Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter
Send news

News tags

mental health  physical activity  earthquake  vacancies  families  public health  children  funding  poverty  health determinants  social  Community development  planning  employment  healthy cities  volunteers  newsletter  youth  volunteering  nutrition  employment opportunity  housing  alcohol and drugs  maori  community engagement  rebuilding  wellbeing  disabilities  Lectures  counselling  Training  earthquake recovery  sustainability  event  community gardens  Community  seminar  Awards  stress  Community Groups  mens health  research  arts  smokefree  culture  men  exercise  migrants  community event  education  environment  resilience  human rights  health  medical  business  sport  conferences  survey  mental wellbeing  Courses  obesity  elderly  support group  environmental health  healthy food  health promotion  violence  pacific health  resources  music  rebuild  women  race relations  meeting  gardens  workshop  services  leadership  forum  water  disabled  repair  transport  prevention  pacific  dance  fundraising  asian health  sexual health  inequality  markets  cancer  support  disasters  development  mindfulness  dementia  presentation  collaboration  health in all policies  Hui  data analysis  recovery  smoking  law  drugs and alcohol  technology  safety  cycling  Sleep  policy  justice  parenting  media  hearing  walking  land  neighbours  social justice  qualification  resilient cities  information  community connection  consultation  oral health  bullying  depression  youth empowerment  young people  activities  non-profit  charity  harm  NURSES  addiction  disease  Communication  alcohol  symposium  District Plan  advanced care plans  submission  anxiety  accessibility  Relationships  eating  economics  Design  Build  Advocacy  eLearning  falls  parking  energy  efficiency  heating  insulation  advice  build environment  Expo  Parents  conference  Eating Disorders  abuse  waste  commuting  nominations  Matariki  webinar  weight  diabetes  workplace  Film  Climate Change  Tree Planting  solutions  urban  management  Fundraiser  economy  plan  restoration  Report  Vulnerability  welfare  parks  learning  awareness  emergencies  legislation  injury prevention  reading  Meeting Room  conservation  concert  language  refugees  recreation  vacancy  built environment  data  gardening  venue  drugs  urban design  Food  Legal Help  health lectures  Meditation  free talk  older people  finances  stop bullying  youth workers  suicide  heritage  gender  recycling  breastfeeding  conflict  anti-bullying  strengths-based  open day  public  health research  identity  Self Esteem  Psychodrama  networking  vision  Nursing  submissions  Rainbow  biodiversity  Due to a significant MSD Contract increase our Team is seeking four fulltime Family Support Workers (these are fixed term positions through to 30 June 2020).  Our Team is seeking two fulltime Children’s Team Lead Professionals based in Christchurch (these are fixed term positions through to 30 June 2020).  Due to a rural expansion of our MSD Contract our Team is seeking one fulltime Family Support Worker (this is a fixed term position through to 30 June 2020).  campaign  Trustee  promotion  partnership  Gut Health  diversity  therapy  older adults  sexuality  computing  Older Person  pollution  social work  providers  free resources  blog  gambling  residential care  Maori health  Pasifika health  screening  trauma  whanau  kaumatua  autism  Governance  treaty of waitangi  care  anger  mentoring  pets  relaxation  Professional Development  evaluation  active  pornography  exhibition  history  Testing  retirement  discrimination  vaping  allergies  administration  records  deaf  heart  equity  lockdown  grief  confidence  self-esteem  rural  homecare  hygiene  participation  aging  tourism  summer  accommodation  intervention  warning  podcast  science 

Book Discussion Scheme: Open books open minds

Wednesday, May 6, 2020   Posted in: Resources and Information By: Administrator With tags: recreation, reading, services, support

Renee Blackburn from the Book Discussion Scheme was recently interviewed by ReadNZ about how New Zealand's book clubs are coping during lockdown, what they're reading, and why they joined the Book Discussion Scheme.

Book Discussion Scheme has been connecting people who love reading for 47 years. Even under lockdown conditions, keen Kiwi book groups are finding ways to connect through reading.

Kia ora Renee, what do you guys do?

We serve the book groups of New Zealand! We started in a Christchurch garage in 1973 as an off-shoot of the CWEA (Canterbury Workers Education Association) and have since become an independent charitable trust operating nationwide. To this day we still retain our membership as a WEA.

Our motto is “Open Books Open Minds” and we are on a mission to promote the personal and societal benefits of group reading for a fairer, kinder, happier New Zealand.

How does the Book Discussion Scheme work?

