reading...
Wild: From Lost to Found
Tree Grows in Brooklyn
To Kill a Mockingbird (the 50th anniversary)
Any favorites over the years?
Because we're such a large group, we have many, many favorites.
How about disappointments?
A few, but not too many. We read a book by a local author, the mother of a student in our school. We were a bit disappointed, which was awkward because the author was our guest speaker!
A Million Little Pieces was another disappointment, one we shared with Oprah. The news about James Frey's fabrications and distortions came out right as we were reading the book (in 2006).
What about particularly good discussions?
The Happiness Project really made us look within ourselves and think about the choices we have made and make in our lives. ♦ Gone Girl stirred up some interesting conversations about marriage, betrayal and deceit. ♦ Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made all of us think about trying to buy more of our food from local farmers. ♦ The Life of Pi generated the most memorable discussion ever. We're still laughing over some of our more "literal" readers' interpretations. Richard Parker Lives!
What about special book-related activities?
We do a lot. We LOVE food, so if a book indicates a food theme, we go for it. We've had phone conferences with several authors, and if a movie of one of our books comes out, many of us will go see it together.
For Friday Night Knitting Club we visited a yarn mill. ♦ After reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close we took a trip into NYC to visit the 9/11 Memorial. ♦ When we read There are Mountains to Climb and Wild, we started our meeting with a hike on a nearby portion of the Appalachian Trail.
December and May are our two "off" months. In December, instead of a book discussion, we have a Christmas party with a wild, cut-throat gift exchange. For May, we hold a Cinco de Mayo celebration. May is a crazy month for teachers—no one has time to read, but margaritas and laughs are much needed.
You have one pretty neat rule . . .
We read 10 books a year. Members need to pay $1 if they didn’t finish the book and $2 if they never even started the book, but want to attend.
You also give back to the community.
In December, we donate children’s books to Headstart families. We’ve also given a scholarship to a
graduating senior who was part of the Reading Olympics team.
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