Under new leadership, Book club provides an opportunity to develop a passion for reading



The four leaders at the first meeting presenting the first book: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Junior Lindsay Larson adores books. 

She loves the escape from reality they provide. She loves a good romance or historical fiction read. She loves the old-school style and language of classic literature. But Lindsay also loves the effect books have on real life: the way they bring people together. 

“[My sister and I] bonded more over this book, The Tale of Despereaux,” Lindsay said. “It’s a good conversation starter about how much we both love to read, but also it’s made us closer because we have a common love of books.”

However, this isn’t the only instance. Lindsay joined book club her freshman year with her friend current junior Olivia Cormaci and discovered books bring all kinds of people together. Not only did the two grow closer, but they found a whole community of avid readers to connect with. 

Olivia noticed this phenomenon books and book club created as well. She may have uncovered the truth of how books and book club are able to do this. 

“I definitely think that books unite people because it opens conversation about not only the book itself but also other issues that the book contains,” Olivia said. “Getting to talk about harder themes can make people feel more comfortable with each other.”

Since group discussions are the basis for book club, Lindsay is really happy that the club is “a safe place where you feel comforted, and you’re not worried about speaking out.” As Olivia mentioned, what can start with a book can also transform into a psychoanalysis of society. Books have the power to change and challenge viewpoints. The most widely-renowned books often deal with controversial topics. 

Club advisor, book lover, and English teacher Lisa Penninga enjoys the tangents that the discussions often go on. Because the books the club reads aren’t necessarily “school books,” Penninga gets to immerse herself in thoughtful conversation that wouldn’t typically happen with assigned books in school. 

“Last year we had some really deep discussions in terms of some of the hot topics in society that could really be incorporated in book club, too,”  Penninga said. “It’s student-led so they can talk about things that I can’t necessarily bring up, you know, even faith or politics—things like that that I really can’t bring up in the classroom. But, it’s really great for them to be able to talk about.”

Moreover, when Penninga said that the club was mostly student-led, she meant it. For the most part, she takes a hands-off approach. Penninga lends her room to the club and reads the books, but she lets the four leaders control the club.

This year, book club has four new leaders: Lindsay, Olivia, and juniors Linus Kaechele and Megan Cushman. 

“I didn’t even know it was being passed down to me since the previous leaders handed it down to Megan and Linus, but in the end, we all felt like we were going to do this together,” Olivia said. “The transition to leadership was actually easy since Linus, Megan, Lindsay, and I had so many ideas since the beginning. We were going into this change as a group, so I feel like we were able to bounce ideas off each other and lean on each other.”

Like in the past, meetings are biweekly on Thursday from three to four, and they will continue to be active on their Instagram page @fhcbooks. Nevertheless, these four leaders are overflowing with new ideas to take book club to the next level.

Themed books and snacks is just one example. Lindsay would love for every February to be romance-themed and for that tradition to continue on past her time at FHC. She would also love to do more outings with the club to coffee shops and movies. 

Megan would also like to promote more intelligent conversations. Additionally, she wants book club to foster some healthy competition. One idea they have entertained is Book Bowl, a quiz-style competition that many students participated in back at Central Woodlands. 

While they each have individual ideas, they all have one main goal: to grow the book club.

“They work really well together, the four of them,” Penninga said. “What I love the most is that, prior to their leadership, it was a little bit where it was leaders versus underclassmen and it wasn’t very inclusive. I loved that they wanted it to be where we’re all here together and just really tried to invite as many upperclassmen, underclassmen, any classmen that wanted to be a part of it. I think that’s really something special about the four of them.”

So far, the four of them are making good on their goal. The first meeting of book club this year had almost thirty people in attendance. They also succeeded in turning the club into a place where everyone is welcome and comfortable.

“[Book club is important] I think just to remind students that it is cool to read,”  Penninga said. “When you look at the room [during] book club, there [are] all different types of students in terms of their interests, abilities, and class schedules. And I think that’s really cool to see that there’s not an archetype for the reader. It gets a wide variety of students who love to read and that’s kind of a cool way to come into this room and see such a wide variety of students that just love the written word.”