We have several different versions of our programme designed to meet specific community needs, but the main one works like this:

  • Rally: Form a book group of between seven and 12 people.
  • Register: Membership is $65 per person per year (but if you’re the organiser/convenor you only pay $30). This gets your group: ten books per year, one a month excluding Dec/Jan (but you can get an optional holiday read during this period); professionally prepared discussion notes; nationwide delivery.
  • Read: You select 25 books from an extensive catalogue of fiction and non-fiction books, of which you will receive ten throughout the year. We provide enough copies of a title for everyone to read the same book at the same time.
  • Review: Meet to discuss the book. This is the part where you really get to enrich your reading experience by hearing different perspectives and learning from others in your group.

How popular are book groups in Aotearoa? And why do you think people join them?

The BDS alone caters for over 1,300 groups all across New Zealand — that’s roughly 13,000 people. And that doesn’t account for people who might have their own self-organised group, or be part of more informal/book-chat type groups such as many libraries around the country offer. People can also access a wide variety of book clubs online now too…I think in general humans need connection — a shared love of books and the way they inspire and move us is a great way to facilitate that. We recently surveyed our BDS book groups and there were three key reasons people joined a group:

  • It broadens their reading by exposing them to books they might not otherwise have come across or chosen.
  • It generates lively and meaningful discussion, which helps them appreciate what they’ve read on a deeper level.
  • It adds a social element to reading, either helping people make new friends or stay in regular contact with old ones.

Your member groups are finding various ways to stay connected with each other at the momemt. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes! Our groups are doing a great job of finding ways to maintain social connection while practising social distancing. Zoom has been particularly popular because it doesn’t require you to have an account to participate in the online meeting. A convenor can just send everyone a link to click and voila! suddenly everyone’s on screen with a beverage in hand and chatting about the book as usual.

The staff at BDS worked really hard in the lead-up to lockdown to get as many books out to groups as possible. Older members, in particular, have said how much they appreciated having a book dropped in their letterbox by their convenor (we suggested they apply the 72-hour rule and handwashing if hand-delivering books) as it was so beneficial to their mental well-being.

What books are your book groups reading these days? And is there a "most-popular" title?

A lot of groups are keen to get their hands on the latest titles as we continuously add books to the catalogue throughout the year. Some of the most highly-rated recently added titles are: Educated by Tara Westover; Born a Crime by Trevor Noah; The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton; and The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. There are also what we might call all-time favourites that continue to be popular with our groups: The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting; Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings by Tina Makereti, The Dry by Jane Harper. Find me Unafraid, The Boys in the Boat and The Girl with Seven Names are some really popular non-fiction reads. There are heaps more on the Groups Love page on the BDS website if anyone’s interested.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to start a new book group?

Other than: “Just do it!” I think the best advice I can give is think carefully about whether book group is for you. If you don’t like reading another person’s choices, or aren’t willing to give books outside your ‘comfort genres’ a go, you risk either becoming a dictatorial convenor or just resenting being ‘told what to read’. I can guarantee you and your group won’t ‘enjoy’ everything you read per se, but it’s often the things you dislike about a book create the best discussion! You just need to be up for a bit of a reading adventure, for everything else you’ve got BDS — we make the logistics of starting and running a group really straightforward and stress-free.

You’re the promotions person at BDS, but I assume you’re a reader, too! What are your favourite types of books, and what are you reading these days?

I got back into reading in a big way when I joined the BDS team and I’m surprising myself with the wide-range of books I’m enjoying. I’ve been gravitating towards a lot of non-fiction: I found Michelle Obama’s Becoming a fascinating read that compelled me to go and learn more about american politics; Factfulness by Hans Rosling was an eye-opener in terms of how I view world progress.

As for fiction I recently finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which can only be described as ‘delightful’ (can’t say the same for the movie version, I’m afraid) and I’m currently trying out the slightly mystical Once Upon a River which so far has an excellent premise (a drowned girl mysteriously comes back to life!) and it’s written in a lovely style.

If you had one message to Kiwi readers, what would it be?

Stay connected. Literature has the power to teach, inspire and spark joy in you and those around you, but it’s the sharing that gets all of those inner experiences out into the world where they start to have real impact.


Learn more about how to start a book group with the Book Discussion Scheme.

Request a free BDS information and enrolment pack today.

Healthy Christchurch Champions

  • Canterbury District Health Board
  • Christchurch City Council
  • Environment Canterbury
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ngai Tahu
  • NZ Police
  • Pegasus Health
  • University of Otago, Christchurch